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Feb 28

Spinach gratin

Spinach gratin!

So, I got the new Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail a few days back and was pretty excited to see a big, juicy steak on the cover.

Because I love steak! And, more generally, I love steakhouses. Which is probably because my taste in food is pretty basic, and steakhouses generally serve pretty basic fare — meat, potatoes, bread and maybe some sort of vegetable on the side, which if I'm lucky will be smothered in cheesy sauce.

So I was curious to see what sort of steakhouse-themed recipes would be in the catalog. I got no further than Page 2 before seeing a recipe I couldn't wait to make: spinach gratin!

You're probably surprised to see me claiming to be excited about eating a vegetable, but remember, this is gratin. Which means it's a vegetable smothered in cheesy sauce!

Obviously, it was delicious. Because how can vegetables covered in cream and cheese, then topped with bread and more cheese, not be delicious?

Oh, but you know what was kind of crazy about this recipe? The spinach. Yeah, I know. Just hear me out.

See, not being very familiar with spinach, it being a nutritious vegetable and all, I decided to just buy those bags of pre-washed spinach at the grocery store. Except that left me standing in front of the bagged salad area for an inordinate amount of time trying to calculate exactly how many 6 ounce bags I'd need to make the 2 pounds called for in the recipe. I probably looked very confused.

I finally decided to get five bags, because I figured it was close to 2 pounds of spinach without going over, which is bad. At least when you're on "The Price Is Right," anyway.

So, there I was with my five bags of baby spinach, which seemed reasonable enough, until I was standing at the checkout watching the clerk ring them up.

Those five bags? They cost $17.45.

Oops.

Then I got home and had to find a place to put five bags of spinach in my refrigerator, which, like the rest of my apartment, is not big. I ended up just stuffing the bags in there and closing the door really fast so they wouldn't fall out.

And then when it came time to actually cook the spinach, that's when things really got out of hand. Because 2 pounds of spinach? IS A LOT.

I basically had spinach in every colander, mixing bowl and pot I could find, as well as quite a bit inadvertently strewn about the counters, in the sink and on the floor.

It was like Salinas had exploded in my kitchen.

I was really worried there had been a typo in the recipe. I was sure there was no way all this spinach was going to fit inside my gratin dish, let alone inside my belly.

But then I cooked the spinach. And it shrunk! So it all fit into one bowl. Like magic!

Soooo … I guess with that super long anecdote, I'm really just trying to say, don't worry about the spinach. It will totally fit in your belly.

Bread crumbs the easy way: food processor-ified.Bread crumbs!Toasted bread crumbs plus shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
I had a whole lotta spinach in my kitchen.All that spinach was much more manageable after it was cooked.Stirring the Swiss cheese into the cream mixture.
Here's the spinach and cheesy cream sauce, ready for the oven.Bread crumbs and cheese sprinkled over the top.Spinach gratin!

Recipe: Spinach gratin

Courtesy of craftsteak via Williams-Sonoma

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds baby spinach
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 clove
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig, plus leaves from 1 thyme sprig
  • 1/2 cup grated Emmentaler (or Swiss) cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Butter a 9 1/2-by-7-inch oval gratin dish.
  2. In a frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the bread crumbs and stir until lightly toasted, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. In a Dutch oven, or another large pot, over medium-high heat, warm 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add half the spinach (or as much as you can fit in the pot — I had to break it into quarters) and cook, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander and drain, pressing out any excess water with the back of a spoon. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and the spinach.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream and half-and-half, but don't let it boil.
  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent but not brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until nutty and just golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the clove, nutmeg, bay leaf and thyme sprig and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then strain into a bowl. Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium heat and stir in the Emmentaler or Swiss cheese until melted.
  6. Fold the sauce into the spinach and season with salt and white pepper. Transfer to the prepared gratin dish and top with the toasted bread crumbs. Bake until the gratin is golden brown on top, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Serves 4.

Spinach gratin!

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