Ever wonder how the French Get their kids to eat their vegetables? They cover them in sauce and cheese! Colourful Rainbow Chard, smothered in creamy Béchamel then covered with cheese and baked. I ask you, who could resist Swiss Chard au Gratin?! It’s so good your kids won’t even care that it’s good for them.
Let’s Talk Chard
In this recipe I’m using a beautiful variety of Rainbow Chard, but any chard will do. Its such a hearty green, usually first up and last out of the fields. In warmer climates that don’t get a killer frost, it grows all winter long, making it very popular with gardeners, so it’s good to have some leafy-green inspiration.
I love chard. I often serve it with nothing more than butter and salt, but go ahead and jut TRY to get the kids to eat it. (Not happening people!) Add some creamy smoothness and a layer of cheese on top and VOILA!
This is a terrific recipe to use up a bit of leftover Béchamel Sauce, because it only takes (about) a cup of sauce. I usually make the sauce ahead, or plan for Swiss Chard au Gratin when I know I have saucy leftovers in the fridge or freezer. It’s comfort food that’s good for you!
Swiss Chard, The Under Valued Leafy Green
As greens go, I feel like varieties of Swiss Chard are under appreciated and often overlooked. Swiss Chard is tasty and deeply nutritious – an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fibre.
“Swiss chard is undervalued in Britain. It’s a great substitute for spinach and keeps its shape well.” – Yotam Ottolenghi
Use swiss chard anywhere you might use spinach, as a leafy layer in lasagne, a filling in cheesy phyllo pockets, or use the leaf as a gluten-free vegetable-centric wrap for colourful, nutrient-dense bundles of deliciousness.
In most culinary applications, we handle swiss chard the same way we would handle spinach, cooking with little water and a whole lot of steam. The key difference between the two is the density of the stalks, which require longer to cook.
In this Swiss Chard au Gratin recipe, we separate the leafy bits from the stems as we cut. The stalks are added to a big pot with about two to three inches of water, at a rolling boil, generating a huge cloud of steam then fitted with a tight lid and removed from the heat.
After about two minutes quickly add the leaves, put the lid back in place and steam the greens for about another two minutes. Turn the swiss chard with tongs once, to ensure everything is well blanched. Just like spinach, you’ll see your volume has shrunk – considerably.
Immediately drain into a colander and rinse with cold water turning the chard to make sure it chills as quickly as possible, and PRESS TO DRAIN, just like spinach. I cannot underscore this point enough, particularly in this dish, where we drain of excess water twice, first in the colander and then draining from the baking dish, to ensure a creamy, rich result rather than a watery-thin sauce.
Add Variety To Your Sides
Maybe you’re like me and experiencing a bit of cooking fatigue lately. Cooking the same things over and over can be tedious, so switch up flavour profiles, visit new cuisines in the comfort of your own kitchen, or apply a different technique. Sauté rather than steam, fry instead of baking, make a fritter instead of a mash or add creamy sauce and Comté… you’ll be glad you did.
Ever wonder how the French get their kids to eat their vegetables? They cover them in sauce and cheese! Colourful Rainbow Chard, smothered in creamy Béchamel then covered with cheese and baked. Swiss Chard au Gratin, it’s so good your kids won’t even care that it’s good for them!
2 bundles of fresh Swiss Card, washed (about 20 stalks)
70grams all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons heavy (35% milk fat) cream (optional, see notes)
1cup finely grated Comté Cheese
Preheat your oven to 375⁰f (190⁰c). Coat a small baking dish well with non-stick spray or cooking oil.
Prepare your Béchamel Sauce; in a small pot met your butter over medium heat. When the butter is hot and bubbling, add all of your flour and whisk immediately to combine over medium heat, to make a roux.
Cook your roux – stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn – until it starts to smell like cookies. Now add your cold milk, all at once, and whisk well to combine and remove any remove lumps. Reduce your temperature to medium-low and season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Whisk as it simmers to thicken. A perfect Béchamel will coat a spoon well, and if you run your finger through the sauce on the spoon and turn the spoon sideways, the sauce will not run. Once complete, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Add approximately two inches of water and a teaspoon of salt to the bottom of a large pot and place it over high heat to come to a boil while you chop your swiss chard. Chop stalks a leaves in about two inch pieces, separating the tougher stalks from the tender leaves. Once water is at a boil, complexly turn off the heat but leave the pot on the element. Now add just the chard stalks to the water and cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow to steam for around 2 – 3 minutes. Now quickly add your swiss card leaves and put the lid back on for another 2 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the chard so that all of the leaves are well wilted, then immediately drain in a colander. Run steamed chard under cold water to cool as quickly as possible.
This is the critical step in the recipe; while still in the colander press to remove any excess liquid. Then move the wilted, cool chard to the prepared baking dish and press it again. Now hold your hand over the chard and drain of all liquid again. Pour your béchamel over the chard until it’s just covered. If you prefer a looser sauce, drizzle in two table spoons of heavy cream (optional, see notes).
Top with grated Comté cheese and bake at 375⁰f (190⁰c) for approximately 30 minutes, until the swiss chard is heated all the way through, and the sauce and the cheese are bubbling through the top. Serve immediately.
Sauce options: You can make Swiss Chard au Gratin with your sauce thick, or thin. In the shot above I’ve opted for a thinner, loose sauce with the addition of two tablespoons of cream in my Béchamel. The result is decadent, but the sauce is slightly thinner. Also, you could opt to use 10% cream in your sauce instead of milk, because you’re NAUGHTY.
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.