How to make Barberian Steak House chef Jesse Vallins’ exceptionally cheesy chard with vermouth
Jesse Vallins has a reputation for being a meathead. His new post, as executive chef at Barberian’s Steak House, isn’t helping him shake that carnivore classification. “I spent the last five years at Maple Leaf Tavern, where I got pigeonholed as a protein guy,” says Vallins, who not-so-secretly loves cooking vegetables. Specifically, bold greens—like this Swiss chard gratin—which the chef turned to when the Scarborough garden he keeps with his wife yielded an absolute bumper crop of chard one year. According to Vallins, the best vegetable sides are the ones that can stand on their own as a main course, and this is no exception.
2 bunches Swiss or rainbow chard, chopped, with stems removed
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the baking dish
1 shallot, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
⅓ cup dry vermouth
1 ½ cups aged white cheddar
⅓ cup white bread crumbs
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place the chopped Swiss chard in a heavy-bottomed pot with one cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until just tender (about three minutes).
3. Drain well, season with salt and set aside.
4. In the same pot, make a roux. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the shallot and garlic, and sweat gently for three to four minutes.
5. Once the shallots turn translucent and soft, add the flour and cook for an additional four to five minutes over a low heat. Stir the roux constantly so it doesn’t burn. This step is key to cooking the raw flavour out of the flour.
6. Once the roux reaches a toothpaste-like consistency, slowly whisk in the milk and vermouth.
7. Raise the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring for about five minutes, until the roux thickens.
8. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and add one cup of the cheese.
9. Stir in the cooked Swiss chard and taste for seasoning, adding a pinch more salt or pepper if needed.
10. Place the cheesy chard mixture in a buttered nine-by-nine-inch baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs and bake for 20 minutes, until brown and bubbling.
11. Remove from the oven. Cool for five minutes before serving.