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Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin – iron-rich chard and earthy porcini mushrooms create magic in a light and healthy, no-cook Parmigiano Reggiano sauce. A delectable festive side dish. Or anytime dish!
Christmas is just around the corner. Have you got your menu decided? Even if you have, I would urge you to make a little room for this easy and impactful vegetable recipe. It is stunning. Or, if not on Christmas Day, some time over the winter months when creamy, dreamy dishes demand to be made.
Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin is not a looker, but…
Although this beige and vaguely green dish might not look like much, I promise that you and your loved ones will adore the flavours: it is lick-the-spoon lovely.
It is not however the prettiest of dishes. Feel perfectly free to fancy it up with a scattering of olive oil-crisped bread crumbs from a past-its-best loaf. Or save back some ruby-red chard stems to fry up and dot across the top of each serving.
Although this Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin sounds really rich, it is in fact very light. And pairs well with heavier fare. So, whether you are roasting a traditional turkey with all the trimmings; or whipping up something like my uber-colourful Roasted Rainbow Carrot Beetroot Tartlets, this healthy and incredibly umami side dish is fab.
As for the taste and texture, think rich and indulgent balanced with earthy and intriguing. I’ve tried to create this recipe so that each element shines on its own merit, but is enhanced in the presence of the rest. You can let me know in the comments if you think I’ve been successful or not. The whole dish tastes of winter comfort, but with a healthy edge that you, as a reader of Food To Glow, will appreciate.
Substitutions in this Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin?
If you can get dried porcini, do so. The earthiness and unique taste of this rather yummy funghi really makes this a special occasion dish, with almost no effort. However, if these mushrooms prove elusive, use other mixed wild mushrooms (dried or fresh). Or even good old brown chestnut (cremini) mushrooms. If you can’t get dried porcini but can get it as a powder, add a dash in while sautéing whatever mushrooms you are using. However, we don’t want to overwhelm the dish; porcini can be a bit of a bully. Easy does it. And, if you don’t fancy any mushrooms, leave them out.
Créme fraîche gives a lighter taste than the usual cream, with enticing acidity. You may use double (heavy) cream, of course. It is Christmas, after all. But créme fraîche mixed with fresh shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano makes the most divine no-cook sauce. Add in a few grates from a fresh nutmeg and I would declare it the perfect no-effort sauce.
On the green element, chard is always going to be my go to. I love its gentle minerality, how it holds its shape while cooking, and its distinctive but subtle, almost buttery, taste. But it can be difficult for some of you to buy. Feel free to sub in spinach (tripling if not quadrupling the weight given below – it wilts to almost nothing) or kale. You might even like to use young (read:mild) mustard or collard greens. Just be sure to adjust the initial cooking of the greens before they are added to the sauce.
As for the top, I’ve used a mixture of sunflower seeds and grated Parmigiano Reggiano, with a little extra virgin olive oil. You may wish to use breadcrumbs instead – fresh, dried, gluten-free or panko. This is certainly more typical. But using sunflower seeds is a lovely option when serving anyone who needs to eat gluten-free. And they keep their texture much better if you know you will be letting this dish hang around a bit before serving.
What about the cheese?
I don’t think there is any substitute for the Parmigiano Reggiano. And here is why.
The taste is rich, nutty, and only very slightly salty – actually properly umami and savoury. Inferior Parmesan-alikes are only one-note affairs – either aggressively salty or full-on nutty. They are often unpleasantly oily, too. Even the more expensive stuff.
And the texture of the real thing is gorgeously grainy and crumbly under a knife, falling away in shards. Snapped by hand it breaks into pleasing grainy hunks. This is a far cry from the somewhat waxy-oily texture of even good non-PDO Italian-style hard cheeses. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth getting the real thing.
With such a simple dish as this Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin it is crucial to get top quality ingredients if at all possible. I know proper parmesan can be pricey, but you get such an impact while using less. I really think it is worth the extra spend.
Parmigiano Reggiano – the real deal – is very versatile, too. Think beyond grating over your favourite pasta dish; Parmigiano Reggiano is so much more. I will be popping in your inbox with a literally no-cook recipe that I guarantee will surprise you, and show off its versatility. And it is pulled all together with a smattering of fresh parm.
I also have a number of recipes that feature Parmigiano Reggiano (including a pasta one :-)). Once you’ve made this dish, why not try one of the following
Fancy any of these?
Insider’s info about Parmigiano Reggiano
We take for granted perhaps that Parmigiano Reggiano is a special cheese. It is fabulous on its own as an aperitif, in recipes, or paired simply with slices of apple or some homemade crackers.
But did you know that it is one of the oldest cheeses, with a rich and long history? Parmigiano Reggiano – Parmesan is the English name – was first made by monks in the Middle Ages. For many hundreds of years the recipe and method has remained largely the same – three ingredients treated very, very well. The raw milk used is characterised by a unique bacterial activity produced by very specific, local microbial flora. Strict rules ensure that Parmigiano Reggiano is very much a product of place.
It is also a superbly healthy cheese. The simple production method and forgoing of additives keeps – and enhances – the natural probiotic activity. Not only is it lactose-free it is easily digested and likely actually good for overall, as well as bone, health.
As a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, the name Parmigiano Reggiano can only be used on product from a very specific area of northern Italy. This ensures that you are getting an authentic and reliably delicious and versatile cheese. Buying Parmigiano Reggiano means you are literally eating hundreds of years of history!
Now, let’s get to the recipe. It’s very easy to make and will rewarm if needed. I hope you enjoy it. And I really hope you are able to have a happy and safe festive break. Oh, and look out for my next recipe – a no-cook one! – using Parmigiano Reggiano. If you wish to get a celeriac and a persimmon to get ahead, do so. It will be perfect for eating with festive leftovers and throughout the winter.
Chard and Porcini Mushroom Gratin
Iron-rich chard and earthy porcini mushrooms create magic in a light and healthy, no-cook Parmigiano Reggiano gratin sauce. A delectable festive side dish. Or anytime dish!
- 15 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 400 g chard rainbow, ruby or Swiss
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra if required
- 2 shallots or small mild onion; peeled and finely chopped
- ¼ tsp nutmeg freshly grated; optional
- 200 g créme fraîche full or reduced fat; or double/heavy cream
- 75 g Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated; more if liked
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 40 g sunflower seeds chopped into nubbly "crumbs"; or 30g stale breadcrumbs
- parsley to garnish, if liked
Preheat your oven to 160C fan/180C/350F.
Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in enough just-boiled water to cover, adding a small saucer to the top to keep the mushrooms submerged if needed. Leave for 20 minutes, then drain and chop.
Wash and trim the chard. Slice the stems into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Stack the chard and cut down the long centre (along the rib). Re-stack and slice into thick ribbons or larger pieces. You can cut out the rib and cut with the stem if you wish, especially the usually-thicker Swiss chard.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and tip in the sliced stems. Cook for five minutes, then slide in the sliced/ribboned chard. Cook for two minutes. Drain in running cool water then lay in a tea towel-lined colander to remove extra water. Press well or wring to remove excess water.
Add the oil to a frying pan over a low-medium heat. Scrape in the shallots and and sauté until lightly golden, adding the porcini and nutmeg for the last minute or so. You will be sautéing for about eight minutes.
Add in the rehydrated and chopped porcini, créme fraîche, three-quarters of the grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or vegetarian alternative) and white pepper, stirring to mix. Finally, stir in the lightly cooked chard and stems.
Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled or buttered shallow baking dish (about 20 cm) and top with the chopped sunflower seeds (or breadcrumbs) and remaining Parmigiano Reggiano. Place in the lower rack of your oven and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm rather than hot.
Soft food diet - blend all and bake as directed. You may want to whisk in an egg or two to make it more of a meal.
Variations: use bread crumbs instead of sunflower seeds; try mustard greens, kale, spinach or collard greens if chard is difficult to get. Use about three times as much spinach as called for as spinach collapses to almost nothing!
Make ahead: make this whole dish ahead to bake from fresh. It will not freeze though.