Are you looking for a new side for your Thanksgiving dinner? Maybe something a little more grownup and sophisticated? This gratin with sweet potato, chard, Gruyere, fresh herbs, and lots of garlic may be perfect for you. You could certainly make it for a non-holiday dinner as well, though it does take quite a bit of time with pre-cooking, layering, and baking. Luckily, I was with my dear friend Melissa (Smells Like Brownies), who helped with the prep-work.
Start with a big sweet potato (or two smaller ones) and a whole lot of chard (seriously - a lot)
Peel the sweet potato and slice thinly, then set aside.
Remove the stems from the chard, chop, and place in a big pot with some onion that has been sauteing in butter. Look at those colors! Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and cook until soft.
Add the chard leaves in batches, wilting, then season again. One of the things that you will notice about this recipe is that each layer and ingredient is seasoned. I think that is part of what makes it so delicious. Once the chard is completely wilted, transfer to a colander and drain, pressing down to release all the liquid.
Meanwhile, make a bechamel by simmering cream with garlic, then adding it to a roux of flour and butter. Simmer until thick, then season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Then begin to layer starting with half the sweet potato, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and sage, and Gruyere.
Next add half the chard mixture, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and sage, and more Gruyere.
Then add half of the bechamel. Since you won't really be able to spread it, try to spoon it fairly evenly over the top.
Repeat these layers again, then top with lots of Gruyere and bake for an hour.
We let our cheese get a little bit dark, oops, but neither of us minded at all. You might want to check on it halfway through cooking and cover with foil if it is getting too dark.
There is so much flavor in this casserole - sweet, a little bitter, and lots of garlic - plus creamy, chewy, and crisp textures. It is so good, and so satisfying, and a good balance between healthy vegetables and creamy decadence. I promise your guests will love it.
Sweet Potato and Chard Gratin
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 tbsp butter, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2 lbs chard (rainbow, or Swiss, or both), stems chopped, leaves torn
fresh grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper
2 cups heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
2 lbs sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch rounds or half-moons
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
5 oz.Gruyère, finely shredded
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add chard stems, and a pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and add chard leaves by large handfuls, stirring, until all greens are wilted. Season again with salt and pepper.
Transfer greens to a colander to drain, pressing out the excess liquid with the back of a large spoon. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine cream and garlic and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a separate medium or large pot, melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, until a thick paste forms and the flour is no longer raw. Slowly whisk in the warm cream. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, until thick. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Heat oven to 400 deg F. Assemble the casserole in a buttered, deep, 9x13 baking dish.
Layer half of sweet potato slices in the baking dish, followed by a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a quarter of the herbs, and a 1/4 cup Gruyère.
Distribute half of the greens mixture over the cheese, then follow with salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs, and a 1/4 cup Gruyère.
Pour half of béchamel sauce over the first two layers.
Repeat the layers, then top with the remaining cheese (at least 1/4 cup).
Bake for 1 hour, until the sweet potatoes and tender and the casserole is bubbly. Check halfway and tent the casserole with foil if the top is already browned.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*Note: You can assemble the gratin a day ahead if desired, and bake the day you intend to serve.
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