Fennel, Shallot, and Chard Gratin
In this recipe, aromatic fennel, sweet shallots, and bitter chard (or kale) simmer in a creamy sauce enhanced with garlic and thyme topped with sharp aged cheddar cheese. I love vegetable gratin, and I developed this recipe as a way to use up extra produce from my CSA box; be creative and use the vegetables you have on hand.
About this Recipe
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions are a great way to support your local farmers by purchasing produce directly from them throughout the growing season. It’s fun (and sometimes a challenge) to figure out how to use all of the different fruits and vegetables that arrive in your box. As a naïve CSA newbie, I imagined that I’d receive a wide variety of different items from week to week. While that sometimes happens, the reality of eating Locally and Seasonally is that you often get loaded up with tons of one product, and then you’re on to lots and lots of the next thing.
- 1 bunch hearty greens (such as Swiss chard or kale)
- 2 tablespoons (30g) butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 large or 4 small shallots, sliced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (or ½ tsp. dried thyme)
- 2 fennel bulbs, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup (235mL) heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup (85g) Beecher’s Flagship cheddar, or other good-quality aged sharp white cheddar, shredded
Spring brought salad greens. So many kinds, sometimes four or five to a box – butterhead, red leaf, little gem, arugula, romaine… Before long, it was a barrage of kale, chard, and mustard greens. As the summer progressed, we were flooded with tomatoes and zucchini. You get the picture.
As we were in the throes of receiving many bunches of hearty greens, I wanted to come up with something that was so irresistibly delicious that everyone would want to gobble up their veggies. I paired the kale and chard with another favorite vegetable, fennel, which is perfectly complemented by the dairy. This rich dish is especially good on chilly autumn or winter days—a filling vegetarian entree, or an accompaniment to chicken, turkey, or duck.
Step by Step Instructions
Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
Prepare the greens by separating the stems from the leaves. Discard the tough, brown end of the stalk. Crush the stems with the side of a chef’s knife, and thinly slice the stems. Chop the greens, and set aside.
In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped stems, shallots, and thyme, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the fennel, and continue to saute for 5-7 minutes, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking.
Add the greens, stir well, turn heat to medium-low, and cover. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until greens are wilted. Uncover, and saute until greens are cooked, and any water they have released has evaporated.
Add the heavy cream, salt, and nutmeg, and stir to combine. Simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the top of the gratin.
Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly golden brown. Cover to keep warm until serving.
Optional: To make this a more filling entree, you may add 1 ½ cups (300 grams) of cooked wild rice, farro, barley, or brown rice when you add the cream. Add ½ cup or 118 mL whole milk, and increase the salt by ¼ teaspoon.
You will want a drink to cut through the heavy cream that balances the bitterness of chard or kale and highlights the slight sweetness of cooked fennel. A Pinot Gris or Grigio (the same wine, names used interchangeably) is a great white wine to pair with this meal for those very reasons! At Violet Wine we love the Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris from Oregon and the Borghi Ad Estate Friuli-Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio from Italy.