Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Potato, Spinach & Cheddar Cheese Gratin

I mentioned in a previous post that for the entire month of October I will be posting my Vegan Thanksgiving Series which will include:  appetizers, soups, salads, main entrees, side dishes and desserts.  Actually, my posts will probably extend into November as well because I will be out of town the week of October 10th and the week of October 24th.  Anyway, my goal is to post about 25-30 recipes during this time.  

One of the recipes that I'm planning to share with you during my Thanksgiving Series is a Sweet Potato Gratin with Candied Maple Pecans.  So the other night I decided to make a Potato, Spinach & Cheddar Cheese Gratin because I wanted to experiment with the recipe for the sauce.  Actually, this sauce is really versatile and can be used for a number of different applications by just changing up a couple of the ingredients.  I have used a version of this sauce for making lasagna, manicotti, moussaka, mac and cheese, quiche, tarts and for basic cream sauces. 

The gratin came out really wonderful.  The flavors and textures were really great.  You can also add roasted wild mushrooms to this recipe for a more complete entree, or serve this as a side dish with your favorite protein or roasted vegetables for a complete meal.  This would also be a great dish to serve with your Thanksgiving dinner.

It helps if you have a high-speed blender so you don't have to strain the cashew cream and the texture of the sauce holds up better under high heat.  If not, no worries, just leave your blender running on high for about four minutes and then strain it before adding the other ingredients.

Cashew Cheddar Sauce:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in filtered water, drained
1 head of garlic, roasted until soft
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on taste
1 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1 1/4 cup filtered water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Note:  You may have cashew cream left over depending on the size of the casserole dish you use.  Place it in a container and freeze for up to three months.  To use, thaw in the fridge and blend before using.

  • Cover cashews with filtered water and soak for up to 8 hours or overnight.  Drain cashews and place in a blender with 1 1/4 cups filtered water.  Blend on high until creamy for about 4 minutes.  Strain mixture if you do not have a high speed blender like a Vita-Mix.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the top off the garlic head, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, wrap in foil and bake until soft about 45-60 minutes.  Let garlic cool and squeeze out soft garlic cloves and set aside.
  • Heat a large saute pan on medium heat.  Add olive oil, onions, minced garlic, and fresh thyme and cook until onions are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  
  • Add cashew cream, roasted garlic, onion mixture, cayenne pepper, Daiya Cheese, filtered water and salt and pepper to taste and blend until smooth and creamy.  It should be thicker than heavy cream, more like the consistency of a loose custard.  And if too thick add a little more water.
Gratin Ingredients:

2 1/2-3 lbs medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, peeled, sliced
1 lb baby spinach, sauteed, drained
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1-1 1/2 cups Cashew cheddar cream sauce
1 bunch chopped chives
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Herb-panko crust (see recipe below)
Note:  I used a 9x9" casserole dish for the gratin which made 6 servings.  You may want to use a larger casserole dish.  If so, increase the amount of potatoes and spinach that you purchase.  You will have plenty of the cashew cheddar cream and Daiya cheese for the gratin.

  • Heat a large saute pan on medium-low, add olive oil, minced garlic and baby spinach, salt and pepper.  Saute for about 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted.  Place in a strainer over a bowl and set aside.  Before using, press out any remaining liquid with the back of a spoon.
  • Wash, peel and slice potatoes thinly (1/16-1/32") on a mandolin, set aside.
  • Place about 1/3 cup cashew cheese sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish or enough to cover the entire surface with a nice coating.
  • Layer potatoes overlapping slightly to cover the entire surface.  Repeat layering the potatoes two more times.  
  • Add another 1/3 cup of cashew cheese sauce over potatoes, making sure to cover the potatoes.  Top with half of the drained, sauteed spinach and sprinkle with Daiya cheese and chives.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • For the second layer, repeat the same as the first with layering the potatoes (3 layers), then adding cheese sauce, spinach, Daiya cheese, chives, salt and pepper.
  • For the final and top layer, just add potatoes (3 layers), cheese sauce and salt and pepper.  
  • Cover casserole dish with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour to 30-45  minutes.  Turn gratin after 30 minutes and check after 1 hour by inserting a toothpick in the center of the gratin.  If there is any resistance, then cook longer, checking every 15 minutes until done.
  • Remove gratin from oven, remove foil and top with another 1/3 cup of cheese cause and sprinkle liberally with herb-panko crust.
  • Cover with foil and let gratin rest for about 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Serve with additional warmed cashew cheese sauce.
Herb Panko:

1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tbsp minced chives
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • In a small saute pan, heat olive oil, add bread crumbs, herbs, salt and pepper and cook on low until panko is lightly golden brown.  Stir frequently and be careful not to burn.  When finished do not leave in hot pan, transfer to a bowl and then sprinkle on gratin.



  1. Found the recipe! Now to make it. Looks marvelous! :)

  2. Thanks, let me know if you like it!

  3. I made this last night and it was AMAZING. Even my omnivore sisters loved it. Awesome recipe - thanks for sharing.