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spinach gratin with cheese

April 12, 2011

So I had a lovely little two-week visit from the Cold That Ate My Soul, but now that it seems to be winding down (ohpleaseohplease), I can talk about food again! Yayyy!

First up, this little dish of deliciousness. Chris has a thing for spinach—he eats it straight out of the tub from the fridge while I look on in disapproval. So when this Smitten Kitchen recipe showed up on my Google Reader (spinach! and cheese!), I knew what had to make an appearance in our next dinner. (I conveniently forgot that he’s not such a fan of cooked spinach.)

So that weekend, I sat myself down and spent a good hour or two peeling stems off about six bags’ worth of spinach. And turning my fingernails green. Next time, I think I’ll go with baby spinach…if I can find it on sale.

But you know what? I think it was (once again) worth the effort. Besides giving me the undeniable fun of watching a ginoromous pot of spinach cook down to a little pile of green goo, the end result was really tasty. The cheese added a nice subtle nuttiness that paired really well with the spinach, and the crunchy topping was just an added bonus. Plus, one spoonful of the stuff was equivalent to approximately fifteen cups of fresh spinach. Win!

Spinach Gratin with Cheese
3 lb. fresh spinach
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs

1. Stem and wash your spinach well. Place spinach in a large pot over high heat. Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to the leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach. Transfer to a colander, immediately fill pot with cold water, transfer it back to the pot of cold water to shock it, and drain again. [I just ran cold water over it in the colander and swished it around a bit because I am a lazybones.] Squeeze a small amount of spinach at a time in your hands to extract as much water as possible. Chop the spinach coarsely. [I refused to do this, since the leaves had basically shrunken down to slivers already, and I don’t think it harmed the final result too much.] You should have about 3 cups of chopped spinach.
2. Wipe out pot, then melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat and stir in the spinach. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until all of the moisture from the spinach has boiled off and the spinach begins to stick to the pan.
3. Lower the heat and sprinkle with flour and stir for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Add 2/3 of your stock, a tiny bit at a time, scraping up any stuck spinach as you do. Once the liquid is added, simmer for another minute or two, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. If needed, add all or part of remaining liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Stir 1/2 cup cheese into the spinach and pour it into the baking dish. Mix the remaining cheese with breadcrumbs and sprinkle on spinach. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons remaining butter and pour it over the top. Bake until heated through and slightly brown on the top, about 30 minutes.
To make ahead: Spinach can be blanched and chopped several hours or a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Gratin can be fully assembled and, 30 minutes before needed, placed in a preheated 375 degree oven to bake, then served.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

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