Every Thanksgiving, I was responsible for typing up the menu for the guests. My father revised my work more than any editor has since, and after several drafts it would finally be approved to print on the ornately bordered paper. The hardest part was fitting all the vegetable dishes on the page, each of them buttered and floured into delicious oblivion.
In that proud Thanksgiving tradition, here’s a recipe for a delicious swiss chard gratin lightly adapted from the Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara's cookbook I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes (Tenspeed Press). While the diners of 1621 probably didn’t dunk the Indian corn in a tonnage of butter, who cares when this dish will make every corner of your house smell like heaven? Just make sure you keep an eye on things to ensure you blister instead of burn the cheese topped-layer. The flavors merit all the work that goes into it, and bonus: you can pour the extra cream sauce over pasta to reward yourself. Just to warn you, this puppy is RICH. Whatever — you'll subsist on lettuce leaves in January to make up for it. Or not.
For the Mornay Sauce:
INGREDIENTS:1 1/2 teaspoons butter1 1/2 teaspoons flour3 cups milk1/2 onion, peeled (after you peel it leave it alone, it's going in like that)2 whole cloves1 bay leaf1/2 cup grated GruyèreGround nutmegSaltGround white pepper
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir, cooking until the mixture is lightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the milk, whisking to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- To make an "oignon piqué" use the cloves to pierce the onion and the bay leaf, tacking them together. Get your onion curvy side up. Place a leaf on top of the onion. Take a clove between your fingers and use it like a nail, pushing it through the leaf fastening it to the onion. Do the same thing with a few other cloves.
- Add the oignon piqué to the sauce and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, remove the onion from the sauce, and whisk in the cheese.
- Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.
For the Swiss Chard Ragout:
15 to 20 leaves white-stemmed Swiss chard
3/4 cup diced (1/4 inch) onion
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup diced (1/2 inch) ham
Ground white pepper
- Clean the chard, separating the leaves from the stems. (You can fold them over and cut or rip the green away from the stems.)
- Dice the stems to 1/4-inch pieces.
- In a medium saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Sweat the chard stems and onion until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the stock, bring to a simmer, cover with a parchment paper lid, and sweat until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the parchment paper, add the chard leaves and wilt over medium heat, stirring frequently.
- Add the ham, remove the pan from the heat, and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups of the mornay sauce into a shallow 1-quart gratin dish.
- Spoon the Swiss chard ragout into the dish and drizzle about 1 more cup of mornay sauce over the top.
- Top the gratin with the cheese and place in the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes, and then broil until lightly browned. 30 to 45 seconds. Seconds! Not minutes.