Without fail, there was always a place toward the end of those long buffet tables, where steam rose in silent wisps and scents beckoned you farther down the line. The hot dish. The casserole. The entrée that housed an assortment of ingredients often times buried beneath a thick layer of cheese that left you with no other choice than to trust the experience of the cook who combined them.
It was a crap shoot.
Some people really knew what items to marry. Others wed foods so far outside their family lineage you began to view the dish as something akin to a Picasso; the picture askew, requiring an imagination not all of us can follow.
But occasionally, when you took a chance, you found your ten-year old self passing up the first round of flashlight tag outside because you were compelled to get back in line for seconds, hoping the rest of the party hadn’t discovered the treasure you aimed to claim.
This week’s recipe is an adaptation from Food & Wine—and thankfully allowed me to continue using the cache of crops from the back garden.
Golden and crisp, the top of this casserole hides a wealth of prizes waiting to be revealed by the crack of a fork. It’s a very dishy hot dish.
Tomato, Chard & Gruyere Casserole
4-5 pounds Swiss chard, stemmed (I chose to use half chard and half arugula for some bite)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme (I chose basil, but oregano is an excellent choice too)
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups chicken stock
One 1-pound loaf of day-old peasant bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (I used olive thyme sourdough)
3 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick (I used whatever was ripe and ready from the garden)
9 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (3 cups) (fresh out of Gruyere, so we used provolone)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook the chard for 2 minutes; drain. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water. Coarsely chop the chard.
- In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and thyme and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 12 minutes. Add the chard and the wine and simmer over moderately high heat until the wine is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. Butter a 10-by-15-inch baking dish. Line the bottom of the dish with one-third of the bread, overlapping the slices slightly and cutting the bread to fit. Top with half of the tomato slices and season with salt and pepper. Spread half of the chard on top, then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layering once and finish with the remaining bread. Pour the hot stock over the casserole and press with a spatula. Brush the top with the melted butter.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake in the upper third of the oven for 1 hour. Uncover the dish and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until the top is browned and crisp. Let the casserole rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cooked chard can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.