As you may have heard, it’s been just a little cold out there lately. The kind of cold that makes it even harder than usual to climb out from under the cozy protection of my covers in the morning, and has me curled up under my usually purely decorative couch blanket when I get home in the evening. The kind of cold that makes me want only warming, hearty, and comforting foods. Unfortunately, this cold snap has perfectly coincided with a post-holiday desire for lighter and healthier fare, as Laura mentioned earlier in the week. That’s where this lovely gratin, made up of sweet Italian sausage, cannellini beans, and Swiss chard, comes in.
I pulled this page out of a Real Simple magazine in February 2005, and it’s been in my recipe binder ever since. In fact, a quick flip through said binder this morning showed me that I yanked about half of that issue, but this is the only dish I’ve ever actually made. Back in 05 I certainly wasn’t cooking with Swiss chard on the regular, and the first time I went hunting for it I don’t think I was even sure what I was looking for. Now, almost nine (!) years later, Swiss chard is a healthy staple that I usually just boringly sauté. This is much more fun. It’s also nicely easy, and just a two pot endeavor. The sausage and veggies are cooked separately, then combined with a splash of chicken stock the cannellini beans and spooned into a casserole dish. The whole shebang is topped with a tasty mix of breadcrumbs and parmesean (it wouldn’t be a gratin without at least a little cheese, after all). Half an hour in the oven later, you’re set up with healthy and comforting meals for a good chunk of the week.
For me, this recipe is a perfect middle ground between the hearty foods I crave at this time of year and the healthier things my body knows would be a better idea. Heck, just calling it a gratin, a name I associate with a much heavier and cheesier dish, probably adds to the appeal for me. It’s also quick enough for a weeknight, and gives you that oh so helpful half hour of hands-off cooking time that allows for a little pre-dinner kitchen clean up, in case keeping a tidier house is also on your new year to-do list…
In spite of plenty of chances to revamp this recipe, I always stick with the original ingredients and instructions–for for my money, it just plain works. My only note is that this can benefit from a moment or two under the broiler at the very end, to get that picture perfect browned breadcrumb topping.
Cannellini Bean and Sausage Gratin, from Real Simple