Some food, some drink.
A Simple Skillet Recipe for Swiss Chard (with Bacon and White Balsamic Vinegar).
Quick show of hands - Who here eats Swiss chard? I grew up eating Swiss Chard; my grandmother always grew it in her garden (often for the unintended benefit of those rabbits that always seemed to take Grandma's language past PG-13). Now that I'm tending my own garden (and feeding my own feral rodents), it goes without saying that Swiss chard's got a home in my patch of dirt; and one of my favorite ways to prepare chard is in my cast iron skillet. By treating the stalks and leaves as two different vegetables and cooking them each a bit differently, this skillet method for Swiss chard offers a variety of textures held up with big flavors courtesy of rendered pork fat, a do-it-yourself seasoning blend and a splash of white Balsamic vinegar.
Even when nothing else seems to grow in my garden, it seems that my Swiss chard never knows when to quit. You don't have to plant a lot of chard to get a return on your investment, but chard's not really all that common of a vegetable as far as American-style dinner table fare is concerned. Well, that's a damn shame because not only is Swiss Chard a gorgeous looking vegetable with stalks that come in a variety of vivid colors, but it's pretty much a "super food" where Vitamins K, A and C are concerned.
Nutrition aside, I dig chard 'cuz it's a vegetable two-fer. Stalks and leaves are both quite edible and can both be used in the same dish to add an array of colors and textures (when was the last time you saw an interesting-looking bowl of corn mixed with more corn?). This recipe here is a simple skillet method that's just perfect to serve along side just about anything you care to whip up for dinner, whether it's pork chops or mac and cheese.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
The Seasoning Blend
The Veggies plus Pork Belly
Separate the chard ribs from the leaves and cut the ribs on the bias about 1/2 inch thick. Slice the leaves into 1 in strips. Add the bacon pieces to a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat to render some fat. Once the bacon is half way cooked (about 4 minutes), take the fire to medium high and add the chard ribs (not the leaves just yet), diced onion and all of the seasoning blend. Continue to cook over medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, while giving everything a toss with a spatula every couple of minutes. At the end of 8 - 10 as the onion bits are just starting to caramelize, add the leaves and toss 'em with the rest for the skillet contents. Cook over medium high for 4 minutes tossing every minute or so. At the end of 4 minutes or when the leaves are wilted and bright green, toss in the white balsamic vinegar. Plate up, garnish with diced tomato and serve.
- I've whipped up my own seasoning for this recipe, but truth be told, I think you could get away with a half teaspoon each of salt, and Salt-free seasoning (like Mrs. Dash), rounded off with a quarter teaspoon of sugar.
- Again with the substitutions, the only thing preventing this dish from going vegan is the bacon. Rendering the fat out of that pork belly takes a little longer, so if you're in a hurry (or don't dig on swine) then a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil should work quite well.
- You're gonna wanna pay extra attention to your knife skills here; especially with respect to those stalks. A bias-cut or at the very least a cross cut around a half inch long is necessary here to maintain that crunch of the stalk and not have it be a stringy, chewy, mess. Likewise, the more mature stalks can be bitter, so a smaller bite keeps the bitterness at bay.
- Even if your skillet's not cast iron, you should at least make sure it's big enough to handle all the roughage being piled in. For the proportions listed here, twelve inches in diameter is good.
- White Balsamic vinegar? Really? Yeah I know that it's a bit snobby, but I've been finding all sorts of uses for it since having procured some while on business in Sunny Palm Springs. Plain ol' balsamic or even seasoned rice vinegar could work here as well. Whatever acid you use, make sure it's added last, so as to brighten up the earthy flavors of that mineral-rich chard.
As I eluded earlier, Swiss chard is really kind of two vegetables in one. Sure you get green and leafy, but you also get a crunchy stalk with a texture akin to celery. In this side dish particularly, we're able to use a lot of big flavors and plenty of seasoning. Chard stalks get plenty of time in the skillet to pick up the sweetness of an onion well on its way to caramelization, and the smoky bacon is always a welcome accompaniment to more earthy tastes. Ditto on the vinegar; use that much vinegar on a pile of baby carrots, and you'll throw the whole dish outta whack; but Swiss chard embraces all that acid, and I don't think you could really call the dish complete without it.
If you really like vegetables or decide to serve this as a quasi-meatless main course, the portion size listed here may be a bit misleading, as you might not even get two servings. If you're in a spot where you need to fill up a few plates, I reckon this stuff would be fantastic spooned over some brown rice or even quinoa or farro if you're really feeling that "haute tree-hugger" vibe.