One of my pet hates about life as a corporate lawyer was how most tasks were based, inconveniently, on fake deadlines and false urgency.
“OK PEOPLE, WE’VE GOT TO [CANCEL PLANS/STAY UP ALL NIGHT/POSTPONE A HOLIDAY/MISS A KEY LIFE EVENT] AND TURN A DOCUMENT SO SOMEONE CAN IGNORE IT FOR TWO DAYS.” That sort of thing.
It would be wrong to say spurious deadlines don’t occasionally affect things now I faff around under the ‘work in food’ umbrella. It’s just that these days I don’t seem to resent the rationale behind them as much as I used to.
Ten days ago, for example, I got an email which essentially read: “ED, it’s an EMERGENCY. We need a recipe involving Parmesan. STAT.”
I did the only thing anyone could or would do in the circumstances and dropped everything. And after a super quick visit to the local grocer and Italian deli, I ended up with this chard and parmesan bake.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that the result was extraordinarily good; I’m not ashamed to say that I ate it all by myself in one sitting. All 280ml of double cream and 80g of Parmesan of it.
Which basically makes me Batman. With dairy filled love handles.
Chard and Parmesan bake
- 400-500g Swiss chard
- 20g butter
- 60g white onion or shallot, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, very finely sliced
- 4 salted anchovies, roughly chopped
- 280ml double cream
- 80g parmesan, freshly grated
- 25g stale bread crumbs
- Sea salt, black pepper, whole nutmeg
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Pre-heat the oven to 210C. Grab yourself a small earthenware, cast iron or pyrex gratin dish.
Prepare the chard by cutting the stem out of the leaves. Cut any gnarly bits off the end of the stems and discard. Then cut the stems into 3-4cm lengths. Put in the boiling water for 2 minutes. In the meantime, split the chard leaves in half lengthways (carrying on from where you cut the stem out), and then each of those in half across the length. Add these to the boiling water and blanch for a further 90 seconds. Drain through a colander, and then spread the leaves out over a clean cloth or old (but clean) tea towel to cool and dry further.
Place the saucepan back on a medium heat. Add the butter and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt for so they soften but don’t colour. After 3-4 minutes add the anchovies and garlic. Cook out for about 90 seconds until the anchovies start to melt away. Then pour in the cream and add 70g of parmesan. Stir until the cheese has melted. Turn the heat off and season with plenty of black pepper and a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg.
Add the chard stems to the cream. Squeeze the chard leaves over the sink, removing any remaining moisture. Then put these in the cream – opening each leaf out like a hanky so you don’t end up with one solid ball of chard. Mix well, then pour this into your gratin dish.
Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, then the last 10g of parmesan. Pour a little olive oil from your anchovy tin over the crumbs, then place in the upper middle of your oven for 20-25 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the cream is bubbling up.