When did the art of creaming vegetables become en vogue? And when did it fall out of favor in the first place, with poor creamed corn holding up the fort, all the while labeled as low-brow and trailer park? It’s rather silly given that if ever there was a way to get people to give vegetables a chance, it’s to slather them in cream.
The first time I ever tried creamed spinach, I wasn’t really a true spinach convert. Boston Market (then Boston Chicken) had opened down the street from us and the family decided to give it a try. The guy working the counter (aka the “Side Dish Pimp”) tried to sell us on the glories of their creamed spinach, touting it as a game changer. We took the bait and I took my first bite of the stuff, more dairy than veg and not at all what I had imagined it to be. Years later, I realize that what I had had wasn’t revolutionary, but it did deserve credit for resoundingly convincing me that spinach is on my team 100%. *in my best Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet voice* “You win, spinach. You always do!”
Some versions of creamed spinach have you make a bechamel, leveraging the butter and flour to thicken milk. Others simply use heavy cream to lightly dress the spinach. I go for a combination of the two, and add the smallest bit of pecorino romano to round out the nutty flavor of the nutmeg. Shallots and garlic bring it all home, helping to make this a dish to remember. It’s a winner – one that will win over the hearts of anyone who thinks they don’t like spinach. I’m talkin’ to you, spinach haters!
2 lbs. of baby spinach
2 tbs. of butter
3 large shallots, minced
2 cl. of garlic, minced
2 tbs. of flour
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. of cream
1/4 c. of whole milk
2 tbs. of pecorino romano, grated
Begin by placing half of the baby spinach in a large, microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 6 minutes. Remove, stir to allow all of the spinach to wilt evenly and then place in a colander or sieve lined with a towel (or paper towels). Repeat with the rest of the spinach. Squeeze all of the liquid out of the spinach and then chop roughly.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Next, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the shallots and garlic and stir to form a chunky paste. Add the spinach, salt, black pepper, white pepper and nutmeg and stir. Slowly trickle in the cream and milk in dribs and drabs, stirring the whole time to ensure a smooth sauce. Allow the cream to reduce a bit and thicken, and then stir in the cheese. Serve piping hot to spinach skeptics and lovers alike.