Even though this dish is described as best prepared in the summer months because of all the necessary Swiss chard, I’m going to argue that it would make a fantastic side on the Thanksgiving Day table. Throughout my childhood, I can remember bowls of veggies and bowls of sweet potato. This recipe combines both of these ingredients into something fantastic.
This recipe makes use of the contrasting flavors of both the sweet potatoes and the chard. Sweet potatoes are, well, sweet when cooked and chard is somewhat bitter. Combined, they temper one another to create something that’s well balanced. It’s because of this balance that we’re able to use a full three pounds of potatoes and a full two pounds of chard. Neither ingredient is overpowering.
I found this recipe in my new The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. They call it a gratin. I looked up the meaning of gratin and it doesn’t mesh well with this dish. I perceive gratin as a casserole with a bready crust on top. Even though the definition says “Gratin is a widespread culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter,” I still like to think of it as using only the breadcrumbs. This is why I called this recipe a casserole. If you do a search for “casserole” on Google and look at the images, you’ll see many things that appear almost exactly as what this dish is.
I found an error in the original recipe and I corrected it below. America’s Test Kitchen calls for “wilting” the chard for two minutes and then adding it as one of the layers in the casserole. If I were to only wilt the chard, I’d end up with tons of liquid in the final outcome. I’ve cooked with chard long enough to know that it holds tons of water. So, in the instructions below, I say to cook the chard down well until you see almost no more liquid in the skillet. This will ensure you a good result.
Overall, this is a good recipe. It’s a summer dish because it uses summer vegetables. The issue with this is that you’ll be using your oven, which adds heat to your house. I would prefer to call it an autumn dish because chard is still available and being actively harvested and the air is much cooler. It’s really up to you though.
2 Tablespoons Regular Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Onion, Diced
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
2 Pounds Swiss Chard, Stems in, Cut into Strips Across 1 Inch Wide
3 Teaspoons Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2/3 Cup Heavy Cream
2/3 Cup Water
2/3 Cup Dry White Wine
3 Pounds Sweet Potatoes, Peeled and Sliced 1/8 Inch Thick
2 Ounces Parmesan Cheese, Shredded
I left the stems in the chard because I enjoy eating them. Feel free to stem them if you wish. I’ll tell you though – after the 1 1/2 hours of cooking this dish, the stems break down, become very soft and add volume. Personally, I don’t like to waste them.
Arrange rack to middle position and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cook Onion & Chard
Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. When it’s to temperature, add the diced onion and cook, while stirring, for about 4 minutes. This should soften them somewhat.
Then, add the chard, little by little, until it’s all in the skillet.
Chard cooks down rather quickly and while it might look like there is a lot of it initially, it’ll fit in the skillet without an issue. Continue to cook and stir until you see hardly any liquid at the bottom of the skillet.
At this point, go ahead and add in the garlic, thyme and 3/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Stir well and transfer the contents of the skillet to a large bowl and set aside.
Simmer Cream Mixture
In the same skillet, add the cream, water, wine and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, stir and remove from heat.
In a 13×9 inch casserole, shingle half of the sliced sweet potatoes across the entire bottom.
Then, spread all of the cooked chard across the potatoes.
After that, shingle the remaining potatoes on top of the chard.
Finally, pour the cream mixture evenly over the top layer of potatoes in the casserole.
To cook the casserole, you’ll need to cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Then, place it on the center rack in your oven. Let bake for 45 minutes. After that time, remove the casserole from the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the grated Parmesan evenly across the top layer of potatoes. Place back in the oven for another 45 minutes. What you’re looking for here is hardly any liquid in the casserole as well as some browned cheese. When you see that, turn off the heat and remove the casserole from the oven.
The Final Dish
To serve, cut the casserole into 8 pieces and remove each piece with a spatula and plate. Since Laura and I are only two people, we ate only 2 pieces. This means we have leftovers again. This is wonderful.
I enjoyed this dish immensely. I was able to purchase some fairly inexpensive potatoes at $.99 per pound and was able to take advantage of the forest of Swiss chard I have growing in the garden out back. The whole thing made sense. And, it was good, to boot.
If you’re interested in looking at some other casserole recipes that use sweet potatoes, please check out these posts:
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