Please understand that my photo does not do this swiss chard and sweet potato gratin recipe justice. The original is here and does a way better job at capturing the richness of this dish. Despite my so-so photo, I still think this side dish belongs on your Thanksgiving menu and is a perfect sophisticated update to the candied or marshmallowed sweet potatoes that may have appeared in years past. I know it’s hard to give up a tradition, but new traditions must start somewhere, and this gratin will surely become one.
I originally found this swiss chard and sweet potato gratin recipe a few years back on Smitten Kitchen (by the way, her first cookbook is out(!) and will make a perfect holiday gift for all your food-loving friends). I had attended too many dinner parties where someone had made a Smitten Kitchen recipe (always fantastic) that it was time I checked out the famous food blog for myself. Even though the blog was new to me and I’m not exactly known as the type to follow recipes, there was something about Deb Perelman’s warm and confident tone that made me want to follow her creation to a T.
I did everything her recipe told me to do, and the gratin came out beyond perfect. In the last 3 years, I have made this recipe countless times, and every single time I make it, without a doubt, somebody asks me for the recipe and I send them right over to the SK site. Even though the original was amazing, I always end up doctoring recipes. It’s some weird impulsive need to exercise my creative license. The recipe below is the summation of all my changes and a slightly more simplified version. Feel free to use that for your Thanksgiving menu or the original. You’ll be in good hands either way.
- Swiss chard – 2 bunches
- Garlic cloves – 4
- Sweet potatoes – 1.5 lbs.
- Fontina – 6 oz.
- Vegetable oil – 2 tbs.
- Butter – 2 tbs. + a bit more
- Flour – 2 tbs.
- Milk (any type) – 1¾ cups
- Nutmeg – a pinch
- Swiss chard – Prep by tearing leaves off of stems. Wash and dry leaves in a salad spinner. Rinse stems and chop into ¼” segments. If you want to see a video on prepping greens, click on over here
- Garlic cloves – Mince
- Sweet potatoes – Peel & chop into ¼” thick rounds
- Fontina – Grate
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
- Get out your largest frying / saute / cast iron pan and put it on medium-high heat. Add your oil and then your minced garlic to the heated oil. Once you can smell the garlic fragrance, add the chard stems with a pinch of salt. Saute until softened, ~3 minutes
- Add chard leaves to the pan (with a dash of salt), as many as can fit into the pan. Toss and turn them until they wilt. Add more as more room is made in the pan. Remove and set aside
- Heat a >2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter and then whisk in flour to form a roux. Then slowly drizzle in milk, whisking it into roux. Bring it a slow simmer and let the mixture thicken. Season with a generous pinch of salt, a couple turns of pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Congrats, you have just made bechamel!
- Now it’s time to assemble your gratin. Get out a 9×9 baker. Butter the bottom and sides of it. Layer in the following order: sweet potato rounds, salt & pepper, chard, fontina, and repeat until it’s all gone
- Top with your bechamel and use a spatula to smooth it all over. Bake uncovered for 1 hour
- You want to make sure the cooked chard leaves aren’t watery or your gratin will be kinda soupy. If you dried your chard leaves well, this shouldn’t be a problem
- I did this not too long ago with a client and we used butternut squash instead of sweet potatoes, and it was a great substitute
- Assemble everything the day before Thanksgiving or morning and bake right after the turkey comes out