Chard and potato terrine

March 10, 2011 at 12:43 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, French, Georgeanne Brennan, Necessarily nonvegan, Root vegetables, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

I had some chard and potatoes that needed to get eaten, and found this recipe in Georgeanne Brennan’s cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table.  It looked pretty decadent (lots of butter plus cheese and a bit of heavy cream), but Derek liked how the picture looked and encouraged me to try it. 

Notes from November 2014:

Derek is always asking me to make this recipe, but I always decline, due to the difficulties with the measurements, and the seemingly huge amount of dairy fat. But today Derek asked again, and he said he would help and the chard in the farmer’s market was beautiful, so I finally acquiesced. Based on what we did and how it turned out, here’s what I want to try next time:

Ingredients to try next time:

  • about 12 chard leaves of different sizes, large stems removed (total weight after stemming but before washing was 10 oz), washed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 3/4 pounds potatoes, thinly sliced (we used the 2nd smallest slicing blade on my food processor, labeled “coarse”, which has a thickness of about 1/8 inch I think)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt [We used 1.25 tsp. but it was very salty.]
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper (about 1/2 tsp.?)
  • 3 oz cheese, cut into very small pieces [We used a mix of pecorino and old amsterdam, cut into small but not tiny pieces, but they didn’t melt very well. Next time I think I would try cantal or gruyere instead.]
  • 1 2/3 oz unsalted butter [This seemed about right. The dish was very rich but not deadly so, nor did it seem greasy.]
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 4-6 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced [We used 3 cloves, but they were so good when you got a chunk, I wanted more.]

Instructions to try following next time:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (Don’t use the fan/convection setting.) Rub a 2-quart pan (either a large loaf pan, an 8×8 pyrex pan, or a large round casserole pan) with a cut clove of garlic and about 1 teaspoon of the butter.
  2. Make the first layer: Arrange one-third of the potatoes in a layer in the pan. Sprinkle with one-third each of the salt and pepper, dot with about 1 Tbs. of the butter, and top with one-half of the chard leaves. The chard will seem incredibly bulky, but it will wilt substantially during cooking. Sprinkle one-third of the cheese over the chard. Repeat in the same way for a second layer.
  3. For the third layer you will do the same thing, but you’ll skip the chard. Add the last third of the potatoes, shingled to look pretty, and press down to try to keep all the chard in the pan. Add the remaining salt and pepper, the remaining tablespoon of the butter, and the remaining cheese. Pour the cream evenly over the top.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1.25 hours.
  5. Serve hot or warm, sliced into wedges or squares.

My notes:

In general the dish turned out well this time. My main complaint was that it was too salty. Derek didn’t think so, but I’d cut the salt from 1 1/4 tsp. to 1 tsp. Also, the chard on the top layer ends up a little blackened and dry, so we thought we’d try using only two layers of chard, and ending with the potatoes instead, so that the potatoes on top get a little browned and crisp.

Between Derek and I it took us about 30 minutes to prepare the recipe, and 75 minutes for it to bake. The ingredients were so high over the top of the casserole pan that I was worried about the chard and cheese sticking to the tin foil, but only a few chard leaves stuck.

The casserole made enough for us each to have dinner and lunch the next day. So I’d say it probably makes about 4 main-dish servings or 6 slightly smaller servings (for example, if you’re serving it with a soup or another course.)

Like before, Derek adored this recipe, saying it tastes like restaurant food and giving it an “A-“.

Original notes from March 2011:

When it came to actually following this recipe, I ran into a number of problems.

First of all, it calls for 6 medium-sized potatoes, such as russet, White Rose, or Yellow Finn.  How big is a medium-sized potato? I don’t know what the latter two types are, but in my mind russet potatoes are quite large.  I ended up slicing up almost 2 pounds of potatoes.  The recipe says to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, so I started with my mandoline on 1/16 of an inch, but the potato slices were so thin — almost translucent!  I thought they looked too thin so I switched to 1/8 of an inch.

The recipe calls for 18 baby or 9 large chard leaves.  I’m not sure exactly how big “large” is, but I don’t think I had quite enough.  The recipe says to remove any thick midribs, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them.  Anyone have any suggestion of what to do with leftover chard stems?

I also had trouble with the next step:  The recipe says to rub a standard loaf pan with 1 bruised clove of garlic.  I understand rubbing a wooden salad bowl with a cut clove garlic, but not much garlic seemed to come off onto my pyrex loaf pan.  So I cut the garlic into three pieces and threw it in the loaf pan with the chard.

The recipe says to “arrange one third of the potatoes in a layer in the pan.”  I assumed I was supposed to shingle the pieces, like you would for a potato gratin, but based on the instruction I wasn’t really sure what to do.  Certainly one third of my cut potatoes wouldn’t come close to fitting in a single layer, even if I overlapped them a lot.  I ended up creating quite a few layers, and fitting only about 1/4 of the potato slices in the layer.  So in the end I had maybe 1/3 pound of potatoes leftover that I couldn’t fit in the pan.  Next time I would probably just slice up 1.5-1.75 pounds of potatoes.

On top of each layer of potatoes you’re supposed to sprinkle 1/3 of the salt and pepper.  But the recipe calls for 1.5 tablespoons of salt.  Huh?  How is that possible, for a recipe that serves six?  I assume it’s a typo and it’s supposed to say 1.5 teaspoons of salt. But even that sounds like quite a bit.

Each layer of potatoes is supposed to be dotted with 1.5 tablespoons of butter.  That seemed like a huge amount.  I just couldn’t do it.  I’m not sure how much I used but it was quite a bit less.   The recipe calls for 6.5 tablespoons of butter altogether, but I think 2 to 3 tablespoons is probably plenty.

Each layer of potatoes is covered with the chopped chard leaves and a bit of cheese cut into small pieces.  The recipe calls for “Cantal, Brie or Gruyère”.  Cantal and gruyere are kind of similar, but brie is so different I figured any kind of cheese would work.  I used pecorino, since it’s what I had on hand.

For the final layer, after you top with chard you dot with butter and then pour a bit of cream over the top.  You cover with foil and bake about 1 1/4 hours.  After 75 minutes my potatoes were cooked through but still a bit toothsome.  I thought they could actually be just a bit softer but Derek liked the texture.  I was worried about the top layer of chard burning, and it did crisp up in places but the tin foil seemed to keep it from burning.

Derek adored this dish.  It was quite salty and very rich, like restaurant food.  I thought it was tasty, but not as interesting as I would have liked.  I think I would have liked more chard and garlic, and less butter.  And maybe a little more flavor.  I quite liked it when I got a bite of this terrine with a little of the mustard vinaigrette left on my plate from the celery salad.  So I’d consider adding a touch of mustard and lemon to the recipe.  But Derek said not to — he liked it just as it was.

The header for the recipe says it serves 4 to 6.  Being generous with the amounts (e.g. 750 grams potatoes, 4 Tbs. of butter, 3 oz of cheese, 8 ounces of chard leaves), yields about 250 calories for 1/6 of the recipe, or 375 for 1/4 of the recipe.  Of course, most of the calories are from fat.  Nonetheless, the dish is a pretty good source of vitamin C and calcium. It’s a bit low in protein, iron, and fiber so eat this dish with some beans!  I served this dish with a celery, apple, and walnut salad, but that was also quite rich.  Brennan suggests serving this dish with a simple green salad or a platter of crudites.  I would think that it would work well with a bean and veggie salad or soup.

The head notes say that you can vary the flavor of the recipe by using starchy or waxy potatoes, and by varying the type of cheese.  I quite liked the pecorino but it would be interesting to try this recipe with another type of cheese.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-


  1. Jenn said,

    I eat a lot of chard, and hate wasting the stems (which are almost never used in my recipes), and the only recipe I’ve found for the stems is for Sweet and Sour Chard stems–however I think it’s an excellent recipe!

    • captious said,

      Thanks Jenn! This looks perfect. I’ll try it next time I have extra stems.

  2. Vegetarian Passover 2011 « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] Main course:  spinach matzoh pie  and a layered potato and chard terrine […]

  3. Claire said,

    A couple ideas for chard stems:

    Boil them in salted water until tender (or crisp tender, if you prefer), drain, then:
    1) mix them with a bit of cheese and let the carryover heat melt the cheese
    2) mix them into a thick (the stems are often watery, and will thin the sauce) bechamel sauce flavored with nutmeg and some grated cheese (my dad used gruyere when I was growing up)
    3) refrigerate until cold and toss with a vinaigrette–I’ve used classic french vinaigrette for this, but I imagine a lot of salad dressings would work
    4) refrigerate until cold, and then marinate in a quick pickle solution of vinegar, sugar and oil. If desired, and other ingredients such as canned beans, onions, or bell peppers (think of the chard stems as replacement for green beans in a three bean salad).

  4. captious said,

    I used a bunch of chard stems this week in a dish of Greek green beans (, and I didn’t even notice they were there! Just bulked it up a bit I think. I added them along with the onion.

    Also, as described in this post ( I like to dot them with taleggio and roast them in the oven with over veggies.

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