I love braised greens. At a restaurant I will always, always order the collard greens or braised kale or chard or even spinach, especially if they are cooked with some kind of salty meat or other interesting flavours. I love their taste, texture, and the fact that they are so damn good for me, packed with iron and vitamins and awesomeness.
Chris, however, is... not quite as far onto the braised-greens bandwagon as I am. He's more interested in them as a frittata filling, integrated into a lasagna or even a soup, rather than as a pile of green goodness alongside some meat and potatoes.
But this braised red chard got him in the gut, and it's because of two little words: sweet and sour. Sturdy greens, as any aficionado will tell you, tend towards the bitter end of the taste spectrum, meaning it's important to pair them with other flavours to take the edge off. I wanted to do a weeknight greens dish that nonetheless had some of the flavour depth of the braised kale with bacon that I made for Thanksgiving dinner back in October. Since we were going to eat them along with some grilled flank steak, I omitted the bacon and instead flavoured them with sweet onions, brown sugar, balsamic and espelette chili.
The results were near-perfect, to my mind - I think the chard came out a bit too sweet, and would dial back the sugar next time to account for the fact that the balsamic reduces and becomes sweeter as it cooks. However, Chris took one bite and started raving about them. I believe the words "restaurant-quality" may have been tossed around. I was just thrilled to have finally hit on a greens recipe that he would snarf down happily. The two-potato mash and flank steak were both excellent as well, but the chard stole the show that night. It's going into regular rotation around these parts.
Sweet and sour braised chard
1 large bunch Swiss chard, any colour
1 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
1/2 a small sweet onion, diced small
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp balsamic (grocery store type, not the fancy stuff)
1/2 tsp espelette chili or other red pepper flakes
Wash the chard, discard the tough ends of the stems, then chop into ribbons. Set aside with the washing water clinging to leaves - do not dry.
Heat the oil in a large wide pot (dutch oven works well) or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until well-softened and lightly browned. Add the chard to the pan and toss until it wilts down a bit, then add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer, uncovered, until well-wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Watch carefully at the end as the sugars may scorch.
We served with mashed white and sweet potatoes, and grilled flank steak marinated in soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger and brown sugar, but I think this would go well with just about any grilled meat or full-flavoured fish.