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Two 10-ounce packages of chopped frozen spinach, or a bit more than two pounds of fresh spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 pounds of cremini or button mushroom caps, sliced (use the stalks for stock of duxelles*)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup whole milk (or non-dairy milk if you like)
6 thick slices of challah or brioche, torn or chopped into large pieces
Defrost your spinach and then wring as much water as possible out with your hands. If starting from fresh spinach you can blanch in salted water, or wilt in the microwave in a covered dish (this retains nutrients a bit better), then cool and squeeze out any excess water.
Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium high heat in large skillet and add the spinach in an even layer. Meanwhile to another pan add the mushroom slices, onion, Blue Grass, nutmeg, and about a cup of water‡, heat on high.
Cook the spinach, stirring often, until it's given up most of its moisture and is dark, adding a bit more olive oil if anything starts to stick. For the mushrooms continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the tablespoon of butter and reduce the heat to medium, stirring often.
The spinach if done when it's crisp in places and has colored the olive oil green. The mushrooms should be browned in spots and still have a bit of moisture to them.
Set the mushrooms and spinach aside, and preheat your oven to 350°F.
Butter a loaf pan or a 9 x 9" baking dish. Mix the spinach, mushrooms, and bread pieces together and add them.
Thoroughly mix the milk and eggs (a blender works great), and pour this mixture into the pan, poking it in places so it settles evenly.
Bake until set (about 40-50 minutes). Allow to rest for about 10 minutes, and serve hot. Fantastic with sauce Hollandaise.
* to make simple duxelles finely chop the mushroom stems. Sauté a finely chopped shallot in 2 tablespoons of butter until golden, then add 1 teaspoon of Bernise (or just black pepper if you want a simpler flavor), the mushrooms, and a bit of water. Allow the mushrooms to give up their liquid, then cook then until everything is fairly dry. When cool this can be rolled into a log and wrapped in parchment paper and aluminum foil and then frozen. I like cutting slices off and using them to top steaks, vegetables, for adding to gravies, etc.
‡ I'm not sure why, but adding some water at the beginning when sautéing spongy mushrooms makes it go more quickly and yields a better texture. I first noticed this when I was lazy about cleaning a big batch and just soaked them in a sink to clean them.
• If you'd like a bit more savoriness, and perhaps want to eat your feelings a bit, try adding 4 ounces of shredded Gruyere cheese before baking. I recommend adding just a bit of Espelette pepper as well to add brightness. It's also a decent sub for the mushrooms if you don't/can't eat them.
• I'm working on a variant using sourdough starter (sort of a giant popover). Almost have the proportions down and will keep you updated. Watch this space.
Recipe and photo © Christian Leue
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