Bright Green Spinach Gratin with Toasted Bread Crumbs
4 (16-ounce packages) baby spinach
3 cups milk
1 cup blanched, drained spinach
5 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots, minced
1 tablespoon garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a lint-free towel.
Working in batches, blanch the spinach for 30-45 seconds, remove and submerge the spinach in the ice water until cold. Remove from the ice water, squeezing out as much water as possible before transferring to the prepared baking sheet. Once all of the spinach has been blanched, use a clean, lint-free towel to wring out as much water as possible from the spinach. You will need to work in batches to do this.
Make the béchamel: Puree the 3 cups of milk with ¾ - 1 cup of the blanched spinach leaves until smooth. Set aside. Melt the butter in a sauce-pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft but not browned. Add the flour and stir, cooking for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Stir in the blanched spinach and mix until everything is evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to an oven-safe dish.
Make the topping:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature and stir in the parmesan cheese. `Cover the spinach gratin with the toasted panko mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and warmed through. If the topping starts to brown too much you can loosely cover it with aluminum foil.