Classic Creamed Spinach

I can't resist a pat-on-my-back moment here--I rock at making creamed spinach. And I'm sharing this recipe with you because I want you to feel the same kind of confidence. Hidden in this seemingly straightforward recipe are lots of skills and foundational techniques, such as making a roux and a bechamel and sauteing onions. When you master this, you can say you're awesome at cooking--and you're definitely ready to graduate to the next chapter ("The Scary Stuff"!). Plus, this steakhouse classic is a great way to get everyone chowing down on iron-rich spinach.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 35 min
  • Active: 25 min
  • Yield: Makes 8 cups, to serve 8 to 10
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Ingredients

Kosher salt

2 pounds baby spinach  

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter  

1/2 cup all-purpose flour  

2 1/2 cups milk  

1 cup heavy cream  

Freshly ground black pepper  

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil  

1 cup Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice  

3 cloves garlic, minced 

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg  

Directions

  1. Blanch the spinach. Bring 1 gallon water to a boil in a large pot. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Place the spinach in the boiling water. After 45 seconds (exactly), remove the spinach leaves with a slotted spoon, spider or tongs and drain in a colander. Let cool completely.
  2. Use your hands to press the spinach against the sides of the colander. When most of the liquid has been released, squeeze handfuls of the spinach to make sure all of the excess water has been removed. Set aside.  
  3. In a wide, high-sided saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the melted butter to create a roux that will look like wet sand. Cook the roux for 3 minutes, stirring continuously to make sure it doesn't burn and it becomes a "blond" color. Add the milk to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure that the roux completely dissolves into the milk without lumping. 
  4. Turn down the heat to maintain a low simmer. You're making a bechamel sauce, which is the base for the creamed spinach. Next, whisk in the cream and return the mixture to a simmer. Cook the bechamel until thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Season the sauce with the salt, pepper and cayenne.  
  5. Preheat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and let heat for about 1 minute. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften and become translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute or two.  
  6. Add the cooked onion and garlic along with the drained spinach to the bechamel, folding to make sure it's completely coated with sauce. Season with the nutmeg. Cook for 2 minutes, then taste the spinach. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and the nutmeg, and/or more cayenne if desired. 

Cook’s Note

Prep: Thoroughly wash the spinach. Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Use whole nutmeg freshly grated with a Microplane when possible. Like many whole spices, nutmeg dies a pretty quick death when ground before it's needed. It's important to cook your roux, or you'll end up with a raw-flour taste in your spinach. This bechamel sauce is a classic French mother sauce, the basis for many sauces and dishes, including mac and cheese and fondue. The darker the roux, the more nutty and intense the flavor it will give a sauce. Here the roux doesn't need to be cooked further than a light, or blond, color. Serve with grilled steak, chicken or just about any grilled or roasted meat.

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