Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

We had enough leftover Shrimp Creole and rice for last night’s dinner that I only had to make a small piece of fish — seared tuna. I decided to focus my effort on the vegetable. A good thing since I had three bunches of spinach to snip and wash.

I found this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog. She adapted it from four different Julia Child recipes — Blanched Chopped Spinach, Spinach Braised in Butter, Spinach Braised in Cream and Spinach Gratineed with Cheese — that she found in two cookbooks — As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto and Mastering the Art of French Cooking — doing all the work for us.

My three bunches of baby spinach weighed in at about 2-1/2 pounds, and cooked down to fill a 6-1/2” square casserole halfway. I used chicken broth instead of cream. This dish reminded me of creamed spinach minus the cream. It has a deep spinach flavor. Next time I’d like more crunch so I’d add more cheese and breadcrumbs to the top.

 

Spinach Gratin

You’ll need a large pot with lid and a small casserole and lid. I used a 6″ square casserole but a slightly larger one would work too. Serves 4-6.

  • 3 pounds fresh spinach
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken or beef broth, or cream
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fine, dry breadcrumbs

Fill your kitchen sink with cold water. Position yourself to one side of the sink. Pick the stems off the spinach leaves, throwing the stems to one side and the leaves to the other into the sink. When all the leaves are in the sink, swish them around a bit to release any dirt from the leaves. Pull them out and drain them in a colander. You don’t need to spin or pat them dry.

Place spinach in a large empty pot over high heat. Cover the pot and cook spinach, with just the water clinging to its leaves, stirring occasionally, until it’s wilted, about 2-4 minutes for baby spinach and 4-6 minutes for regular spinach. Transfer the spinach back to the colander. Immediately fill the pot with cold water and transfer the spinach back to the pot to shock it and stop the cooking. Drain it again.

Take a handful of spinach and squeeze it between your palms to drain off any remaining water. Chop each handful coarsely and repeat with the rest of the spinach.

Wipe out the pot and melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until all the moisture from the spinach has boiled off. You’ll know it’s done when the spinach begins to stick to the pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lower the heat a bit and sprinkle the spinach with flour. Stir for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Add 2/3 cup of your stock or cream, a bit at a time, scraping up any cooked-on spinach as you do. Once all the liquid is added, simmer for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Hardly any liquid will remain. You could stir in one more tablespoon of butter if you’re looking for decadence. If the spinach looks too dry, add all or part of the remaining broth or cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Stir 1/2 cup cheese into the spinach and pour it all into the baking dish. Mix the remaining cheese with breadcrumbs and sprinkle on the top. Melt 1-1/2 tablespoons remaining butter and drizzle it over the top. Bake until heated through and slightly brown on the top, about 30 minutes.

Original recipe: The Best Baked Spinach, Smitten Kitchen

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1 year ago on Gusto: Blueberry Buckle

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2 thoughts on “Spinach Gratin

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