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Recipe: Spinach Gratin

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Spinach gratin with poached egg
Dave Scantland
This creamy gratin takes a little time, but it's well worth the effort. For a vegetarian dish, skip the bacon and double the mushrooms; use olive oil or butter to saute. The optional poached eggs (as shown in the photo) turn a delicious side dish into a first course or great lunch for two.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • Fresh ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup panko (or more, depending on dish size)
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 10-12 ounces (1 bag) fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other grana cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 eggs (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Combine the garlic and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and reduce the cream by about one third. Remove from the heat and allow the cream to cool. You can either remove the garlic clove, or smash it into the cream for a more pronounced garlic flavor. Add a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and stir to combine.

3. Melt two teaspoons of the butter in a small pan (or bowl if using a microwave). Toss the panko in the butter with a pinch of salt until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

4. Place the mushrooms in a small saucepan and add enough water just to cover them. Sprinkle with salt and add 2 teaspoons of butter. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to keep the mushrooms at a boil and cook until the water evaporates. Stir to brown the mushrooms in the oil. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. (For an explanation of this cooking method, see this tutorial.)

5. Place a small saute pan over medium heat and add the bacon, stirring occasionally. Fry until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. (For a vegetarian version, skip this step. Instead, melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a small saute pan and continue with step 6.)

6. Add the spinach to the pan a big handful at a time and stir. The spinach will wilt, allowing you to add more. When all of the spinach is in the pan, salt it lightly an stir to distribute the salt. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for two minutes, or until the spinach is tender. Remove from heat. Drain the spinach, squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible.

7. Spread the spinach evenly in a small gratin dish. Sprinkle the bacon, mushrooms and cheese evenly over the spinach. Pour the cream in, making sure to distribute it evenly. The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated, if desired.

8. Top the dish with the panko. Bake the gratin at 400 for 10-12 minutes (15-20 minutes if refrigerated), until the cream is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

9. If you're adding the poached eggs, follow the directions through step 7. Place the dish in the oven while you poach the eggs (see this tutorial for poaching instructions). Remove the gratin dish from the oven (the spinach should be hot and bubbling). Use the back of a large spoon to make two indentations in the spinach. Place one egg in each indentation and sprinkle the panko over the dish. Return the dish to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to brown the panko. Serve immediately.

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