Spinach With Béchamel and Eggs
Serves 2 to 3.
Note: Claudine Pépin, daughter of legendary chef Jacques Pépin, tells the charming story behind this dish: She was 11, participating in a photo shoot with her dad for House Beautiful magazine. He asked her to prep the vegetable for creamed spinach, and she tossed it straight into a pot of béchamel, the classic white sauce. That was not his intention, but they liked the results. Claudine has made it this way ever since. Here, riffing on her grandmother’s technique of putting together simple gratins, she has provided an easy way to turn the side dish into a nice luncheon or a light main course for dinner. You can simplify the recipe by buying hard-cooked eggs. Serve with crusty bread for scooping. Adapted from “Kids Cook French (Les Enfants Cuisinent a la Française,” by Claudine Pépin.
• 2 or 3 eggs
• 12 oz. prewashed spinach (do not use baby spinach)
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 3 tbsp. flour
• 1 1/4 c. regular or low-fat milk
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or more as needed
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
• Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
Place the eggs (1 per serving) in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat, cover the saucepan and let it sit for 15 to 17 minutes.
Meanwhile, stem the spinach. Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiling element; preheat the broiler.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour; cook for about 2 minutes, then gradually add the milk, whisking constantly, to form a slightly thickened béchamel sauce. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, stirring to incorporate.
Add the spinach to the pot; cover and cook undisturbed for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir to coat the leaves. Once the spinach has wilted a bit, uncover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring a few times and reducing the heat as needed, until the sauce becomes thick enough to hold its shape on a plate. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat.
Drain and peel the eggs; cut them lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Arrange them in 1 medium-size gratin dish or 2 or 3 individual gratin dishes. Spread the spinach-bechamel mixture evenly over the eggs, making sure they are completely covered, then sprinkle lightly with the cheese.
Transfer to the broiler; cook just long enough to brown the surface in spots. Watch closely, as this can take only a minute or so. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per ⅓ serving:
Calories 280 Fat 18 g Sodium 567 mg
Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 9 g Calcium 312 mg
Protein 15 g Cholesterol 220 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ milk, 1 vegetable, ½ bread/starch, 1 medium-fat meat, 2½ fat.