This recipe is inspired by a chard and potato gratin I found in a super cute book I recently picked up at a closing bookstore sale. The original recipe was somewhat bland and some of the directions didn’t produce the described effects, but overall, the technique of how to make a vegan cream sauce for a gratin was totally worth the trial and error, and now this recipe is awesome!! I also happen to have a huge bunch of swiss chard from my garden, making this one more non-soup chard recipe that I can play with. With the slightest modifications, this recipe packs such a delicious and comfortingly creamy punch, that I’m thinking this just might work for Thanksgiving this year as one of my “you’ll never guess it’s vegan!” dishes.
I really like that this gratin isn’t heavy because there are more greens than potatoes, making it a perfect side dish for summer. Of course, come winter the potatoes can be piled on a little thicker, but for now I’m happy to have a ridiculously nutritious side dish that doesn’t leave me in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon.
Chard and Potato Gratin:
- Medium saucepan, large heavy-bottomed skillet (like enameled or cast iron), medium casserole baking dish (8×8 or 9×9 is plenty) with lid (or use aluminum foil), whisk, soup spoon, measuring spoons, liquid measuring cup, tongs, stove top, oven with broiler
- 1 big bunch of swiss chard (approx. 1 lb)
- 2 yellow onions, halved and slivered
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 lb red or gold potatoes (that’s ~2 medium red potatoes), sliced thin into 1/8″ rounds
- The leaves from 10 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme (probably ~3 tsp)
- Sunflower oil or other high-temp neutral oil
- 2 Tbsp AP flour
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 2 Tbsp non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (the original recipe called for a neutral oil, so that would work too in a pinch)
- 1/2 heaping tsp ground mustard
- 2 Tbsp panko or other desired breadcrumbs (I like to mix some oats in with mine for texture and a whole grain hint)
- 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- To prep the chard, line up the ends of the stems and roll up the leaves together. Keep a firm grip on the giant chard cigar, and cut the stems into 1/4″ pieces, working your way up through the chard until you’ve got a pile of 1/4″ bits and ribbons. Prep the rest of your veg and get everything else ready – the sauce for this is a gravy, so to keep things moving without clumps, you’ll want to know what you’re doing ahead of time (like a stir-fry). If you’ve got limited counter-space, some various sized-bowls might help organization with this one!
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly grease the bottom of a medium baking or casserole dish.
- In heavy-bottomed skillet, heat a Tbsp of oil over medium heat. Add the slivered onions and saute until totally soft, about 5 mins. Add the garlic and thyme. To keep the garlic from burning, start adding the chard a handful at a time. Mix in each handful totally before adding the next to make sure to avoid clumps of chard that won’t mix in with the onions. Once all the chard is added, add a hefty pinch of salt. Saute the chard 3-5 mins, or until the leaves are thoroughly wilted and the stems are starting to soften and brown (the fully-wilted chard will be stringy and look like frozen spinach – no firmness in the leaves at all). Remove the veggies from the heat and set aside.
- In the saucepan, melt the vegan butter over low heat. Tilt the saucepan and slowly sprinkle in the 2 Tbsp of flour, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Let the saucepan sit level on the stove, but continue whisking and cook the flour/butter mixture 3-4 mins. Slowly whisk in the milk. Clumps may form here, but just keep whisking until the gravy is smooth again. Whisk in the ground mustard, a pinch of nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper to taste (slightly on the saltier side is better because the chard is so rich and earthy. Also, don’t worry if the raw nutmeg smells too fruity. It’ll mellow when it cooks with the veg.). Bring the sauce to a slow simmer, still on low heat, and cook 5-10 mins, or until it’s become noticeably thickened. Stir occasionally and be careful not to scorch the bottom. It’s ok if the sauce doesn’t bubble. As long as it’s thoroughly warmed and thickens after a few minutes, it’s still cooked. Remove from the heat.
- Ladle 2 spoon-fulls of the sauce onto the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of the potatoes (try not to over lap too much). Place half of the chard/onion mixture on top of the potatoes and then smother in half of the sauce. Top that with another layer of potatoes, chard, and finish off with the rest of the sauce.
- Cover and bake at 400 F for 25-30 mins, or until potatoes are soft, the sauce is bubbling and the casserole is hot all the way through. You can test the potatoes’ doneness with a toothpick or cake tester down the middle – if you hit anything really firm, you’ve got raw potatoes. Mix the breadcrumbs and nutritional yeast together and then sprinkle generously on top.
- Set the oven to broil, and put the gratin back in the oven, uncovered, for about a minute, or until the top is perfectly golden brown – watch it carefully and don’t let it burn! Let sit 5 mins before serving piping hot.