Creamy Parmesan Swiss Chard Gratin

I like the variety of Swiss Chard "Bright Lights", which has yellow and pink stalks, but any Swiss Chard will work fine.   The leaves just need wilting for this gratin, but be sure to saute the stems until lightly browned; this softens their flavour.
Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish.
1/2 cup toasted or stale coarse breadcrumbs
2 tblsp unsalted butter; more for coating the gratin pan
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 strips bacon (2 1/2 ozs)
1 lb swiss chard, washed and drained, stems removed and cut into 1/2 in wide ribbons (to yield about 2 3/4 cups stems and 7 - 8 cups leaves)
1/3 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Heat oven to 400F
Butter shallow 5 or 6 cup ceramic gratin dish.
Melt 1 tbsp butter and toss it with the breadcrumbs; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and garlic to a boil (watch that it doesn't boil over). immediately lower the heat and simmer vigoursly for 5 mins.  The cream should then be reduced to 3/4 cup.  
Take the pan off the heat and remove the garlic cloves with slotted spoon. Let the cream cool slightly, stirring occasionally to loosen.
Season with few grinds of pepper and 1/4 tsp salt.
Meanwhile, in a large (12 in) non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over a medium heat until crisp and browned.   With tongs transfer to paper towels; crumble when cool.
Leave the bacon fat in pan - about 2 tbsps only.
Add the remaining 1 tbsp butter to the skillet and let it melt.
Add the chard stems and saute them over medium to medium-high heat untilthey're somewhat softened and browned on the deges, about 10 mins.
Reduce the heat to medium, add chard leaves and toss them with the contents of the skillet. (you can add in two batches for easier handling) Season with remaining salt.
Saute until all the leaves wilted, about 2 mins.
Use tongs to transfer contents to the gratin dish (leave behind any excess liquid in the saute pan), spreading them evenly.
Sprinkle crumbled bacon and then cheese over the chard.
Pour the seasoned cream over all and top with the buttered breadcrumbs.
Bake for 25 mins; the gratin will be brown and bubbly.
Let rest for 10 - 15 mins before serving.
Susie Middleton
december 2000