martha rose shulman posted a recipe for a chard gratin recently in her recipes for health column in the nyt see here. this sounded so delicious that i found myself at the grocery store the very next day buying a large bunch or organic chard and a hunk of gruyere. i really love chard but have a hard time thinking up dishes for it the kids will enjoy as much as i do. this dish had the winning ticket. we all loved it. it was far tastier than i even imagined it would be in my wildest imaginings. something about the fresh vegetably texture of the chard contrasting with the chewy brown rice and the eggy cheesy fluffiness. i am telling you! this is a terrific example of a dish that achieves far more than the sum of its parts.
naturally, i altered the recipe. first, i was out of onions. although this never happens. in 15 years, it has happened maybe once before. so i used leeks and a shallot. as it turned out, i think the leeks are actually a better choice for this as i can't imagine it tasting any better. i also used two kinds of brown rice, aromatic wehani and plain, neither basmati, as ruth calls for. they were both long grain, but a bit chewier than basmati. the third thing i changed was the cheese. i doubled it (kids palate). and i also added a small amount of milk. feeling the dish would still hold together on account of the extra cheese. then i cooked the leeks, garlic, shallot, and chopped chard stalks, all together instead of separately, and for less time. i also wanted the gratin to brown a little less so i lowered the temperature slightly from ruth's instructions.
it all worked. i bet ruth's version is amazing also, though i may never know for sure, now that i've engineered this one..
swiss chard brown rice gratin
adapted from martha rose shulman, recipes for health, nyt
1 lb swiss chard
8 oz baby spinach
2 cloves garlic
1 cup already cooked long grain brown rice (i used a mix of wehani and brown, cooked it in a vegetable stock)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs, mixed
salt to taste
first, preheat the oven to 350. next ready your gratin dish. wipe with a bit of olive oil along the bottom and up the sides. next set a medium large pot of water on the stove to boil.
wash and dissect the chard. by dissect i mean separate the leaves from the stalk. set the spineless leaves aside and finely chop the stalks. set aside. chop the leeks, shallot, and garlic. grate the cheese.
okay the water should be boiling now. add 2 teaspoons of salt. encourage the large chard leaves into the pot and push below the water surface with a wooden spoon. cook on high for 3 minutes. drain and remove. now the spinach. place it in the pot, submerse and remove right away, 10 seconds. empty the pot of water and return to stove. heat the pan on high until the water is evaporated, 30 seconds. add a tablespoon of olive oil and saute the leek/shallot/garlic/chopped stem mixture. saute for a few minutes, maybe 4. until softened but still fresh looking. meanwhile chop the chard and the spinach. add the chard and spinach into the leek mixture. now add the brown rice. saute to blend all the flavors. salt and pepper to taste. add in the milk. also the cheese, add in the three eggs. pour the whole thing into your gratin pan, maybe sprinkle a bit of cheese on top, and place in the oven for 40 minutes. if you would like it to brown a bit more, raise the heat to 375. allow to cool for 5 minutes. devour with relish.
the brilliance of the wehani chewy rice bits in this gratin is something you have to taste to believe. almost like little bits of bacon. so flavorful. i have a feeling i am going to be making this all the time now, forever. to me it tastes just a vacation in the Mediterranean, delicious!