Swiss chard stems can be turned into the most exciting side dish with a little white sauce, cheese and breadcrumbs! Don’t throw those stems away!
I must apologize for my absence because I haven’t posted on my blog, almost the entire month of May, and I have never gone that long without posting anything.
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If you happen to follow me on any social media, you will already know the reason for my online disappearance. Not only did we go to Washington DC in the middle of May for my son’s college graduation celebrations (I did post about getting struck in Charlotte on our way back), but my daughter just graduated from high school two days ago. Family flew in and we had a party for her–in essence, I have just been swamped with all of these events.
Fortunately, all the occasions have been happy ones and there are more ahead: my son will turn 21 next week and later this month will be my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary! Our 25th is coming up and my daughter will turn 18 later this year: can you imagine so many milestones in one year?
I felt as though my first post after this big void needed to be a good one, so I’m really happy to share this recipe with you as I feel it fits the bill!
I’ve been growing rainbow swiss chard and since my mother came to visit, she cut most of the plants and ended up with a lot of chard stems, which are often either discarded (horrors) or used in other recipes other than with the leaves, due to being a bit more tough.
Mum ended up cooking the stems in a little bit of water and then made a white (béchamel) sauce with some provolone added, which she poured on top of the stems in a pie dish, and then topped it with breadcrumbs.
It was so incredibly good that we made it again today so I could measure the ingredients and take photos to post the recipe for you!
Another Italian side dish you may enjoy: rapini.
Although this makes what we’d consider a show-stopping side dish, it could actually take center stage as a vegetarian entree, and even though we used Provolone, you could definitely substitute another cheese, as long as it melts well.
Swiss Chard Stems with Provolone White Sauce and a Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping
recipe by Lidia Conte
- Swiss chard stems, from about 2 bunches of washed chard
For the white sauce
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- about 2 cups (16 oz) of milk (I used whole for a creamier flavor)
- 2 slices (50 g) of mild provolone cheese (or your choice of cheese), torn into small pieces
- 1/3 tsp of sea salt (to taste)
- ground black or white pepper, to taste (I just put a few turns of the grinder)
- a pinch of ground nutmeg
For the breadcrumb topping
- 1 tsp softened butter
- 1/3 cup (35 g) homemade or Panko-style breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
If you haven’t used the leaves of the chard yet, tear the leaf away from the stem. It will tear away very easily and there’s no need to use a knife.
In a medium sized pot, heat a little water in the bottom of the pot until boiling, then add the pieces of chard stem and close the pot with the lid. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes or until tender (make sure the water doesn’t completely evaporate;add more if needed), then drain well, place in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Begin adding the milk, a little at a time, increasing the amount of milk each time until a smooth and creamy consistency is reached (you can find more detailed directions here). Add the provolone and stir until melted; add the salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Now, pour the sauce over the chard stems, evenly. Depending on the amount of stems and the size of the dish you have, you may have some leftover cheese sauce, as I did.
In a small bowl, rub the breadcrumbs, softened butter and grated cheese together, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the white sauce.
Place in the hot oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the topping is nicely browned, and entire dish is heated thoroughly. Remove from oven and serve while hot.
The crunchy breadcrumb topping, combined with the cheesy sauce on top of the Swiss chard stems is absolutely irresistable! Good luck making enough to satisfy the second helpings that everyone will want!
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For the white sauce
For the breadcrumb topping
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