The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Chard Braised in Gin

August 1st, 2010 · 3 Comments · Posted in Recipes

Dont forget to eat the stems
Don’t forget to eat the stems

I have a confession to make: I have never cooked green chard before.

The Swiss chard we grow is the “rhubarb” or beet red variety. I like it for its slightly sweet, beet flavor. But I was forced to confront my lack of knowledge about the other, more common variety of Swiss chard–green chard–when our friend Darren dropped by for a visit this week bearing two big bundles of it.

Darren has moved back to his home state of Maine to a place called Brooks, something less than a two-hour drive north of where we stay in South Freeport. He stopped at a farm stand on the way and bought the chard. Until a day after he left again we had the chard standing in a makeshift vase on the deck, where it proceeded to wilt in the sun.

There was nothing to do but attempt a rescue. We covered it with water in the kitchen sink to revive it while I pondered a cooking method. In my world, that means eating the stems as well as the leafy greens. For some reason, most Americans eat the green parts of the chard and simply throw the stems away. I never understood that. To me, the stems are the tastiest part of the chard, something Europeans (at least the French) understand very well.

Once the chard had recovered in its water bath, I trimmed the leaves from the stems, chopped the leaves roughly and piled them in a colander to drain. The stems I cut into 3/4-inch pieces and began searching the kitchen for a pan large enough to cook them in.

I would have to cook the stems and leaves separately, which turned out to be a good thing, because I cooked them quite differently. The stems sauteed a bit with olive oil in a pan with tall sides. I planned to braise them, but wasn’t sure with what. Something with a little flavor, something more flavorful than white white. That would be vermouth–I happen to prefer cooking with vermouth instead of white wine. But there was none in the liquor cabinet, only a big bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin.

Chard with gin? Why not? In fact, if the vermouth had been there, I might have concocted a Swiss chard martini on the stove top. But gin it was–about 1/3 cup–and soon the chard was steaming nicely in it with the pan covered.

Now to the leafy parts. For these, I simply sauteed several finely chopped garlic cloves in olive oil in a second pan and added the leaves with only the water they had picked up in the sink. Season with salt to draw some of the juices out, and just turn the leaves occasionally to get the garlic off the bottom of the pan. They don’t take more than a few minutes to cook with the cover on, but taste them to make sure they’re cooked through and tender.

When the stems were soft (add more gin if necessary), I tossed them together with the cooked leaves and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese. Adjust the salt, and season further with freshly cracked black pepper and perhaps some more olive oil to make the vegetables smile.

I could easily see adding some toasted pine nuts to this. Otherwise, it made a terrific side dish to accompany the strip steaks we grilled for dinner that night.

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  • sarah @ syrupandhoney

    We’re dedicated to our vermouth too…what a great improvisation! One I think my husband will definitely be interested to try once I share this with him. Thanks for the idea!

  • Magic Cochin

    I love using Vermouth for cooking – I’ll have to try it for chard now. I use it to poach either salmon steaks or chicken thighs, then add creme fraiche to make a sauce.

    Gin? I’d have to buy a bottle of ‘value’ own brand super market gin for cooking – there’s no way I’m wasting my Plymouth Gin* by sloshing it over the veg!


    * best gin by far for a G&T 😉

  • Karen

    I’m making this tonight. We have chard, chard everywhere! It’s taking over our garden. Gin – what a beautiful solution!