It’s the Gobble, Gobble time of year already. Is it me or does Thanksgiving come every 4 months now? I say it like it’s a bad thing, but really what could be tastier? All those family favorite recipes coming out of semi-retirement. This year I have a new recipe, but it’s inspired by a family fave, as well as time spent during my year cooking in France. It seemed like something the French might serve. Introducing creamy rainbow chard gratin.
We grew up with a local turkey farm over the hill and always went to pick out our bird. The backing track of gobblers is a sound I won’t soon forget. Growing up surrounded by farmland, this was the way of life. But despite the fresh birds, there was not an abundance of winter produce available. Hence the frozen spinach casserole that started this ball rolling. At least it was green, we’d think, on an otherwise brown food day.
Rainbow Chard and Leeks
You have no doubt seen Swiss chard in the markets and at your local grocery. But have you noticed the red chard with its magenta stems? Or the rainbow chard with stripey fuchsia, navel orange, taxi-cab yellow and granny apple green? The colors are magnificent.
This dish is inspired by my Aunt Mary’s spinach and artichoke heart casserole. I’ve made it so many times I can do it blindfolded and so have many of my friends. (I have included the original in the recipe card notes below). This is the first Thanksgiving without Aunt Mary, and she has left big shoes to fill. I spent most of the last 5 or 6 Thanksgivings prepping next to her, where she was in charge of dressing, a family apple compote recipe and gravy. Oh, and polishing the candlesticks. Gamama, as the kids called her, spent most of two days giving some old silver candlesticks the royal treatment. Mary never met a stranger, and I am confident she might have swindled the latex gloves required for silver polish manicure preservation right off the hands of her TSA agent. They never saw her coming. She had to be the only one passing bittersweet branches for the centerpiece, freshly clipped from her Indiana garden, through the CTX machine. She held court in the kitchen and the rest of us served at the pleasure. Whatever else I contributed, you can be sure that the spinach and artichoke hearts dish was on the list.
I wanted to pay homage to that dish but zhoosh it up a bit. She was all color, so as I debated what changes to make, rainbow chard raised its hand and said “Pick me, pick me!” I considered keeping the art hearts, but didn’t think the flavor was the ideal match, and I figured they would overwhelm in the texture department. So instead I swapped out the onion for some leeks. I also added some Gruyere to make it a bit more creamy – and then of course, I added bacon. Of course I did.
Cleaning Chard and Leeks
You might be tempted to look at the prep time and think ain’t nobody got time for that, but I assure you it is worth the effort. Plus – for the meal prep WIN – you can do this all the day before and just bake it off while your turkey is resting and as you carve.
Both leeks and chard can be sandy, so I wanted to just reassure you with tips on the best way to get the grit out. For details on how to clean a leek, check out this post. For the rainbow chard, place the leaves in the sink or a large bowl, and fill with cool water. Let them soak, then lift them from the sink, rinsing, leaving any grit at the bottom of the sink or bowl. Don’t try to pour the water out of a bowl, as that will just move the grit and sand back into the leaves. Always lift them out! Dry on towels or spin, in batches, in a salad spinner.
Once cleaned and dried, trim and remove the end of each stem, then cut a “V” in each leaf to remove the full stem. Slice the stems into 1/2″ wide pieces and set aside. Stack the leaves and roll tightly into a long tube shape, then cut cross-wise into 1/4 – 1/2″ ribbons. It will be quite voluminous at this point and you might think you need another baking dish, but it will cook down and fit in a 3-quart casserole.
From here, the chard gratin is just a sauté of stems and leeks, a wilt of leaves, and a stir in of sour cream and Gruyere. Top with some grated Parmesan and crumbled bacon and you are oven-ready. You can wrap it up and put in the fridge for a day at this point or bake it off now (slightly less time) and reheat when ready to serve.
Gratin is the French word for a dish that has melted cheese or bread crumb topping, turned golden brown. Remember the Betty Crocker box mix of Au Gratin potatoes? The cheese was already in the mix in powdered form. This dish doesn’t have breadcrumbs – though I definitely considered a Panko dusting atop – but it does have real Parmesan (I used Reggiano) that “goldens” up quite nicely.
If you were Aunt Mary, you might now kick back with a house Chardonnay and a glass of ice and nurse that for the remainder of the meal!!! Gobble. Gobble.
Full Thanksgiving Menu!!
You got this trimmin’, but what else to serve? Don’t worry – I got you covered. We have everything you need for complete and tasty meal perfection. If you are ever in doubt, there is a search button on the top of the site that will take you where you need to go. But today – holiday special – I have curated the list you are most likely to need!
- Perfect Roast Turkey – with all the tips and tricks to get a moist and juicy bird
- Gimme-More Gravy – simple math will carry you through to any roux-based sauce: 1 T fat, 1 T flour, 1 cup broth or milk. 1 to 1 to 1!
- Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Thyme – with potato ricer tips
- Cranberry Ginger Kumquat Chutney
- Thanksgiving Harvest Salad
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto
- Tennessee Whiskey Pumpkin Ginger Cheese Cake
- Bourbon-Spiked Apple Crisp
- Turkey leftovers? Got you covered! Mama’s famous tetrazzini
The Shop That Has It All!!
You are just fooling yourself if you try to pull off Thanksgiving without these things 🙂 There’s also a good assortment of hostess gifts that are sure to be put to immediate use.
- Roasting Pan and Rack
- Fat Separator for the Creamiest Gravy
- Instant Read Thermometer – don’t leave this in the oven!
- Basting Brushes
- Bulb Baster
- Potato Ricer – makes a lovely hostess gift that will be used on the spot!
- Microplane Grater
- Emile Henri Baking Dish – exactly what you need for this Chard Gratin
- Vegetable Peeler – the best seller from last year’s culinary gift guide
- Smooth Edge Can Opener – best gadget on the market – no more sharp lids left from open cans
- The Essential Wine Glass – universally shaped and beautiful lead-free crystal (bonus: dishwasher safe)
- Springform Pan – have you seen the pumpkin ginger cheese cake recipe?
- Silpat Baking Mat
- French Rolling Pin
- Sheet Pans
- Pie Weights
- These two books by my friend Rick Rodgers are Thanksgiving essentials (also great hostess gifts) – The Big Book of Sides and Thanksgiving 101
Have a blessed holiday and please let me know what you tried. Comment below or tag me on social!Print
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