Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Technique of the Week: How to cook swiss chard

Swiss chard has been such a regular in our farm share boxes that I expected to be tired of it by now. But once I’ve figured out the best way to cook it, we just can’t get enough of it. The secret to swiss chard is understanding that it’s really two vegetables in one.

The sturdy stems (that can be found in all kinds of pretty colors) need time to get tender, while the green leafy part cooks almost instantly and gives the dish a lighter feel. I picked up this hint in Dorothy Kalins’ article about cooking in Paris with David Tanis, published in Saveur magazine (Nov. 2005). They offered a recipe for a handsome casserole of swiss chard, béchamel, and plenty of cheese. While I loved the idea of cooking chard stems for a while before adding the leaves, I found the béchamel to be a bit heavy. Besides, isn’t the use of 4 pans for one side dish a bit of an overkill?

This recipe was begging for a trim (in both the number of pots and calories). I just had to figure out how to do that without compromising the taste. My first change was to get rid of the béchamel. You don’t really want a stick of butter with your chard, do you? Instead I added a tablespoon of cream. Now you could actually taste the chard instead of milk, butter, and nutmeg. A nice side effect of this change was chucking 2 pans and whole lot of stirring in the process. There were still two pans involved – one for sautéing the chard, and one for baking it with the cheese. In my opinion this was one too many pans. Instead of sautéing the chard on the stove top, I tried roasting it in the oven right in the final baking dish. The stems not only became tender, but also caramelized and the greens wilted in the oven as well as on the stove top.

Isn’t it great to know that butter, sweat and tears are not necessary to make a great dish?

Serves 2 as a side dish
(it will seem like a ton of swiss chard, but it shrinks a lot during cooking)

1 Lb swiss chard (1 bunch)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Wash chard leaved in several changes of cold water.

Pull the stems out of each leaf and cut stems into 1/2 inch chunks. If the chard is older and thicker, you might need to use a knife to cut the stems out.  Dry the leaves on paper towels or spin in a salad spinner.

Put the stems in a 2 inch deep baking dish that is large enough to accommodate all the chard leaves later (I use an 8 by 8 pyrex). Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix well. Roast in the middle of the oven until the stems are tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Turn down the oven to 350F.  Pile the leaves on top of the stems. Cover with foil, and return to the oven. Bake until the greens wilt, 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the cream, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Return to the oven for 5-7 minutes or until the cream is bubbly and lightly thickened.*  Sprinkle with parmesan and return to the oven until parmesan is melted, 5-7 minutes.

* The dish can be prepared up to this point in advance, chilled and refrigerated.  Before serving, sprinkle with parmesan and bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the dish is heated through.

46 comments:

Tanna said...

What a miracle worker you are! Your photo makes me think I could enjoy swiss chard.

Anonymous said...

It was nice to see your recognition of the green and the stems as being to separate vegetables to cook rather than the typical (and wasteful) direction to throw the stems away. I've cooked greens' stems separately for years, except in the dishes in which I wanted the nice rawer texture of the stem. Keep up the inspiring!

Paula G said...

Finally got to making this last weekend & it was oh my gosh good! Yes THAT good. I had been stir frying my chard with ginger and garlic and oil and have been enjoying that as a side dish. But this -- orgasmic. So much so that we're making it AGAIN this coming weekend.

Thanks so much!

Helen said...

Hi Paula,

So glad you liked swiss that chard cooking method. You know, it was born out of necessity to minimize number of pans I dirtied. Somehow, those are always the best recipes.

Cheers,
-Helen

Anonymous said...

Who needs the cream!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! This is delicious and now I know what to do with all the swiss chard in MY farm box!

lara said...

This looks wonderful--I'll try it tonight. I found your site because I just started getting produce boxes from our CSA and am trying to think of more ways to cook greens and things I'm not used to cooking with often. I've never loved the way my swiss chard turned out, so I'm looking forward to trying this. Any suggestions for chinese broccoli and fresh peas?

Helen said...

Hi Lara,

Not sure about chinese broccoli, but my favorite thing to do with fresh peas is just shell them and blanch for 1 minute. To blanch peas (or other veggies), bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl with ice-water. Drop the peas in the boiling water for 1 minute and remove them with a slotted spoon into ice-water (or if you are not using the water for any other veggies, drain them in the colander and dump into ice-water). The ice-water is essential to stopping the cooking process, so don't skip this step or you'll have overcooked veggies. Once they are blanched you can toss them with salads, pastas, etc.

Have fun with your CSA :)

Cheers,
-Helen

lisa said...

This was so yummy, I had a hard time sharing with the rest of my family. they loved it too. Do you have any recipes for parsnips? I got about three pounds in my box this week? Thank you for sharing your recipes.

DMBY said...

I found this when I googled for How To Cook Chard. . .we just joined a farm share and the chard looks beautiful, but I had no idea what to do with it. This looks like a great recipe and I can't wait to try it!

Anonymous said...

Excellent recipe. I bought swiss chard for the first time today and had no idea of how to prepare. Thank you for a great recipe!!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! Like paula g I have always done a stir fry thing with chard and this is a nice change. I added a couple of sliced spring onions with the greens to add another light touch of flavor and it worked well. This isn't just a keeper recipe, its good enough for special dinner parties when you want to look like you really fussed (but you don't have to). Thanks - kjill

Robert Lyles said...

I live in Central Florida and have never raised Swiss Chard in the garden until this year.

And we did not know how to prepare it for the table. This site was a great help to me.

I just planted two more packages this week in hopes of enjoying a summer crop. We have Collards and love them, but just wanted something differant for a change.
We planted the white and ruby red.

My wife is going to do "stuffed Chard" -vs- "stuffed cabbage", since cabbage is out of season now.

I have real sandy soil, so we must water almost ever other day... unless we are blessed with rain. I keep 20-20-20 fertilizer on once a week. And dry fertilizer (10.10.10) once a month.

Robert Lyles
Groveland, FL USA
robertlyles@gmail.com

chef wannabe said...

So, I get home from work and the swiss chard looks great in the garden.(new gardener) What should I do with it? Google! and there you were. But alas, no heavy cream in the fridge. looking...looking....sour cream. hope this works. and it did.

thanks for this great web site.

philosophotarian said...

wow. this was *so* good. i added garlic and nearly licked the dish i roasted it in clean. yum!!!

Suzanne said...

Thank you for this recipe, just today I was in the grocery and wondering how I could incorporate more dark greens into my diet...I'm limited to broccoli rabe at the moment. I'll definitely give this a try.

Dawn Grainger said...

Comment from husband, 'much better than spinach'. I followed your suggestion and added a knob of garlic/parsley butter that I had in the freezer (made from parsely from veggie box). Fantastic, will be ordering chard again!!!

Dee said...

I came across this recipe while looking for more ways to enjoy the swiss chard from my garden. I'll give it a try. I've been lightly steaming, drizzling with lemon juice and topping with a piece of grilled fish for years. To die for! Last night I made a Curried Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard - exquisite! I will never again throw out my surplus of chard - I'll be blanching and freezing it to use during the winter.

mieke said...

Just made this recipe and my husband will not stop going on about how amazing it is. I added garlic and spring onions with the leaves, used grana instead of parm and low fat sour cream instead of cream. It is UNREAL! thanks so much.

Carol said...

Thanks so Much! I've had the red swiss chard growing wild in my garden for years but never have figured out a good way to cook it. I'm going to go try it now. Carol

Anonymous said...

My husband brought home freah swiss chard and I've never made it or ate it. I'll give this a try. But I had to print out about 6 pages worth to get the recipe. Is there a better way to print it?

Helen said...

Hi Anonymous,

Sorry about your printing trouble. Blogs print extremely badly, so here is my way of printing recipes from blogs. Copy and paste the recipe into Microsoft Word and print from there. You don't even need to save that file. Just copy, paste, print, and delete the file.

Cheers,
-Helen

Ellen said...

Made this and added some garlic as well. FYI, Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) and Jack Bishop (Vegetables Every Day) have some more good chard recipes, some with JUST the stems and others with both. This was good. I'd stayed clear of the rich sauce recipes for the exact reasons you mentioned. This was a good variation.

Judy said...

Just got diagnosed with osteoporosis so I was advised to up my leafy deep green veggies. I never ate swiss chard until I tried your recipe. Yummy! Thanks. Judy

David said...

Having never cooked Swiss Chard in my life, I was given a gift of a bunch of chard. Not knowing what to do with it I of course googled it and found your wonderful site. I tried the recipe, found it very easy to do.
Lacking heavy cream I substituted half and half and a pat of butter. It still came out very good we thought. It went well with Cajun catfish and black beans and rice.
It did seem to have a bitter taste, not bad, interestling bitter. I am not sure if that was because it was about 4 days old in the fridge or if that is the nature of chard.
All in all we enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to a repeat tomorrow with leftovers. Thanks for the advice on how to fix it...
I will never be scared of Swiss Chard again!

Helen said...

Hi David,

Congrats on your first chard. About bitterness... There are lots of chard varieties. Some of them are more bitter than others. I am sure it depends on a lot of factors like weather, age, variety, etc. I don't think it becomes more bitter after a few days in the fridge. Also, some people are more sensitive to the bitterness than others. I've heard recommendations like blanch the bitter vegetables in boiling water for a few minutes before cooking. Besides dirtying another pot, it didn't seem to do anything for me, but you can try it.

Cheers,
-Helen

Anonymous said...

This recipe was so easy and the final result was unbelievably delicious! It had all the satisfaction of potato chips without the guilt and carb overload feeling. I am always looking for ways to eat more healthy greens and wanted to try swiss chard. I didn't even use the cheese or the cream - it was so good just with the salt, pepper and olive oil. This ranks as my #1 experience with trying a new recipe. And it was so easy - thanks for a great, great recipe.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to say your recipe was my first experience cooking swiss chard and it's fantastic! Very easy and delicious. Can't wait to make it again. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Great site. I vame across this looking for a recipe for salmon covered with swiss chard. I had this at a lodge I used to stay at on the west side of Mi. One of the owners wives was a chef and I can't seam to locate her. This was her recipe and it was wonderful. Can you help.
Kind regards, Larry

Anonymous said...

I really liked this recipe..also had an idea to add the whole thing to a food processor, add some chicken stock and some garlic and make a puree soup, what do you think??

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the roasting tip! I roasted some with olive oil and salt. It didn't even need anything else - Yum!

Anonymous said...

Really awesome recipe. I used Pecorino Romano cheese--I like the flavor better than parmigiano, but it's very salty, so go very easy on adding salt to the dish.

Could eat this stuff every day.

Dolores said...

I made this again tonight with a bunch of chard out of my CSA box... it's one of my favorite transitions into cooler weather. And the leftovers are awesome scrambled into eggs for breakfast. Thank you again for sharing this recipe!

Anonymous said...

Great recipe, thanks! I've never enjoyed swiss chard until I tried this. I never have heavy cream in the house, but it worked fine with 2% milk and a T. of butter. The only thing I will do different next time is reduce the salt, between the salted butter and the cheese it needed a little less added salt. Your blog will be on my favorites list!

ConnieG. said...

No need for several pots if you want to boil first. I use my rachel ray cookware..stove to oven.
boil for 3 minutes drain water...add other ingredients and pop in the oven!

Chris.Tidwell said...

Oh my word... I couldn't believe how good this was. It was my first time eating chard and I may never try another! Thanks so much.

Janice said...

What an absolutely great recipe!!! I used Rainbow Swiss Chard (from my garden) and added roasted beets (grown at our community Green Table garden). The cream and parmesan cheese are the icing on the cake!!! Keeper!!!

mary said...

Was planning to make this TODAY, but got kale in my CSA basket instead of swiss chard! Can I still make it with kale?!?!

Helen said...

if you are using kale, start with this recipe and you can finish it with cream and cheese as I do in the swiss chard recipe.

It's a very similar dish, but kale stems are too tough, so I discard them, and kale leaves need a longer cooking time than chard.

Wendy D said...

Thank you so much. This is one of my favorite dishes. When ever I visit my inlaws in France, I have my Mother In Law make swiss chard. I am so happy to find a lighter version!

Susan O'Neill said...

I'm definitely going to try these recepies and all their variations. Here is another great way to use Chard - in filo pastry triangles. Soften a leek in a pan, then add the chard (about 600g)and wilt it. Take it off the heat and add 200g feta cheese, 100g parmesan, a beaten egg and some black pepper. Use this filling to make little triangles that you bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 mins.
Sue

Kashmirkat said...

We made this as a side to our roasted (free range) beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner last night - It was delisious! Though hubby added more cream, I plan to make it again with the smaller amount of cream :) We'd never had swiss chard (that I remember) before, though I love other greens. Thanks so much for posting this, it was a hit! :)

Melanie said...

thanks for the inspiration!!
www.segur-le-chateau.blogspot.com

Rachel said...

This is fantastic! I love greens anyway, but this recipe is incredibly yummy. :)

Anonymous said...

Dr.Oz suggests adding chard to a morning smoothie ... turns it all green but who cares ? So loaded with good stuff for health !!

Debbie Dodson Mogg said...

I have been juicing the past 4 days and decided today I wanted something warm that I could chew and that's when I found this recipe. I have NEVER cooked swiss chard before and had to google how to cook it. I had a bag of it already washed, stems removed (fed to my chickens) and dried so it was super simple preparing this recipe. It was absolutely delicious! I could eat this everyday (and might). It will definitely become a regular in my meal planning. Thank you for sharing it.