The arrival of Memorial Day weekend always feels like the official start of summer. Bright sunny mornings, languid afternoons, and warm nights work together to bring on the magical feeling of our favorite season. This year we have enjoyed an unusual stretch of hot weather, with temperatures already hitting 90 on several days. In response Mr. B and I have let the dust accumulate on our indoor dining table, moving all meals outside for the foreseeable future. The grill is coming back into regular rotation and Oscar is spending the warm days floating his ears in a plastic swimming pool on the deck.
A recent visit from a few members of Mr. B’s extended family led to the first BBQ party of the season. With little time to prepare a meal, I pulled out our always reliable grilled rib-eye and asparagus recipe
and made a quick strawberry rhubarb pie
. When I contemplated what side dish to serve with the steak, I was torn. Mr. B’s family has a long held tradition of ordering creamed spinach whenever they are in a steak house. While I enjoy creamed spinach I am actually more of a gratin girl- preferring thin layers of potatoes below a toasted cheese crust to greens swimming in cream. After mentally debating between the two dishes the thought struck me, what if I could do both? Google provided the answer in mere seconds, with a wonderful recipe for a garlicky potato and baby spinach gratin from Food and Wine
Reading through the recipe I knew it was the perfect marriage of both elements. Thinly sliced potatoes and wilted spinach with garlic are bathed in a creamy sauce topped with an oozing layer of toasted cheese. With the help of a mandoline slicer
the dish came together in about 15 minutes and kept happily in the fridge until I was ready to place it in the oven. As we sat down to dinner, I hoped that my intuition was correct. (It is always risky to make a recipe for the first time with guests at the table!) One forkful of the potato and spinach gratin and my hunch paid off. The dish went beautifully with grilled steak and was met with exclamations of joy around the table. It was such a success that I believe it earned a permanent place in our fall-back entertaining menu. If you are looking to satisfy both the creamed spinach and potato gratin lovers in your life, this is the dish to do it!
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to coat the baking dish
10 ounces baby spinach (8 cups)
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced, on a mandoline, 1/16 inch thick
Pre-heat the oven to 425° with a rack in the middle. Butter an 11×17 inch baking dish or 10 8-ounce ramekins. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl with a pouring spout, mix together the cream, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set cream mixture aside.
Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of butter, and melt it. Add the baby spinach and minced garlic to the pan, toss the spinach with tongs and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. If the spinach is slow to wilt, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Turn off the heat, and set the pan and spinach aside.
Evenly layer the potato slices in the bottom of the baking dish or ramekins. Distribute the spinach in an even layer on top of the potatoes. Whisk the cream mixture with a fork, and then pour it evenly on top of the spinach and potatoes. Give the dish (or ramekins) a little shake after pouring in the cream, to help it settle around the filling. Sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of Parmesan over the top of the filling. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is brown, the cream filling is bubbling, and the potatoes are tender. Let the dish cool for about 5 minutes before serving as the potatoes will be quite hot.