Creamed Spinach with Crispy Shallots

Creamed spinach was one of those special occasion side dishes my mom served us as kids. Although she usually worked with frozen spinach[, which is fine, it's even better using fresh spinach. The richest and most luxurious way to make this recipe is with - surprise! - heavy cream. But because I like a lot of creamed spinach, and I don't like a lot of heavy cream, I prefer to make it using a bechamel sauce, which is milk thickened with a butter/flour mixture. I have prescribed whole milk for my bechamel, but you could get away with 2 percent or even 1 percent milk. The crispy shallots provide a great contrasting garnish to the creamed spinach, but if you don't have the time or inclination to add them, the spinach is great all by itself.]

Total Time:
25 min
Prep:
5 min
Cook:
20 min

Yield:
4 to 6 servings
Level:
Easy

Ingredients
  • Shallots:
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Spinach:
  • 3 (1-pound) bunches fresh spinach, large stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk, heated
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions

To prepare the shallots: Fill a deep saucepan with about 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fat thermometer reads 360 degrees. (Alternatively, use an electric deep-fat fryer). Toss the shallots with the flour in a large bowl, to coat. Transfer to a strainer and shake to remove the excess flour. Add the shallots to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Wash the spinach in several changes of cold water. Drain in a colander and pile into a large non-reactive pot. Place the pot over medium heat and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. (The spinach will steam and cook in the water clinging to its leaves.) Drain and rinse under cold running water. Use your hands to squeeze out the water. Transfer to a work surface and coarsely chop. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook until thick and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir in the spinach just before serving and warm through under low heat, about 3 minutes.

Serve the spinach hot, garnished with the fried shallots.

Note: When I was making creamed spinach on the show, a fellow named John from Brooklyn called in to tell me his favorite way to squeeze water out of blanched spinach: in a potato ricer! I tried it, and he is right.


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    Recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine