Spinach Au Gratin

 

 

 Spinach Au Gratin

 

“Eat your spinach it’s good for you!”  I’ve got to admit that’s a line I heard over and over as a kid. And of course, if it didn’t work on me there was inevitably some reference to the cartoon character Popeye, whose strength would magically increase several fold any time he chugged a can of this leafy dark green vegetable.  These days, I love eating spinach in salads, casseroles, eggs and sandwiches.  Fact is, I know it’s not only good for me it’s great for me.  However, when I’m eating spinach for the sake of eating spinach one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is this recipe for Spinach Au Gratin—one our good friend Steph shared with us a few years back.

 

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, (WHFoods.com),

Among the World’s Healthiest vegetables, spinach comes out at the top of our ranking list for nutrient richness. Rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also concentrated in health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection.

This site then goes on to describe how spinach has amazing anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  I guess old Popeye was really onto something (though it turns out he should have been eating more fresh rather than canned spinach to get the most benefit).  Seriously, check WHFoods to read up on why you should be including spinach as a regular part of your diet.  Also find out why certain people with untreated kidney or gall bladder problems may want to avoid it.

 

Our freshly baked spinach.

I love the cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top.

One of the nicest aspects of this recipe is it can be adjusted for fat content.  Since it contains cheese and milk, you can give it a slightly richer texture by using whole milk or even half and half or adding more cheese.  I’ve tried to keep the fat content relatively low here so try this first and then adjust as you want the second time around.

 

Let’s Gather The Ingredients

 

Here’s everything we’ll need for today’s recipe:

 

Gathering our Spinach Au Gratin ingredients.

I thought I set out all my ingredients for this picture, but then forgot my milk, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. Oops!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 tablespoons white flour

1 pinch of nutmeg

1-1/2 cups 1% or skim milk (if possible warm to room temperature first)

2 16-ounce packages of chopped frozen spinach or rough equivalent (Defrost first)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Gruyere or Cheddar/Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preparation

 

Draining the spinach.

Here’s an important step: Defrost and drain the spinach. Otherwise the recipe will be way too watery.

At least an hour or two before you’re ready to prepare this recipe, take the spinach from the freezer and allow it to defrost.  Place it in a strainer and set that in the sink or over a bowl.  You’ll find there’s lots of excess water in the spinach and you’ll want to drain this off before adding it into the recipe.  I used the bottom of a drinking glass and pressed my spinach against the bottom of my strainer to speed the “drainage” process along.

 

This recipe calls for a “Roux” sauce (pronounced ru).  This is essentially a white sauce made from fat (i.e. oil or butter), milk and flour.  Roux is used in a variety of recipes as a thickener and typically found in soups, stews, gravies, sauces, macaroni and cheese, etc.  In this case, our Roux will be slightly different than the most basic version as we’ll add our onions from the get-go.

 

We'll need a Roux sauce for our Spinach Au Gratin.

Here’s the basic process for our Roux, but check the details immediately below.

 

Let’s make our Roux: Place a large flat saucepan on the stove and set the burner to medium.  Allow the pan to warm for a minute or two and then add the oil. (Note: You can go half oil and half butter if you prefer).  When the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and then saute until they become translucent.  This usually takes 8 to 12 minutes.  Once the onions are ready, pull the pan off the heat for just a moment to add the flour and nutmeg.  Return to the heat and stir for about 2 or so more minutes.  This process will help eliminate that distinctive flour taste you’d get if you just dump everything together at once.  Now, add the milk and continue to heat and stir until the sauce thickens. Bring it to the point where it’s thick enough it doesn’t automatically fill in the gap as you swish the spatula or stirring stick across the pan.  This will take several minutes.  Remove from heat.

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

 

We're almost ready to bake our Spinach Au Gratin.

Add the spinach and half the cheese to your Roux. Stir.

Add the drained spinach, half the Parmesan and half the Gruyere to the Roux.  If you prefer, add a good dash of salt and pepper, too.  Stir well. (Note: Our friend’s original recipe called for Gruyere cheese, but I accidentally bought a Cheddar/Gruyere cheese combination when my wife and I went shopping at Trader Joe’s.  It turned out this combination cheese was delicious.  I suspect you could combine any number of different cheeses if you prefer to mix it up.)

 

Let's bake our Au Gratin.

Spread the spinach and cheese mixture in a glass baking dish.

Transfer the spinach and cheese mixture to a baking pan.  Spread it into the corners with a spoon or spatula.  Any glass 8 x 11 inch pan works best.

 

Putting the final touches on our Spinach Au Gratin.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the remainder of the cheese over the top. Now bake.

Mix the bread crumbs with the remaining Parmesan and sprinkle over the top.  Finally, sprinkle the remaining Gruyere over everything.

 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

 

Serve the Spinach Au Gratin hot.

This is ready to eat. Better call everyone to the table.

This recipe makes a great side dish to most any meal, and would easily serve 6 to 8 people as written.   You can cut it in half if you’re crowd is smaller.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may want to check out:
Lillybean’s Cheesy Bean Casserole
Have you ever eaten cheesy beans that tasted this good?

 

 

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