I’ve seen these gratins pop up a lot on the internet recently. It’s totally understandable. This is decadent. And to die for. I guess those French really know something about food. I mean, I know I said I was on an Indian kick, but sheesh, I needed a break and this is a delicious insert into weeks that will inevitably become Indian food for dinner and breakfast (yes I eat dinner leftovers for breakfast).
This is the type of recipe that I would never, ever, ever, ever have considered making prior to this whole “grains-are-evil” phase in my life. Ever. It has so much stinkin’ fat in it, it’s quite remarkable. Yeah, after eating it you can definitely tell – there will be a small lump in your stomach – but nothing like there’d be if this was some sort of savory pie or was accompanied with a pasta or whatever. And that “wow I ate a lot of fat” lump will only occur because this is so good you’re lucky if you can refrain from eating half of it yourself. But if you’re demure and moderate, you’ll be just fine.
Now, I hope you won’t be afraid to make this – there is kind of a lot to be repelled by. The fat alone would deter most people. But if you’re okay with that, the preparation might be a deterrent for some. I love both of the main ingredients here; it is so sad when squash isn’t in the grocery store anymore. But at the same time, I am so glad. Butternut squash is so delicious that I can’t help but make it whenever possible. But it absolutely SUCKS to prepare. Peeling it requires a super sharp peeler and cutting it requires a super sharp knife and super big bicep. If you don’t have these things, well, you still have to make it, so it just becomes nearly unbearable – until that is, you taste the result. At which point you forget your trials and can’t wait to make it again.
Swiss chard is also a labor of love. That bunch you buy from the grocery store looks easy enough to deal with. That is until you begin to separate the stems from the leaves. Then you’re contending with a mound of unwieldy separated leaves that keep getting mixed with the as yet to be separated leaves. And then with every chop you find more leaves on the floor. And pretty soon you’re dying for a bowl, so you get a bowl, but then that quickly fills up so you try to figure out if you should get another bowl, or transfer what you’ve got to a bigger bowl. And inevitably, you’ve dirtied half your bowls and still you end up needing another. Or as least, that’s what happens to me.
Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Gratin
Mine turned out a little mushier this time than another time that I’ve made it. I think I actually made a roux to mix into the cream before, but you totally don’t need to do that. Just reduce the cream, which I didn’t really have the patience for this time. Mushy or not, it’s great no matter what.
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch or so)
1 bunch of swiss chard, thick stems removed and thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped into 1 inch pieces or so
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
5-8 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
salt, pepper, and thyme
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat butter in a large pot. Add onion, swiss chard stems, and nutmeg and saute for about 8 minutes, until soft.
2. Add chard stems to the pot and stir until wilted. Turn off heat. Press excess liquid out of the greens with the back of a spoon.
3. Heat cream and garlic in a small sauce pan until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced and getting thick.
4. Grease 9′ x 13′ pan with butter. Layer half of butternut squash slices on bottom. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Then add 1/3 amount of the cheese. Add half of the greens mixture and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add another 1/3 amount of cheese. Pour 1/2 the cream sauce over these layers. Repeat these steps, finishing with remainder of cheese on top.
5. Bake for about 1 hour until cheese is brown and bubbly on top and most of the liquid is absorbed.