Saturday, March 15, 2008

Recipe: Artichoke and Swiss Chard Gratin (Αγγινάρες και Χόρτα στο Φούρνο)

Work-related travel may be necessary, but it’s far from fun.

Hotels rooms blur together in a cloud of mediocre sameness. Long meetings in new time zones keep life off-kilter and make it extraordinarily difficult to explore the terrain.

I’ve worked in jobs where too much business travel was unavoidable. For self-preservation, I began introducing an element of pleasure into each dreary trip by finding an exciting restaurant to visit.

In Boston, this is how I discovered Hamersley’s Bistro. Hamersley’s has one of those menus where you want to order everything. The chef specializes in imaginative preparations of seasonally fresh vegetables.

I ignored the entrees and ordered a mixture of appetizers and vegetable side dishes. I ate slowly, savoring each bite, and left the restaurant invigorated and momentarily happy for the chance to travel, even on business.

Shortly after I first ate at Hamersley’s, its owner, Gordon Hamersley, published a cookbook,
Bistro Cooking at Home. I bought it immediately, and was glad I did. Although they have complex flavors, Hamersley’s dishes are easy to make, use readily available ingredients, and are consistently delicious.

Last night I made a version of Hamersley’s Artichoke and Swiss Chard Gratin. The gratin’s cream, which I rarely use, blends nicely with the vegetables’ earthy flavors to form a delicious sauce.

Hamersley makes his gratin with fresh artichokes. I substituted frozen artichoke quarters. Using fresh artichokes just for the hearts requires too much time and effort (and costs too much) for a mid-week meal. I'd rather save fresh artichokes for uses that let me enjoy the delicious leaves, which too often are tossed when fresh artichokes are used for their hearts.

Artichoke and Swiss Chard GratinArtichoke and Swiss Chard Gratin (Αγγινάρες και Χόρτα στο Φούρνο)
Serves 4 – 6
Adapted from Bistro Cooking at Home by Gordon Hamersley (Broadway Books 2003)
Spinach, nettles, poppies, or other mild-flavored greens may be substituted for the Swiss chard. Salting vegetables as they cook brings out their flavor in a way that salting only at the end can’t achieve. For this reason, small amounts of salt are added as each vegetable cooks; be careful not to fully salt each ingredient or the finished gratin will be too salty.

5 – 6 whole Swiss chard leaves (1 bunch), or any other mild-flavored greens, wild or domestic
12 ounces frozen artichoke quarters, thawed
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wash the chard leaves and shake off the excess water (do not dry). Separate the leaves from the stems. Cut the stems into 1/2” dice and roughly chop the leaves; keep the stems and leaves separate.

Sauté the thawed artichoke quarters, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until they are lightly browned. Place the artichokes in a large bowl.

In the same pan, sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and fresh thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the onions to the bowl with the artichoke hearts.

In the same pan, sauté the Swiss chard stems, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. olive oil for 5 minutes. Stir in the leaves, and cook until the stems and leaves are tender and any liquid in the pan has evaporated. Add the chard to the bowl with the other ingredients and toss to combine.

Oil a 9” x 9” baking pan (or 10” x 10” pan or 1 1/2 quart gratin dish). Spread the vegetables in the pan, pour the cream evenly over, and top with the grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 425°F and bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese topping is nicely browned. Serve immediately.

This is my entry for Antioxidant Rich Food/5-a-Day Tuesday created and hosted by Sweetnicks.


Cheryl said...

This really does sound lovely. I really miss the restaurants back home. There's always something new to explore. Don't get me wrong, the food(in tavernas & restaurnts) here is fabulous, but it's boring.
Nice recipe for me to try!

Lisa Turner said...

This is the second artichoke recipe that I've come across today and it certainly is tempting. Artichokes are rarely used in my kitchen, but when I see recipes like this, I wonder why that is. Thanks for this idea.

Núria said...

Ai, my mouth is watering... I love artichokes and also chard is one of my favorites. Since artichokes are in season here now, I might do your recipe with fresh ones... MMmmmmm
Thanks Laurie!

mimi said...

love artichokes? check. love swiss chard? check. cream and gratin? check, check! thanks for such a delish recipe!

Anonymous said...

Chard is a delightful veggie and the addition of the artichokes really make this for me. Looks fantastic Laurie as always.

Le Flâneur Novice said...

Hello Laurie :)

I'd deleted my blog for some reason, and lost my contacts list.

Today I'm trying to re-find my old friends, and it's nice to see your comment on Susan's page :)

With best wishes...

Maria Verivaki said...

absolutely superb - I can smell the greens in the oven just by looking at the photo - a wonderful springtime recipe.

Thistlemoon said...

I adore swiss chard! This looks awesome Laurie!

Katie Zeller said...

The artichokes are coming!
The artichokes are coming!
I saw the first, still expensive ones last week... Soon, soon!
Great gratin!

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Two of my favourite ingredients... Swiss Chard ('seskoulo' in Greek) and Artichokes ('agginarhes')... I am salivating over this one, Laurie!

Laurie Constantino said...

Cheryl, I understand exactly what you mean. When we eat out here, we usually go for Thai or Sushi, neither of which are on the island's radar. Too often taverna menus are interchangeable, although in Athens, at least, many interesting restaurants have opened in the last few years.

Lisa, it must be a message telling you to eat artichokes!

Nuria, I'm sure this would be better with fresh artichokes, and if they didn't cost so much in Alaska that is what I'd use.

Mimi, glad you liked it!

Peter G., yes, the artichokes are definitely key.

Banu, hey girl! I was wondering what had happened to you. So glad you found me again!

Maria, I know you have easy access to all the ingredients...

Jenn, thank you so much!

Katie, they are indeed coming!

Sam, I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were wonderful! I've eaten an awful lot of seskoulo in my life, but gathered from the wild. It has a similar flavor to Swiss chard, though looks entirely different. I didn't realize the word also means Swiss chard - then again, I've never seen Swiss chard in Greece.

Riana Lagarde said...

i think that i saw some wild swiss chard today. i have to get a plant ID on it. last week, i saw some women with head scarves picking bags and bags of something big and leafy along the canal du midi. i wonder what it was? wild sorrel? wild chard? seskoulo?