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Rainbow Chard with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Serrano Ham


I was shopping at my neighborhood grocery store and noticed a stack of brilliantly colored Rainbow Chard in the produce department.  I recalled seeing a recipe for Rainbow Chard with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Serrano Jam in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home that have intrigued me and I decided it was go time.  I had never had chard before, but as it is in the same species as beetroot, I figured it must be similarly awesome.  Chard, commonly known as Swiss chard, is a leafy green vegetable with colorful stems that range from white to yellow to red.  Fresh young chard can be used in raw salads, but mature chard is usually sauteéd as its characteristically bitter taste fades during the cooking process.  This is the same concept as with beet tops, and the flavors of the cooked chard and Beet Top Stew are quite similar, although chard tends to be a bit sharper and more bitter in taste.  You can easily cook chard in the same manner as you would the Beet Top Stew, or you can dress it up a little more with this recipe involving Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins, crispy serrano ham, and toasted pine nuts.  (Raisins do seem to be a popular complement to beetroot-esque vegetables, as I also served my Roasted Beets with a Curry Vinaigrette with golden raisins.)

This recipe uses two cooking methods for the chard after separating the stems from the leaves: blanching the stems and sautéing the leaves with garlic.  The chard can be cooked up to a day in advance and refrigerated.  Finishing the dish is just a matter of a quick sautéing with the ham, pine nuts, and raisins.  I definitely recommend only sautéing all these ingredients right before serving as the first time I had let the dish sit for a bit, the pine nuts got soggy and it definitely did not taste as good as when it was fresh.  Basically, this is not a kind of recipe that is conducive to leftovers.

Keller suggests serving the Rainbow Chard as a side for Roasted Pork Short Ribs, Oil-Poached Sturgeon or Grilled Quail.  I ended up serving this with another Ad Hoc recipe: Pan-Roasted Halibut.  The Rainbow Chard has a fairly strong flavor to it, so I think any simply prepared meat or fish (nothing too salty or powerful) would go quite well.

Rainbow Chard with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Serrano Ham (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)

Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 T pine nuts
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 lbs rainbow chard (if the chard you find has very large stems, buy 5 lbs to get enough greens)
  • about 1/4 C canola oil
  • 2 T finely chopped garlic
  • 1 oz thinly sliced serrano ham, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips (pancetta or bacon will work too)
  • 2 T Wine-Steeped Golden Raisins
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Spread the pine nuts on one of the lined pans and toast in the oven for about 10 minute, until evenly browned.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Cut out the thick stems from the leaves of chard and set aside.  Stack the greens in batches and cut crosswise into thirds; set aside.  Trim the stems and cut them on the diagonal into 1-inch slices.  You need 2 cups of stems for this recipe (reserve any remaining chard for another use).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the chard stems and blanch until tender but still slightly resistant to the tooth, 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and spread on the second parchment-lined baking sheet.

Pour 1 1/2 T canola oil into each of two large saute pans and heat over medium heat (if you have only one large pan, cook the greens in 2 batches).  Add 1 T garlic to each pan, reduce the heat, and cook over medium-low heat until softened but not colored, about 1 minute.  Add one-quarter of the chard greens to each pan, season with salt (salt lightly if your ham is very salty), and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium to medium-low heat, until the chard wilts to about half its original volume.

Add the remaining chard and cook until wilted and tender, 15 to 20 minutes total.  Spread the greens, with their liquid, on the third lined sheet.

To serve, heat some oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ham and saute for about 45 seconds until it turns crisp.  Add the pine nuts and raisins and toss.

Add the chard stems and greens, toss to combine, and heat through.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy!

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