You know how it is when a particular dish is on your list. You know the list. For me, the list is a constantly growing mental catalog of food ideas I see in cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc. Once something is on that list, I seem to be reminded of it at every turn. But, if the dish is a little bit complicated or requires specific, seasonal ingredients, I put it off until the time is right. One such dish was the Fluffy Spinach Bites with Fonduta Sauce from Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard. It’s a stunning dish. A spinach souffle is baked in a square pan, and then perfect cubes of it are cut for serving. Those cubes of souffle are served with a parmesan fonduta. It’s lovely, but it involves cooking spinach, steaming parsnips, pureeing those with cream and eggs, some gelatin is used to help it set, the souffle is chilled after cooking so those nice cubes can be cut, and then the cubes are re-heated and the cream sauce is made. I did not make this beautiful thing that had been on my list for a few years. Instead, I saw something very similar but simpler in The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson, and I chose the easier option. That version was a mousse of pureed, cooked greens, eggs, and cream cooked in individual ramekins, and each serving was plated with a pool of parmesan cream sauce. When I saw how similar this was to the dish on my list and how much more streamlined making this one would be, it had to happen.
In the book, this is called Spinach Mousse, but I had some gorgeous, fresh collard greens from my CSA and used them instead of spinach. Any greens would work here. You just blanch the chopped greens, drain them, and then squeeze them in a kitchen towel to remove as much water as you can. The squeezed, cooked greens were then placed in a blender with eggs, cream, salt and pepper, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, and the mixture was pureed. Ramekins were buttered and lined with rounds of parchment paper and then filled with the puree. Each ramekin was covered with foil, placed in a roasting pan, and then hot water was added to the pan before baking. You’ll need to check the texture of the mousse after about 20 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the ramekins used. For me, it took about 30 minutes for the mousse to become set and firm. Making the parmesan cream is a simple matter of heating cream, adding shredded parmesan, stirring until it melts and then simmering until the sauce is as thick as you’d like it to be. And, of course, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. I felt like the plate needed one more color, so I sauteed some mushrooms to scatter on top of the parmesan cream sauce.
This version was so easy, and the mousse held its shape so well, I’m now going to have to try baking the mousse in a square pan and cutting it into cubes. More importantly, I would definitely try this again because it was a fabulous way to eat your greens. It’s a little rich, but it’s also nice to see such humble greens turned into a decadent, silky mousse gilded with that luscious parmesan cream. Now, I need to get to all those other dishes on my list.