Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cheesy Spinach Gratin

Up until a few years ago, when I saw the words Gratin or Roux (Rue) in a recipe, I gave up on it.  I thought there was no way I could do something that sounded so fancy and French.  But my quest for a creamy, cheesy spinach side dish ended up taking me to the inevitable.  I knew I had to bite the bullet and give the roux a try, and guess what?  It was so simple, barely took any extra time and was basically fool proof.  All a Gratin is is a dish that has a browned crust of breadcrumbs and/or cheese,  (a dish worth making and eating in my book).  And a Roux is simply cooking flour into butter to make a thickening agent for certain sauces and dishes.  After some trial and error on coming up with a low-carb ratio of cheese, spinach and creamy goodness, I am fairly positive I have nailed this Spinach Gratin.  It is a delicious mix of tender spinach and gooey cheese with a salty bite all topped with crispy crust.  This dish pairs perfectly with chicken, salmon and obviously, steak.  In fact, this dish is so fantastic, it can easily stand up to any creamed spinach or gratin you would find in a steakhouse.  So, the next time you need a side dish for a nice, juicy steak, give this one a try.  I hear there is a certain holiday coming up where one may want to cook a romantic dinner for their loved one?  This would recipe would be a sure thing.

This is what you need:

9 cups of Fresh Spinach (10 oz) or 3 boxes of Frozen Spinach
1 Onion - chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
1 1/2 cup of Milk (whole is best)
3 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan (divided)
1/4 cup shredded Cheese (mozzarella blend works well but any would work)
2 tbsp Flour
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt the butter and cook the onions over medium heat until translucent and slightly browned on edges, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add 2 tbsp of flour and 1/8 tsp of nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes.  Then add the milk and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella and melt.  Add the fresh or frozen spinach and cook until wilted or cooked through if using frozen.  If you are using a heat safe pan, top with 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 Panko breadcrumbs.  If not, transfer to a baking dish and do the same.  Cook for 15 minutes or until top is browned and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes  Serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4-6

First thing to do is preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Now, if you have a cast iron skillet this is a great recipe to use it because you can transfer the whole thing to oven and it creates a wonderful crust all around it.  If you do not have one, no worries.  Just get a big saute pan and baking dish greased and ready.  It will turn out fantastic either way.  Heat the pan of your choice over medium heat and add 3 tbsp of butter.
Butter makes everything better.

Get the onion and garlic ready and add to the pan.
Cook for about 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and just a bit browned.
Like this.

Now is when the magic happens.  A roux is created.  And all you have to do is add 2 tbsp of flour and 1/8 tsp of nutmeg.  Mix and cook for about 2 minutes. 
 OK, that wasn't so hard...
This is what you are looking for, a thick pile of onions.  

Now, add the 1 1/2 cup of milk and cook until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  
 Keep stirring so nothing burns while it thickens.

Now, add the 1/4 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella, 1/8 tsp Salt and 1/4 tsp Pepper.

Let this all melt and get really thick, like this:

Add the spinach.  If using fresh, add it in batches.  If using frozen, make sure its is defrosted and all the water has been squeezed out.

Cook until the spinach is wilted and heated through.  If using a baking dish, transfer to the dish now.  Then add the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 Panko breadcrumbs to the top.  Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy.
Oven ready.

When it is done cooking, remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  
It will be hard to wait, but well worth it.  
Crunchy, cheesy, creamy.  My favorite "C's".

This is such a simple, fantastic recipe that is both rich and comforting.  Every time I make steak, my husband asks for this dish.  In fact, it has become a birthday tradition for him and a Christmas tradition for our family.  I hope you give this a shot and let me know how it works out!