Prior to dashing out of town at the end of last week, (and hence having been a bit quiet here lately) I found myself faced with the need to make a quick dinner with what I had on hand. This consisted of an abundance of the aforementioned chard in the garden, some tasty and local Pine Street Market bacon in the freezer and some leftover Italian Pane Bello bread, along with a bit of good Parmesan cheese in the fridge. Hmm. What can I cobble together?
Then I remembered a lovely baked sandwich my mom used to make when I was a kid. It had an eggy custard poured over it and had to sit over night before being baked. Also it seemed like there was a sauce. Well, I didn’t have overnight to wait, nor did I have the time or inclination for a sauce, but what the heck? I decided to experiment and the result was really good, so there ya go!
And actually, this was an interesting way to use chard in a one dish kind of meal and is similar to its close cousin the savory meat and vegetarian bread puddings which I’ve previously posted here, and here. But this one is definitely a sandwich…and it seems to invite endless experimentation and variations. Do you like yours more moist and custardy? Add more eggs and milk. Want to use a more melty cheese and some leftover ham or chicken? By all means. How about an all vegetarian version with spinach, mushrooms and the like? Why not! Endless possibilities.
This one is my starting point and we enjoyed it for two meals. I hope you will, too!
Baked Rainbow Chard, Bacon and Parmesan Sandwich
6 to 8 large slices of firm and hearty bread such as Italian Pane Bello
5 slices of thick cut good quality bacon
1 large bunch of Rainbow Chard (about 6 oz.) stemmed and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon of olive oil (if needed)
pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for the veggies
3 large eggs
1 cup of milk
2/3 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or lightly grease a 7 x 11 inch casserole dish. Place half of the bread slices in the bottom of the dish in a single layer, cutting them to fit the dimensions of the dish. Cut the remaining pieces of bread to make a similar top layer, and set aside for later assembly.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is done and crispy, remove from the pan and allow it to drain on paper towels, reserving up to 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan. If you don’t have 1 tablespoon of fat left from the bacon, add the olive oil to the pan to make a total of 1 tablespoon of fat/oil. Heat the fat over medium heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, then add the chard with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute the chard until it is just tender, about 5-8 minutes, and remove it from the heat.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper until well blended. Ladle 1/2 of the custard mixture over the bread layer in the casserole dish. Spread the cooked chard mixture evenly over the first layer of bread in the casserole dish. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle evenly over the top of the chard.
Dip the remaining pieces of bread into the remaining custard mixture in the bowl and place them on top of the chard and bacon in an even layer. Pour the remaining custard evenly over the top layer of bread. Sprinkle the bread with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmesan.
Bake the sandwich for 35 to 45 minutes, until the custard is set, the cheese is melted and the top of the bread is lightly browned. Cut into four equal portions and serve.
Chard from the garden.
First layer of bread with custard…
Then the chard layer…
Then the bacon…mmmmm…
Topped with another layer of bread, custard and Parm, and into the oven it goes…and then into my mouth!