Thursday, January 8, 2009

CSA week five - Swiss chard and turnip gratin

The lentil soup I made yesterday only used half my chard--most of my leaves and none of the stems--so I had enough to try out Sandrine's suggestion of a gratin. Well, not quite enough, but I planted one of the turnips we got back in week one and its leaves have grown so large it's been blocking light to other plants in my herb garden. A quick look on-line found turnip gratin recipes that were close cousins to the chard gratin recipes I found so it was easy enough to split the difference. I used as my base a chard gratin recipe from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and a turnip gratin by chef Alain Passard as plagiarized and lightly modified by Joe DeSalazar on his blog here.

I didn't measure anything or pay close attention to the time so here's kind of a sketchy description of what I did.

1/2 bunch chard, mostly stems
1 large turnip with half it's leaves (the rest having been previously sautéed in butter and olive oil with anchovies and capers and served over papparadelle), peeled
fresh breadcrumbs
melted butter
more butter
2 ounces pancetta
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
2 to 4 ounces finely grated melty cheese (I used an edam-esque cheese called Amadeus)
seasonings to match your cheese (I used fresh thyme, pimenton and nutmeg. I've never used pimenton and nutmeg together before but it works. Thanks Joe.)

0. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Separate the chard and turnip stems from the leaves. Wash everything and roughly chop. Chop the turnip bulb too.

2. Heat a big pot of water to a boil. Salt as if you were cooking pasta. Add stems and turnip bulb. Return to boil and simmer two minutes. Add leaves. Simmer three minutes more. Drain, cool and gently squeeze out any extra liquid.

3. Meanwhile, prepare a cup or two of fresh breadcrumbs, toss with melted butter, salt and other appropriate seasonings. Bake in 350 degree oven until golden and crisp, tossing regularly. Five to ten minutes.

4. Melt some more butter in that big pot. Add onion, pancetta and spices and cook over medium heat 5 minutes until onion turns translucent. Stir in green and heat through. Add flour and stir until it's all moistened. Add milk, cream and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and cook for 5 more minutes. The sauce should be enough to coat but not excessive beyond that. After five minutes it should be slightly thickened. Check for seasoning.

5. Butter a medium baking dish and add the chard/turnip mixture. Dot with a bit more butter and cover with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. There isn't enough sauce to visibly bubble when it's done, but you should be able to hear it.

Serve hot as it clots when it cools. This would probably make a good side dish with red meat as it's got a creamed spinach sort of vibe going, but I found it a little unsatisfying on its own. No big flavors here, but the flavorings I chose nicely compliment the mild vegetables without overpowering them. I can see how this could be easily jazzed up into a full-fledged casserole, but the chard and turnips would get lost so better to leave it as is and let it be a supporting player.

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