Stone Soup is an ongoing quarantine feature in which I come up with a recipe that uses the impossible thing in your cupboard, without making you go to the store or wasting any of your ingredients. Last time, we made hashbrowns.
Our CSA box comes with chard like every week now, two big healthy bunches at a time, and it's not likely to stop anytime soon. (Being in Seattle, our fresh greens season is extremely long. I'm not bragging, trust me.)
I'm all right with chard in a lot of ways, but my wife has texture issues. (This is also true of the Bok Choy showing up two enormous bunches at a time...) Even if we chop up the stems and whip up a quick stir-fry, barely wilting the leaves, she finds it barely palatable.
I'm not above leaving chard on my neighbor's doorstep in the middle of the night, but surely there's another way?
I’m a major proponent of letting people dislike food. As a dedicated, verified beet-hater, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of weird pushback. For me, it’s an immutable dislike: I don’t care what experimental format you use, I just don’t like them and that’s that.
One of the most inviolable ways to communicate “I don’t like this food and I never fucking will so back the fuck off” is to say “it’s a texture thing.” The texture of a food is not something that any amount seasoning or breading or sauce will be able to hide. As Jon mentioned, most cooking methods fail to transform an ingredient enough to compensate texture issues.
But there’s an exception, and it’s a really fucking swell one. Take the safety off your spice rack, and let’s aim for
You’ve heard of seaweed snacks and you’ve heard of kale chips, right? Well, step aside, gramps, there’s a new leafy green in town. Chard behaves very similarly to kale in a lot of contexts, and this is one of them. No dehydrator required. Let’s get snackin’.
Preheat your oven to 275F. Don’t forget. You’re forgetting, I see you doing it right now. Stop that! Go turn the oven on!!
Step One: Clean up your act. Not to be controversial on main, but chard is a vegetable. That means it’s filthy. Cut the stems out of your chard, then wash and dry those leaves as thoroughly as you can. Best practice involves submerging your greens in a generous water bath, letting them sit for a minute, then draining the water off and repeating a couple of times. Then you can let them sit in a colander to drip-dry for a while, or you can pat them dry with paper towels, or you can give them a few rounds in a salad spinner. For this recipe, you want them absolutely as dry as possible.
Step Two: Prep. Cut your leaves into pieces that are roughly 2” square. Don’t fret too much about how tidy they are, they’re just food.
That’s… well, shit. That’s it. That’s the whole prep list.
Step Three: Spice up your life. Do you know how often, these days, I think about the 1997 musical comedy Spice World? It’s so often. That movie grossed over $151 million dollars at the box office. Roger Ebert thought that the only 1998 movie worse than Spice World was fucking Armageddon, aka Space Dads For America. Meat Loaf played the tour bus driver. Who allowed this to happen? Why doesn’t it happen more often?
Anyway, unseasoned vegetable chips are a nightmare on the level of a Bosch painting, please don’t make yourself live that way. Make yourself a spice blend, one that’ll keep you interested. At an absolute minimum, use salt and pepper, but why on earth would you stop there?
- Regular readers will suspect me of being a pod person if I don’t suggest salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and thyme, so: that. (If you want something pretty close to the seasoning you’d use on ranch chips, just add dried onion flakes and dill!)
- Bright: salt, chili powder, dill, lime zest
- Cozy: salt, cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, clove
- Savory: salt, chili powder, cumin, coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, black pepper
- Sweet herbs: salt, black pepper, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, onion powder.
Whoever your players wind up being, put a good team together.
Step Four: Assembly. Take those pieces of thoroughly-washed-and-dried swiss chard and toss them in a decent amount of olive oil to coat them completely. Then lay them out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and sprinkle on a generous amount of seasoning.
Step Five: Cook. 20 minutes in the hotbox. Then give ‘em a flip, rotate your pan, and let ‘em go for another 20 minutes.
That’s it! You have chard chips! You did it!
Do this in small batches the first couple of times, so you can perfect your spice blends and seasoning preferences. Don’t be afraid to mess around with timing or oven temperature. It sounds like you’ll have lots of opportunities to get this snack just right.
Just the recipe:
- Thoroughly wash and dry your chard.
- Remove stems and cut chard into 2-3” pieces.
- Toss in oil to completely coat. Spread onto a lined sheet pan in a single, even layer.
- Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice.
- Bake at 275F for 40 minutes, flipping the chard over and rotating the pan halfway through.