I Stared Down the Fridge and I Won!
I picked up this phrase from a dear friend and tonight was my night and I did win! I rarely write two blog posts in one week but this one couldn’t wait. And believe it or not, it all starts with Swiss Chard stems. I have used a lot of chard lately, the leafy part that is, which meant I had collected a good pile of stems in the fridge. They keep well and I just kept adding to the bag. So tonight, in need of dinner, what did I find in the fridge? Chard stems (and not much else)! I usually either dice them and add them to soups or sauces but have also made a gratin in the past, so that’s what I set out to do. It really needed to serve as the main dish tonight so here’s how it turned into something blogworthy.
I roughly chopped half an onion and the chard stems and sautéed those in olive oil for a few minutes. Then I added 1/2 cup of water and covered the pan and braised them for about 10 minutes until the stems were tender.
Then I made a quick bechamel, but for the first time ever used half milk and half veggie bouillon (yes, I know you’re probably tired of hearing about the stuff but it is transformative). Then I remembered that I had a bag of leftover, sliced baguette in the freezer. So out came that and I nearly killed my food processor but I processed those into uneven, biggish, bread crumbs. Then I toasted those with just a little olive oil over high heat to thaw and crisp up just a bit.
Then I added about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the bechamel and grated some sharp cheddar. Oh and I added the liquid left in the chard pan to the bechamel.
Then I put the chard stems in a casserole dish, covered them with bechamel, then bread crumbs, then cheese. In the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes until nice and bubbly, finish under the broiler and voila! Dinner! It was so much more than the sum of its parts. It was delicious–savory, creamy, crunchy, earthy! We did have an arugula salad (thanks Elizabeth – my super gardener friend/neighbor) too.
Oh and since I’m not writing the recipe out in a formal manner, the bechamel was made as follows: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add 4 tablespoons of flour, whisk and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of veggie bouillon, first heated up together in a separate saucepan or microwave. Whisk in the hot liquid and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 7-10 minutes. Add nutmeg.