The Last of Winter’s Harvest: Chard, Gruyere and Pancetta Pie

finishedpie5Yes indeed, I really had planned to change the header to Spring for my next post, but due to an extremely busy week and some traveling, that’s not going to happen. Fortunately, the “Winter Look” seems entirely appropriate for this post (in spite of the fact that we hit 80 degrees here last week), because this recipe is all about using the last of the Winter chard from my garden before turning it and planting new veg for Spring/Summer.

lastofchardWe’ve had a truly mild Winter here, a non-Winter almost, and my rainbow chard really loved it. Just enough cool weather to make it continue to produce, and no hard freezes to kill it. I had almost a pound of it left to harvest this week from the few plants in my tiny raised bed garden plot. But what to make?

Then I remembered I’d seen someone posting a quiche recently, and it made me start thinking how long it had been since I’d had one. That might be a nice way to use up my chard! A quick reconnaissance of items in the fridge resulted in the knowledge that I already had some pancetta that I’d found on sale, some gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, plenty of eggs, milk, a red onion, et voilà!

This was quite a delicious pie, with more defined layers than your average quiche because of all the greens…more like a cross between a quiche and a pie. The greens do release a bit more of their liquid during the second round of cooking, so be forewarned that you’ll need to let this sit for a few minutes before you cut it, as it’s a little juicy. It does firm up nicely once it approaches room temp, but of course we couldn’t wait that long and I only let it rest 5 minutes before cutting. Even so, I found that it held together just fine. And regardless of how pretty or not any slices may have been, it’s gone!

layersLike most quiche or pie recipes, this one is pretty flexible. You can use less chard, but I wouldn’t try more, and you can sub bacon for the Pancetta, and white onion for red. I think spinach would work nicely here, too, in lieu of the chard, or as a mixture.

Chard, Gruyere and Pancetta Pie
Serves 6

1 – 9 inch good quality frozen whole wheat pie crust (yes, you can make your own, but  as I said, it was a busy week!)
4 oz. Pancetta or you can substitute good quality bacon
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
12 oz. ( you can use less if you like) rainbow or other chard, washed, dried, stems removed and leaves chopped crosswise into bite sized pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but any will do)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
4 oz. grated good quality gruyere cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

If you’re using the frozen pie crust, check the package directions to make sure that it is ready to go for a quiche or pie, or if you need to pre bake it, do so. Same with a home made pie crust, which will probably need blind baking. My crust is ready to fill from the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pancetta in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat, turning occasionally, until it is golden brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan to a paper towel to drain, reserving 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the grease in the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Add the chard to the pan, sprinkling half the salt and pepper over the chard, and saute until it is wilted and tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, milk, the remaining salt and pepper and the nutmeg until combined.

If using a frozen crust, remove it from the freezer and the packaging, and place it on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, or follow the instructions on the package. Crumble the pancetta into the bottom of the crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the pancetta. Top the pancetta with the chard mixture, then pour the egg custard mixture evenly over the top. It will be full, and you may have a couple of tablespoons of extra custard left, depending on how much chard you use, or how large your pie crust is. Carefully transfer the pie on the cookie sheet into the oven and bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes, or until it is puffed and beginning to be golden, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If you need to, cover the edges of the pie crust with foil if they start to brown too quickly. When the pie is done, remove from the oven, allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes, and cut into 6 wedges. This can be served warm, at room temp, rewarmed slightly in the microwave or oven, or even cold.

finishedpie3

*****

Cupboard Cobbling: Baked Rainbow Chard, Bacon and Parmesan Sandwich

Pan 'O Sandwich.

Pan ‘O Sandwich.

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
Serves 4

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.

Chard from the garden.

breadinpanBread fitted into the pan.

baconCrisped bacon at rest.

chardgarlicinpanChard and garlic sauté.

breadwithcustard

First layer of bread with custard…

chardlayered

Then the chard layer…

baconlayered

Then the bacon…mmmmm…

readyforoven

Topped with another layer of bread, custard and Parm, and into the oven it goes…and then into my mouth!