I had eaten Blitva before my travels to Croatia. Traditionally served beside simple grilled fish, I basically deemed the dish as a means to disguise the taste of Swiss chard with an enormous amount of garlic and, as an after thought, adding potatoes to make it more palatable. It took a trip to the Dalmatian Coast and a small seaside café to change my view.
For several days, Luka, the café owner and resident chef, implored me to sample his version of Blitva. I was a reluctant participant at best but what is traveling without a bit of culinary adventure especially from one so convincing. How surprised I was with his version of a hearty side dish without the overpowering presence of garlic.
Luka chose only small potatoes and parboiled before quartering, with their skins intact, to allow the herbs he incorporated to meld into the white flesh. His Swiss chard was delicately sautéed with what I perceived as half the amount of garlic and much less olive oil than what I had experienced previously. It was his non-traditional addition of herbs, sage and rosemary, into the dish that created an amazingly incredible flavorful dish. I have been preparing versions of Blitva since and always think of Vodice, the sun and a rustic seaside café .
This version takes all of the ingredients of Blitva incorporated plus a few more and separates them into three distinct layers.
Using multicolored potatoes, a mash is created and then formed into small potato patties. Seasoned with sage, they are fried crisp in a blend of sage infused olive oil and butter.
The Swiss chard layer remains true to the traditional Blitva by simply searing the chard in olive oil and garlic with a final bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Where the dish deviates entirely from a traditional Blitva is the addition of a third layer. Baby portobello mushrooms are sautéed in white wine until they release their moisture. Finished with heavy cream and rosemary, they create the perfect finishing sauce.
1 pound multi-colored small potatoes
4 T butter, unsalted, room temperature
½ t sea salt
¼ t freshly ground black pepper
½ T dried rubbed sage
2 T sage infused olive oil such as Cucina Valentina Artisan Olive Oil
1 large bunch Swiss chard
¼ c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
2 cups sliced baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 T rosemary infused olive oil such as The Gourmet Farm Girl Rosemary Infused Olive Oil
1 c dry white wine such as Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay Truchard Vineyard
½ c heavy cream
1 t dried rosemary
¼ t salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to cook until until a fork can be easily poked into the potato. Cooking time depends on size of the potatoes but generally 15-20 minutes.
Place the potatoes in a medium sized bowl. Roughly mash retaining chunks of potatoes. Add 2 tablespoons butter, salt, pepper and sage. Mix to combine. Shape the mix into 12-14 patties, pressing together firmly.
In a medium skillet, add 1 sage olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat over medium high heat until butter is melted. Place 6-7 patties in the skillet at a time. Quickly cook until browned on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from skillet to a paper towel lined plate. Add the remaining olive oil and butter to the skillet and repeat with the remaining patties. Set aside.
Strip the Swiss chard leaves from their stems. Roughly chop.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil for 1 minute over medium high heat. Add the garlic and shallots. Sauté until aroma is released but do not brown.
Add the Swiss chard. Cook until completely wilted, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes. Remove chard and place in a paper towel lined bowl.
In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the rosemary olive oil. Heat for 1 minute and add mushrooms. Sauté for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, increase heat to high and cook until liquid is reduced by half. (If you have not already poured yourself a glass, do so now.)
Add the cream and rosemary to the mushrooms. Cook over high heat, stirring continuously, until reduced by a third and thickened. About 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper. Stir.
Overlap 3 potato patties down the center of four plates.
Evenly divide the Swiss chard between the four plates, spreading across the patties.
Evenly divide the mushroom sauce between the four plates, spreading across the Swiss chard.