Cooking Swiss Chard – v1 – June 2010

Swiss chard ended up being one of those random things that I grew in the garden this year. And the only reason that it happened in the first place, was that my farmer neighbor gave me a bunch of swiss chard transplants at the beginning of the season that were headed to the compost pile at the farm if they weren’t planted. So not being one to turn down free plants, I picked a spot in the newer side of the garden for the swiss chard.

It turns out that the swiss chard has been growing like crazy and basically crowding out the pepper plants that are all around. So the lesson for next year is that swiss chard needs plenty of room. But enough about growing swiss chard, lets talk about eating swiss chard.

I might have had swiss chard once before, but I really can’t remember off the top of my head how it might have been prepared. After a little bit of surfing on the web for some kind of a recipe as a starting point, I basically hit a dead end. So I kind of just cobbled together a recipe with items that I already had on hand in the fridge and pantry.

So here is the ingredient list and recipe:

1 to 2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 lb 10 ounces of Swiss Chard, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 large pinches of red pepper flakes
8 to 10 shakes of fish sauce
8 slices of bacon, pre-cooked and cut into a dice

Instead of chopping up the swiss chard and steaming it in a sauté pan with some chicken stock. I blanched the swiss chard in a pot of un-salted water, and this was a mistake. Since it added too much water to the pan during the saute. So I had to cook for longer and hotter to get rid of all the pan juices.

But with that out of the way, in a sauté pan heated to medium, add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. Then add in the swiss chard and the fish sauce and toss to mix everything up. At this point I turned up the heat to medium high to get a little bit of sizzle action in the pan. After about 10 to 15 mins of this, and in the bacon, give it a quick toss and serve.

Side Notes:
1) All I can say is totally awesome! For swiss chard being a member of the beet family, it tastes more like a hardy and more flavorful spinach. So maybe next time I might try to substitute swiss chard in one of my creamed spinach recipes. Something to think about for next time.
2) Notice again that I didn’t add any salt, since the fish sauce is salty to begin with, so their is no need for more salt. Plus the flavor combination of swiss chard and fish sauce is a winner in my book.
3) I’m on the fence if blanching is the correct method to pre-cook the swiss chard before it goes into the saute pan. Because most of the other recipes that I’ve read about cooking swiss chard, involve adding the chopped swiss chard to the sauté pan with boiling chicken stock in order to get the chard to wilt. I guess one other thing to think about for next time.
4) Add the bacon to the pan, right at the end before serving. Since when I made this the first time around, I added the bacon at the same time that I added the swiss chard and fish sauce. And what I ended up with was soggy bacon when everything was done cooking.
5) Greens are awesome.

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