Gratin of Spinach

December 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I usually open the Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Julia Child just to get inspiration for a special dinner that I am going to prepare – in this case Christmas dinner.  However, such parousal always turns into a desire to make something RIGHT NOW from her many recipes.  As luck would have it, the time was getting dangerously close to dinner.

Most of the things in the book are very technical and time consuming (at least for the non-professionals, like myself), but I just had to share this Gratin of Spinach recipe that I adapted from Julia’s Spinach Quiche recipe (found on page 153 of Vol. 1).

I have to first note that a gratin is simply a quiche without the pastry shell.  And if you have ever made a quiche, you know that the pastry (assuming you are making your own from scratch) is the more time consuming portion of the whole process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 finely minced shallot (or green onion, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1 1/4 cup baby spinach (if you are using older spinach, you should blanche and chop it first)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream (or you can make this half milk, half cream)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter an enamel or ceramic oven-safe baking dish.

Prepare the spinach mixture:

  • Cook the shallots for a few minutes in butter
  • Add spinach and cook until most of spinach water is evaporated
  • Add salt, pepper
  • Take off heat and allow to cool

Prepare the egg mixture:

  • Beat eggs and cream with salt and pepper until blended and starting to get to the borderline of fluffy
  • Once the spinach mixture has cooled, fold it into the egg mixture

Pour the entire mixture into the baking dish.  Place into the upper third of preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the gratin has “puffed” and browned.  You will know its finished when you can stick a knife into the middle of the gratin and have it come out clean.

This dish makes a truly special brunch or lunch.  The texture is incredibly fluffy and the spinach is the perfect accompaniment to its smoothness.  If you like to live on the dangerous side of things, you can serve this for dinner.

A note on the Julia Child cookbook mentioned above:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is available in a smaller one volume or a two volume set.  Either is a fantastic investment.  This is one of the few cookbook staples that I cannot live without.

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Wild Mushrooms and Cream Pasta

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is something about the cold winter nights that makes me want to warm up with something creamy and woodsy.  Mushrooms and cream pasta are perfect for a cozy dinner in without too much prep time.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of chopped wild mushrooms (pick any combination of your favorites – chanterelles, portobellos, shiitake, crimini… I used crimini here)
  • 2 chopped shallots (or if you want a little extra punch, 1 shallot and 1 small onion, your choice)
  • 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • papardelle egg pasta (the one I used is straight from Trader Joe’s and is AH-Mazing!)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream (don’t freak out, 1/2 a cup for the ENTIRE batch)

Directions:

  • In a medium sauce pan, and using two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, saute shallots (and onion if you use it) until they become transparent.
  • Add mushrooms.  At first glance, it will seem like a ridiculous amount of mushrooms, but don’t worry because they will cook down.  Fold them in with the shallots gently and season to taste.
  • Once the mushrooms have started to release some of their water, add in the garlic.  (WARNING: your kitchen will smell incredible!).  Let this mixture sautee on a medium heat until the mushrooms have cooked down and have become soft.
  • When the mushrooms have cooked down, add the fresh parsley and let the mixture get happy for about a minute.  The goal is to allow the parsley to release some flavor, but not get overcooked.
  • Add in the heavy cream and stir for 2 minutes.  We want to the mushroom flavors to get acquainted with the cream and make one flavorful sauce.  Reseason if necessary.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Cook pasta last so that it doesn’t have a chance to sit around and stick together.  If you have to let one thing sit around longer than the other, let it be the mushrooms and sauce.
  • Combine pasta and mushrooms and serve.

Once combined, the final dish will look like this:

It was so good that it deserved a close up! 🙂

Bon apetit!

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