The obvious thing to say about creamy Swiss chard is that it is like creamed spinach all grown up: full of earthy flavor balanced by rich cream.
Others may choose to make a thick béchamel sauce with which to coat the chard, but I find a simple dose of heavy cream gets the job done with much less effort and a lighter final effect.
- 2 large bunches Swiss chard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt plus more for blanching
- 2 medium shallots
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. While the water comes to a boil, cut out the stems/center ribs from the Swiss chard. Cut the stems into about 2-inch lengths and chop or tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Add enough salt to the water so it tastes salty. Add the leaves to the boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, and transfer the leaves to the ice water. Drain again. Transfer the leaves from the colander to a clean kitchen towel, squeezing out as much water as you can in the process. Roll up and squeeze in the kitchen towel to remove any remaining water.
- Peel and thinly slice the shallots.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Add shallots, chopped chard stems, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the stems are tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the cream, bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring often, until the mixtures thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the leaves and cook, stirring, until they’re warmed through and coated with the sauce. Add pepper to taste, as well as any additional salt you may like.
- Serve warm. Know that this dish keeps well loosely covered in a warm (220°F or so) oven for an hour or so if needed.
- Crunchy topping: Preheat an oven to 400°F. Toss 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt. And toast, tossing after about 4 minutes, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the resulting toasted crumbs on the chard before serving.
- Better with bacon: Cook 3 or 4 slices of bacon, drain, crumble, and stir in with the leaves. You can use bacon fat instead of the butter for even more bacon-ness.
- Lemon life: Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest before serving. Spicy leaves: Cream and spice mix better than most people may think. There are a few ways to add a little kick to this dish.
- A personal favorite it to simmer a halved or quartered fresh green chile (jalapeno or serrano) in the cream before adding the cream to the chard (fishing out the chile pieces before you do).
- Or add a chopped fresh chile or 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes with the shallot.