The 2nd Day of Christmas: Tender Spinach Mushroom Gratin with Parsnip

Serves 4 as a main; 8 as a side

You can’t really go wrong when you add Parmesan and cream to any vegetable. The second day of Christmas is an adaptation of the Spinach Mushroom Gratin from Nigel Slater’s Tender, Volume I. The recipe is quick, and the rewards are delicious.

Nigel Slater is a UK food writer and I love his recipes for their simplicity. The Tender books profile vegetables, categorized alphabetically. Each vegetable receives its own profile complete with notes on varieties, tips for growing, and suggestions for fail-safe flavour pairings. Following are a series of recipes that truly let the veggies be the star of the dishes. I particularly like this style because the recipes serve more as loose guidelines, which are great for adapting with whatever ingredients you have on hand. In this case, we had a couple of stray parsnips that needed to be used, and they found their way into this dish at the last minute –the result was excellent. I also added some thyme, nutmeg and finished this off with panko crumbs for a bit of crunch on top. 

The gratin is great for a weeknight dinner when you are craving comfort food, but something that is healthy too. Loaded with vegetables and served with a grain, as Mr. Slater suggests (we used brown rice), this recipe fits the bill. Some might argue there is a significant amount of cream and Parmesan in this dish, but at our house those are staples – and a little goes a long way here. Enjoy this dish on its own as a meal, or serve as an impressive side at a dinner party.


  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 1 lb)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp oil plus a little extra for topping
  • 1 lb mixed wild mushrooms, or creminis, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 2 medium parsnips, chopped in ½ inch chunks
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried
  • A “small glass” of white wine*
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups grated, fresh Parmesan (1/2 cup set aside)
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • salt & pepper to taste

*I used ~ 1/3 cup dry vermouth, as it is what I had on hand.


Preheat oven to 350° F

Thoroughly wash spinach. Leave a little excess water on the leaves and place in a pan on medium heat. Covering with a tight fitting lid and cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 2 minutes. Drain excess liquid and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter and olive oil in a deep-dish pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in parsnips, thyme and garlic and allow to cook for another minute.

Pour in wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Drizzle in cream and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Squeeze excess water out of cooled spinach and place in a large bowl. Pour in the mushroom, parsnip, cream mixture. Add 1 cup of the cheese, nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour entire mixture into a shallow baking dish. In a separate small bowl, combine panko and remaining ½ cup of cheese. Drizzle in a little extra olive oil and sprinkle this mixture over the entire dish. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly golden.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy.