This is one of my first, self-impressed French dishes I have ever made. I learned it from ma belle-mère—yep, my mother-in-law— that's how we address our mother-in-laws in France. It can be so ironic for many, but I got lucky; I truly do have a belle-mère.
The kids call her "Mamie Jacotte", an affectionate term rather than the literal translation, "grand-mère"; Jacotte is shortened from Jacqueline. She's not only a fantastic belle-mère and grand-mère, but a wonderful cook. I have picked up many of her tips and recipes in cooking and this is just one of many.
Ma belle-mère makes simple and intricate dishes. I usually opt for the former recipes.
Tarte aux Épinards
• 1 puff pastry
• 500 grams spinach, frozen or 700 grams of spinach, fresh
• 1 clove garlic, minced and sauté
• 4 eggs
• 4 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
• 100 grams of emmental cheese
• a pinch of nutmeg
• Salt and pepper according to taste
Take your tart or quiche pan (around 10 inches in diameter, 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep or 25 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep) and roll out the puff pastry and place it into the pan. Press the pastry into the sides of the pan.
Use a fork to poke some holes into the bottom of the puff pastry to release any trapped air and to keep it from puffing up when baking.
Once your oven is pre-heated at 190° C (375°F), place it in the oven to bake for around 10 minutes or until the puff pastry changes color to a golden brown. This step is called blind baking; It partially cooks the pastry dough to prevent a soggy crust. Check often during the duration of this time so that if you catch your pastry puffing up, just slide it out of the oven, take a fork to poke more holes and press the pastry back down into place, and place back into the oven. Some people use ceramic beans or dried beans to keep the pastry from puffing up.
Take it out of the oven and place the spinach filling inside.
If you are using frozen spinach, cook it down on low heat until it thaws. Drain out the excess liquid. If you are using fresh spinach, begin with the the next step.
Sauté your garlic in a pan with a half tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
Then add your spinach and toss it around with the garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes and add some salt. With fresh spinach, sauté and then cover the pan with a lid to let cook for 5-10 minutes or until wilted. It should be a nice, saturated green. With a pair of tongs, take out the cooked spinach and place it in a bowl and leave it aside to cool down. Push down with the pair of tongs or a fork to get rid of excess liquid.
In a medium size mixing bowl, beat in 4 whole eggs.
Add your heaping dallops of crème fraîche and mix.
Stir in the emmental cheese.
Then a pinch of nutmeg, some salt and pepper according to taste.
Mix the spinach in with the egg, crème fraîche, cheese batter. Stir until the spinach is evenly mixed in.
Pour this mixture into your blind baked puff pastry and place it in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 190° C (375° F).
I have used both fresh and frozen spinach for this recipe. It just depends on what I have in my fridge. In France, I buy the frozen spinanch with their stems (épinards en branche). If I use fresh spinach I trim the thicker part of the stems and keep an inch or two below the leaf. You can also use 125 grams of yogurt to replace the crème fraîche.