1 pound fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2-1/2 ounces bacon (usually three strips), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other good quality grana cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
freshly ground pepper
Serves 4 to 6
Heat the oven to 400° F.
Melt the butter in a small bowl. Toss the panko in the butter with a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
Combine the garlic and cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and reduce the cream to 3/4 cup. Remove from the heat and discard the garlic (for a stronger garlic flavor, pour the cream through a medium strainer, pushing firmly on the garlic clove to smash it). Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, the nutmeg and a little pepper. Allow the cream to cool (stir it occasionally so that a skin doesn’t form).
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Put the bacon in the pan and fry until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off most of the fat (leave a heavy coat on the bottom of the pan).
Add the spinach a big handful at a time. The spinach will wilt quickly, allowing you to add more. When you have all the spinach in the pan, sprinkle with salt, cover it, reduce the heat to low and cook for two minutes, or until all the spinach is wilted. Pour the contents of the pan into a colander or strainer to drain. Squeeze the spinach to remove excess water.
Spread the spinach evenly in a 4-cup gratin dish (or casserole or pie plate). Sprinkle the bacon over, then the cheese. Pour the cream in, making sure to distribute it evenly. Top with the panko.
Bake until the edges bubble and the panko is browned, about 25 minutes. Allow it to cool for ten minutes before serving.