MMMM, I love to pot. No, not that kind of pot, though in about 7 days, that kind of pot will be legal here in Canada. But I digress, the potting I'm talking about is sealing in food while cooking. It kind of mixes a pressure pot, sous vide and a bit of alchemy to transform foods into fancy-schmancy yumminess. To do this, I'm using a coquette; a cooking vessel designed to cook meats while adding no liquid. Oh the irony, since I'm basically braising the swiss chard in creamy cheese sauce. But thats the beauty of cookware, it can double up. You see, when you use a coquette like this, you over fill the container. As the flat bottomed lid is put on it, the excess air is pressed out, almost cooking it in an anaerobic environment. Typically you pot meats in a similar way as to preserve them, essentially canned meats are potted. Here though, the magic happens in a different way. As the chard heats up in the cheese sauce, it collapses and gives up some of it natural juices. These meld with the cheese sauce as it cooks, and will later get reabsorbed as it cools for a couple minutes when plucked from the oven. Much like lightly tenting a nice piece of meat for five minutes after its cooked, the juices re-uptake into the tissues making it juicer. Here the essence of the blue cheese gets pulled into the chard.
Don't have a coquette? No problem, One way to cheat is to use a small pot, pyrex or ceramic baking dish with tightly fitting lid. Pour in your mixture like in step 4 and press a piece of tinfoil directly on to the surface of the sauce. Have it go right to the edges of the vessel and up the sides. Pin it in place with the lid and Bob's your uncle. In my case, I really do have a Uncle Bob. But I digress, again... Soon this little cheat will reward you with a killer side dish. The trick is part patience, as when its done; leave it to cool for 5 minutes before pulling the lid, trust me, its worth the wait.
Step 1: Ingredients
- 2 large bunches of swiss chard or beet tops
- 2 tablespoons of salted butter
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon
- 3/4 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese, like stilton or a smooth danish blue works well too.
- Salt & Pepper
Step 2: Wash & Chop
- Swiss chard and beet tops for that matter are like spinach, they tend to collect a lot of sand or dirt. Give it a good wash under cool running water. Make sure to shake off the excess liquid.
- Chop off the stem a couple inches below the leaf and discard. Slice the leaf up the middle of the stem and dice the leaf into strips about 1 inch wide by 3-4 inches. The thicker stem needs a little help, cut them into about 1/2 thick pieces.
Step 3: Roux
Start the sauce.
- Over medium heat, melt the butter in a small saucepan
- Add your flour and whisk it in
- Tada - you've made a basic roux
Step 4: Make It Saucy
- Pour in the milk and whisk it smooth
- After a minute, add the Dijon and the crumbled blue cheese and whisk some more!
- Turn down the heat and simmer for a minute or two until thickened a bit. It will be like thin pancake batter
Step 5: Sweat It
Your chard is quite large in its current state and needs to relax a little before potting.
- Cram the swiss chard into your simmering sauce, go gentle at first; cheese sauce is a B-word to clean off a stove element.
- As the chard begins to collapse, press it deeper into the sauce
- After a minute or two, your ready to pot.
Step 6: Pot & Bake
- Butter the inside of you pot, including the lid
- Pour in your chard mixture and place on a lined cookie sheet or pie pan. Parchment works well, or tinfoil in a pinch. Makes for easy cleanup
- Here is where you embed your tinfoil if you don't have a coquette. Don't forget put the lid on!
- Bake in your oven. The beauty of a dish like this is the heat can be variable. Works great as a side dish as it works with whatever your cooking already.
- 400 degrees for 25 minutes is ideal, 350 degrees for 30 minutes, 300 degrees for 40 minutes - give or take
Step 7: Oooh, Aaaah, Eeeeh - Nom Nom Nom
Carefully pull out the pot, pop the lid and prepare for the a flavour bomb.
As the potted chard collapses, it gives up its moisture and absorbs the creamy blue cheese essence.
So easy, so good, and it looks fancy pants to boot!