Sunday, May 22, 2011

Individual Spinach and Basil Gratins

The one thing I will never understand about entertaining is having to cook while talking to people. I can't do it. I have terribly vivid nightmares (real, honest to God memories, actually) asking people to please leave me be in the kitchen for 5 minutes so I can 'get it together.' Martha Stewart I am not.

But recipes like this make me look like I have it together...simply because I make them ahead of time, refrigerate them (even a day before!) then just pop them in the oven when company arrives. This I can emanage while talking and enjoying a cocktail...

Spinach and Basil Gratin
* Serves 2 (recipe is easily doubled, if need be.)
* Corn makes an amazing addition to this if desired. Just stir in 1/2 a cup of thawed frozen corn or fresh corn cut off the cob before you stir in the cheese.

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 golf ball sized shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise then cut along the diagonal into 1/8 inch thick slices)
pinch salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced (or can sub a few shakes dried garlic powder)
hefty grating of fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup brandy
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, leaves removed
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus extra for topping
1/2 cup corn, optional
pinch red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon, if you like things on the salty side)
2 tablespoons seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350, if making right away.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots along with a pinch of salt and pepper and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes more. Add the nutmeg and stir in, then add the brandy. Bring the mixture up to a boil over high heat and boil until the brandy has evaporated. Lower the heat to medium low and stir in the spinach leaves. Put the top on and cover for 1 minute so that the spinach wilts. Once wilted, stir in the basil and thyme, half and half, parmesan, corn if adding, red pepper flakes, and additional salt. Reduce heat to low and stir until cheese has melted and all is well blended. Set aside.

Meanwhile, grease 2 4"x4" ramekins with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the spinach/basil gratin between them, then put the bread crumbs over the top along with the desired amount of additional parmesan. At this point you can either let them cool for 30 minutes before covering and refrigerating overnight or bake off right away.

To bake, put in a 350 oven for 20/25 minutes until bubbling. Kick heat up to broil and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until cheese/breadcrumb topping begins to turn golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.


The Glamorous Gourmet said...

OMG I totally know what you mean! It's too much pressure with people staring at you while you're cooking - lol! Add a few cocktails to the mix and it's a recipe for a kitchen fire! This recipe looks delicious and can't wait to try it - I love recipes you can make ahead. Thanks for sharing!

Jenn said...

I'm actually yelled at people to get out of my kitchen before. I was much younger...more out of the control in those days :)
The gratin sounds wonderful!! I do love me some basil!!!