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Spinach Gratin

This looks complicated but really is pretty easy and makes a nice holiday dish. Leftovers reheat well. We used fresh spinach but a friend, Mark Finch, made it with frozen and pronounced it very tasty.

Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients:

3 pounds of fresh spinach, cleaned (or 24 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups of milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or 3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 1 ounce)
6 hard-boiled eggs
5 or 6 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
olive oil

Preparation:

1. If working with fresh spinach, blanch it in two batches in an 8-quart pot of boiling water for 1 minute, drain and run cold water over it to cool it down. Press as much water as you can out of the spinach. (A good way to do this is to put the drained spinach in the center of a large, clean tea towel, wrap it with the towel, and wring the moisture out by wringing the towel.) Chop the spinach. Place in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and set aside while you make the béchamel.

2. Make béchamel sauce: In a sauce pan, barely melt butter and remove from heat. Whisk in flour. Return to medium heat and gradually whisk in milk. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan for about 3 minutes until sauce thickens. The béchamel sauce will thicken as it cooks. Sprinkle in the ground nutmeg and black pepper. Stir the thickened béchamel sauce into the bowl of spinach.

3. Sauté the 1/2 onion in a little butter or olive oil until tender and stir into spinach

4. Grease the inside of a 2-quart gratin pan or casserole all around with a little butter. Pour the spinach béchamel mixture into a gratin pan, and even out the surface. Sprinkle the surface with the grated Gruyere cheese. Slice the hard boiled eggs in half and arrange, cut side up, on the surface of the spinach mixture. Press into the spinach mixture so that the cut sides of the eggs are level with the spinach. Sprinkle with 3 to 4 tablespoons of seasoned bread crumbs. Drizzle the top with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. At this point you can make the gratin a day ahead and chill until ready to cook and serve.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

(Recipe adapted from SimplyRecipes.com by Tom Landshof)