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Making spinach gratin for a crowd-fresh or frozen?

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I will be making a large spinach gratin for around 25 people. The recipe calls for frozen spinach, but I know I can substitute fresh as well. My question is, which will taste better? Or will they pretty much taste the same?
I always assume fresh=better than processed foods, but I know in some cases, this is not always true. Is there a noticeable difference between the two, or can I get away with frozen? This is going to be feeding a group of gastronomy students, so I don't want to offend them, but I also don't want to have to buy 10 pounds of spinach to cook either!
If I do use fresh, do I have to boil the spinach, or can I saute it instead? If I saute it, should I still try to wring the water out?
So many questions, I know, but I really want to make this a kick ass dish. Thanks for your help!

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  1. For cooking, I have used both, and really don't think there is that much of a difference...If you have a Whole Foods, buy their organic frozen spinach...seriously taste exactly the same as if you had used fresh...And yes, you ALWAYS have to wring the water out, whether fresh or frozen ( a pain), and you could saute the fresh....

    1 Reply
    1. re: jinet12

      Although I like the *idea* of the WF organic spinach, I've had terrible luck with it-- often lots of woody bits and brown non-leavy extraneous stuff. I'm sure not all bags of it suffer from that problem, but, as I say, it's just been bad luck, and after 3 out of 4 had that problem, I gave up.

      I'm loving the TJ's whole leaf frozen spinach lately, though-- great quick way to get ohitashi into the lunchbox without having to clean and cook spinach! not as great as a nice fresh one, perhaps, but for the sake of getting some greenery into a weekday lunch, I'm willing to settle :) (And some of us live in parts of the country where local farm fresh spinach is available for, oh, about 2 weeks out of the year!)

    2. I don't notice a lot of difference in bagged grocery store spinach (which has travelled coast to coast) and frozen, but when I get local fresh spinach from the farm, there is NO comparison. It tastes so light and fluffy, like you added egg whites to the recipe. I just get a big stock pot and steam it a bit over a screen, it's not much work at all. Well except for the cleaning, you have to keep dunking it in water to get the grit out,don't skip that step!!

      1. Go with the frozen. Similar in quality, easier to prepare, and a fraction of the price.

        1. I almost alway use fresh spinach, but I am cooking for only two. For 25 I would recommend frozen just because spinach cooks down soo much and you would have to buy a ton of fresh to feed that many. Fresh tastes slightly better, but if it were me in your position I think practicality would win out.

          1. I love the frozen from Trader Joe's If you find the need, add fresh to the frozen. I used to make a creamed spinach with a package of Knorr Hollandaise, OMG the bomb! Calls for a cube of butter. Now I saute frozen all the time using EVOO and garlic. YUMMO!

            1. Frozen! You will have to cook an unbelievable amount of fresh to make enough for 25 people. I think spinach is one vegetable that really freezes well. As others have suggested, I would try to get a decent brand. Maybe you can even do a frozen spinach taste-test ahead of time and see which brand you like the best--depending on how much time and effort you want to put in!

              1. I don't know how you re going to decide with all these conflicting opinions!:)

                I would say that as long you buy a good quality frozen spinach (some brands seem to ahve more "woody" bits, I like organic) there isn't a difference in a gratin dish. The amount of work required to cook down THAT much spinach seems unwarranted. The spinach is only a pretext for all the creamy goodness in this case, isn't it?

                1. Use frozen; trying to saute enough spinach for 25 people is going to take forever and be an enormous pain unless you are cooking in a professional kitchen. And, as others have said, the spinach is really a carrier for other ingredients. If you were serving plain sauted spinach with just a squeeze of lemon or something, I would go with fresh, but for an gratin? No one is going to notice.