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Making spinach gratin for a crowd-fresh or frozen?

foodrocks May 20, 2007 06:46 AM

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. jinet12 RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 06:54 AM

    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
      another_adam RE: jinet12 May 20, 2007 03:48 PM

      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. coll RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 06:54 AM

      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. TonyO RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 06:57 AM

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

        1. ArikaDawn RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 06:58 AM

          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. Kitchen Queen RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 10:38 AM

            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. sarahvagaca RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 11:05 AM

              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. alex8alot RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 12:39 PM

                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. lulubelle RE: foodrocks May 20, 2007 12:47 PM

                  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.

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