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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

The Mother Of All Gratins, Featuring Swiss Chard

It's cheesy. It's hearty. And it's a great way to use up greens!

swiss chard au gratin

Photo: Eoban Binder/WFIU

This piece of Swiss chard au gratin is garnished with red pepper coulis. Enjoy it while it's still warm!

Most of us probably know the gratin preparation best from potatoes au gratin – but no spuds here! We’ve got some gorgeous local rainbow Swiss chard.

Stems And Greens And All

I created this recipe when I was cooking in Europe. The funny thing is Europeans eat the stems and discard the leaves. When I moved back to the states, I noticed that Americans eat the leaves and discard the stems. In the spirit of international diplomacy, I changed this recipe to include both the stems and the leaves!

First order of business is to blanch and shock the Swiss chard. You will cook it in boiling salted water and then plunge it in an ice water bath. Be sure to wring out as much excess water as you can before adding the chard to the other ingredients.

Let’s Get Saucy

Now for the good stuff.

This recipe includes a béchamel sauce. It’s 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup butter, cooked down to a roux. Add three cups milk and cook for 10-15 minutes.

This is one of the five “mother sauces” in classic French cooking, which you can remember with the acronym TVinBED – tomato, velouté, béchamel, espagnole and demi-glace. These are bases upon which you can build other sauces. (For instance, béchamel is a milk sauce, so if you’ve had sausage gravy, you’ve had béchamel sauce.)

While this recipe will never be vegan, you could make it vegetarian by substituting the bacon for capers or chopped olives.

As always, I encourage you to adjust the recipes to your taste and have fun while you cook!

Swiss Chard Au Gratin

Yield: Makes 3 Gratin (21 Portions)


  • 12 bunches Swiss chard leaves and stems, cleaned, cut into 2" pieces, cooked
  • 1 cup chopped bacon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, cut into brunoise
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons New Regime spice blend (or Chinese Five Spice)
  • 1 teaspoon Aux Poivre pepper blend (or freshly ground pepper)
  • 3 cups béchamel sauce
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups buttered breadcrumbs
  • 3 buttered gratin dishes

Cooking Directions

  1. Blanch and shock chopped Swiss chard. Be sure to wring out all excess water.
  2. Combine chard, bacon, thyme, zest, garlic and spices. Carefully toss to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together béchamel, eggs and cheese. Fold into chard mix.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Pour into gratin dishes. Coat with bread crumbs, then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
  6. Bake at 250-275º for one hour.

In case you have kohlrabi leaves in your fridge, those would work wonderfully in this recipe as well.

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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