We've been, more or less, on the go since Thursday morning. Thanksgiving at my Dad's house, then visiting the boy-fiance's family, hanging out in Santa Cruz for an afternoon, and then back to work. Oh, and my car decided to go kaput on me Wednesday afternoon (oil pressure light..hmph). We were pretty wiped out by Sunday night and we hardly had to cook a thing. Okay, I hardly had to cook a thing. My contribution to turkey day dinner was a casserole.
A few years ago, I was promoted from dessert duty to side-dish duty. Specifically, a casserole recipe from my step-mom's side of the family (an artichoke/spinach/cream cheese layered thing). I've been gradually trying to jazz it up a little bit and try and make it my own, and I think this year I did it.
I started out just adding some nutmeg to the spinach, but this year, I thought I might try something a little bit more drastic. One of the layers in this casserole is a combination of cream cheese and butter. I know, not rich at all. So, I thought I'd try and temper the richness a little bit by adding some lemon zest and a little bit of lemon juice to the cream cheese mixture. I was worried though. This recipe is already pretty good without me trying to mess with it. I ended up making two tiny ramekin size casseroles to test out the addition of lemon juice. I liked the end result, I thought it added a little zing, but also forgot that there was a bit of an acidic zip already from the marinated artichoke hearts. I decided to just go for it...I thought it would be subtle enough that nobody would notice.
But they did. And they liked it! I think I've sealed my fate as artichoke & spinach casserole girl. But I'm totally okay with that.
The original recipe I was given was a little vague, so this is my slightly more detailed version:
SPINACH & ARTICHOKE CASSEROLE
4 pkg frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
freshly grated nutmeg
1 cube butter, softened
2 large bricks of cream cheese, softened
zest of one lemon
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
4-5 small jars marinated artichoke hearts (drained)
1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Butter casserole dish (I use a 13x9 glass pyrex). Sautee thawed spinach in a large nonstick skillet until most of the moisture is gone, mix in some freshly grated nutmeg (maybe 1/4 tsp? I never measure). Set aside to cool a little. (I've also sauteed an onion and shallot in a little olive oil before I've added the spinach, but I don't know that it really adds that much.)
Chop up the drained artichoke hearts. I used to do this with a chef's knife but decided to use my cuisinart mini chopper this year, and I liked the result. I hate getting a big chunk of artichoke leaf in my casserole, so I liked the finer chop.
In a a medium sized bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter. Mix until combined and slightly fluffy. Stir in lemon zest and 1-2 tbsp lemon juice.
Combine crushed Ritz crackers with finely grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup? I forgot to measure how much I used this year).
Now, it's time to layer everything together:
spinach on the bottom
then cream cheese/butter/lemon mixture (can be a little hard to spread)
ritz crackers and parmesan on top
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees (or until the top starts to brown a little bit).
(Can be made the night before and baked the next day - though it might take a little longer in the oven.)
If you're using a deep casserole dish, repeat the layers, ending with the Ritz/Parmesan layer on top. This recipe can also be halved and will fit in an 8x8" square pyrex.