Spinach Gratin with Polenta and Mushrooms

This is simple peasant cooking at its best: spinach (so good for our eyes), cheese, and polenta–the whole grain cornmeal beloved of European peasants, now widely available–all cuddle up together in a baking dish to make a supper worth kissing the tips of your fingers for.

Substantial but filled with delicate flavors, and offering lots of omega-3, calcium, and anti-oxidant nourishment, this could make you think of late winter in the French countryside, where wood smoke rises over broad fields just beginning to green. As the hungry family gathers around the scrubbed wooden table, out from the wood-fired oven comes this savory supper, baked in a terra cotta gratin dish. Here is the luscious French farmhouse recipe:

This is a loose adaptation of a recipe from Food and Wine magazine:

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby portabellas, but you can use a mixture of wild varieties, or ordinary button mushrooms)
1 large shallot, minced finely
8 ounces pre-washed baby spinach (or use frozen, thawed, with excess moisture squeezed out)
1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup good-quality vegetable stock
1/2 cup cream
One 18-ounce log of prepared polenta, cut into 1/4-inch slices, or 4 servings polenta, cooked according to package directions
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Saute them, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown lightly, about 6 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low, add the shallot, and cook 3 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and add the spinach, thyme, and nutmeg, cooking until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground pepper. Spread spinach-mushroom mixture evenly in a 2quart gratin or baking dish.

2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour, then add vegetable stock and cream. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste and pour cream sauce over spinach mixture in baking dish.

3. Arrange polenta slices or cooked polenta evenly over spinach, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Cover baking dish with foil and bake 40 minutes in preheated oven.

4. Preheat broiler, remove foil, and broil about 6 inches from heat for 2 minutes, until top is golden, Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

By Cait Johnson, inspired by Food and Wine magazine, March 2006.

10 comments

J.L. A.
JL A7 years ago

yum

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Jennifer C.
Past Member 7 years ago

The recipe sounds good. Thanks.

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J.L. A.
JL A7 years ago

yum!

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Heidi A.
Heidi Aubrey7 years ago

Sounds delicious.

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Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

Thanks Cait. Sounds good.

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Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton7 years ago

Sounds great - will definately give this a try. Thanks for posting.

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Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

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Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

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Mervi R.
Mervi R8 years ago

Lovely, as a vegan version...

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Jean Buckley
Jean B11 years ago

Delicious dish. I stopped by the "bad" store on the way home before making this dish, so I wasn't able to buy wild mushrooms, but it was great anyway. I did have dried porcini mushrooms on hand, so I used some of those to improve the mushroom flavor of the dish, and substituted their (strained) soaking water for the cream called for in the recipe, to lower the fat content. I don't think we missed the cream at all. I think I would have liked a slightly thicker polenta layer, so when I make this again I'll make six servings of polenta, but otherwise it was perfect.

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