It's always such a great shopping experience going to my favorite, local market because they carry such a wide and diverse variety of products at very reasonable prices. While perusing their produce department this past weekend, I came across some beautiful bunches of Swiss chard and decided to put one in my basket even though I had no idea yet what I wanted to do with it. I figured I would get it home, and then make a plan.
While unloading my shopping bags, I was thinking furiously about how to most deliciously attack my bunch of dark leafy greens to accompany our roasted chicken. And then it dawned on me that I should make an updated version of creamed spinach, but use the chard instead!
I found a way to make my recipe for creamed Swiss chard much healthier than the heavy cream and calorie-laden versions of this dish by using one of my favorite classic sauces, béchamel. Before I get into the details of the sauce, did you know that Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse? I'm no nutritionist, but the chard with the brightly-colored stems contain awesome antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Chard also has a lot more vitamin C than spinach, and that's important because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, which is great for your bones.
Back to the béchamel… this sauce is considered a mother sauce because it's extremely versatile. You can use it to make cheese sauce for mac 'n' cheese, a sauce for your scalloped potatoes, lasagna, and chili con queso just to name a few. The sauce consists of three ingredients, butter, flour and milk, which you probably always have on hand. It takes minutes for the sauce to come together, making it very approachable and user friendly. Read more about béchamel and other classic and modern sauces in our very educational Sauce Guide. Tip: I used skim milk to make my béchamel, which considerably cuts down on the calories without compromising on flavor.
After tackling the sauce, the next important part of the recipe is understanding how to cut and cook the chard. Both the stems and leaves are delicious and very edible, but they cook at different rates, which is why you want to remove the stems from the leaves.
Once this is done, cut the stems into 1/2-inch long pieces, and cut the leaves in to wide ribbons.
To properly cook the chard, sauté the stems first until they start to soften, and then add the leaves. Cook the leaves not just until they are wilted, but until all of the water has been evaporated from the pan. This can take a few minutes, so try to be patient.
Once the chard has been cooked and the béchamel has been made, you can unite the two and add your cheese of choice.
I added 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese and then topped the dish with crumbled feta because this is what I had in my cheese drawer, but you can use absolutely any cheese you like.
I then baked the creamed chard at 350º until it was bubbly around the edges, and served it with roasted chicken, potatoes and garlic bread. As an indicator of how delicious this was, there were no leftovers. While it was certainly an amazingly comforting and savory dish, it was also lower in calories so my family and I could feel good about eating it all!
Creamed Swiss Chard
Yield: 4 servings as a side
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 40 minutes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, medium dice
1 large or 2 small bunches Swiss chard, stems cut into medium dice and leaves cut into wide ribbons
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, and add the olive oil.
- Sauté the chard stems until tender, and then add the leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender and all of the water has evaporated from the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the chard is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute to remove the raw starchy taste.
- Slowly pour in the milk while whisking to prevent any lumps from forming. Heat the béchamel until it comes to a boil while whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the béchamel into the pan with the sautéed chard, and stir well. Add the cheese, and stir to combine.
- Pour the chard into a baking dish, and bake until the edges are bubbly, about 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Come learn how to make béchamel along with several other classic and modern sauces in our very popular Sauce Boot Camp course this winter. Seats are going fast, so sign up soon!
You can also learn how to make creamed spinach in our top-selling class, Steakhouse DYI. We offer this class every month and at each location, so find the date that works for you and we'll see you in our kitchens!
- Thursday, February 7 6pm Merchandise Mart
- Monday, February 11 6pm Merchandise Mart
- Friday, February 22 7pm Lincoln Square
- Thursday, February 28 6pm Merchandise Mart
- Saturday, March 2 7pm Lincoln Square