Saturday, January 8, 2011

Have Chard, Will Travel

Some friends invited us to dinner, and when I asked what we could bring, my assignment was "side dish." She said they'd be making a Norwegian cod and potato casserole, and some soup or salad. In my mind, my choice was a vegetable, since the main dish would have protein and starch. It would need to be something hardy, so it could survive the transport to their house. My first thoughts were along the lines of cabbage, beets, cauliflower, and broccoli. Cabbage and cauliflower were ruled out as being too white, given that cod and potatoes are also white. Beets are too messy, and while I have a few tasty ways to do broccoli (soy, ginger, red pepper saute; mustard and parmesan bread crumbs) none seemed the appropriate accompaniment for Scandinavian fare. And given that I was unsure what the rest of the nutritional composition of the meal would be, I really wanted something green. Spinach, kale, and chard all seemed like good choices for a sturdy, healthy, color-contrasting side. So I started my recipe hunt.

For Christmas Eve, my mom had made a sizzly kale with deep-fried garbanzos. These epicurious recipes also gave me inspiration: Kale with Garlic and Cranberries, Swiss Chard with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Raisins, and I also remembered back to this summer when I sauteed some chard with peaches. Below is what I came up with, and how I was able to prepare it four hours in advance and have it still enjoyable for dinner. This has nice colors to add depth to the plate, and no strong herbal flavors to clash with other dishes.

Chard for the RoadServes 4-6
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter
2-3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts (or pinenuts or walnuts)
1 small (or 1/2 a large) shallot, diced
1 bunch red chard, stems removed and diced, leaves chopped and reserved
4 crimini mushrooms
1/4 cup golden raisins (or dried cranberries)
salt to taste
diced hot pepper (I used 1/2 a serrano chili, crushed red pepper would be good)
splash of wine (I used red, but white or sherry or balsamic would be fine too)

Toast the nuts in 1 teaspoon butter in a large skillet until golden brown and fragrant. Watch carefully as they can burn easily. Remove and set aside to cool.

Melt remaining butter in the skillet over medium-low to medium heat and allow to deepen in color, browning some of the particles that sink. Then add the chopped shallot and chard stems. Sautee 5-7 minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms, chilis, raisins, and salt to taste and sautee over medium heat another 3-5 minutes. Don't fully cook it yet, but add a splash of wine or other liquid to deglaze the pan, turn heat up to high and stir continuously about one minute until liquid is absorbed/evaporated, then remove from heat. Refridgerate or chill to room temperature, then stir in the chopped chard leaves. Cover and keep cold.

When ready to serve, heat covered over medium heat, stirring periodically, until leaves are wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

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