Creamed Spinach first came into my life in one of those old steak houses, in the Los Angeles of old, with dark lighting and oak bars, that served cocktails with names no one orders anymore, as well as huge portions!
This is actually a simple dish, once you master the béchamel sauce, which to me, feels rather luxurious; and is a perfect accompaniment to a special meal, like Thanksgiving.
1-2 pounds of Spinach, depending on how many people you will be serving – the rest of the ingredients will be represented for 1 pound of Spinach, thus double or triple, as needed
1 very small Onion – as finally diced as you can
1 – 2 cloves of Garlic – crushed
2-3 tablespoons of Butter
½ teaspoon of Nutmeg – the fresher the better – grind your own if you can
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sauté the onions, in about half of the butter, until translucent, add garlic, and stirring constantly, to ensure it does not burn, for at least another two to three minutes. Using a rubber spatula, to scrape the skillet, put the onions and garlic in a small glass dish, and reserve.
Add the rest of the butter, and spinach, cook until tender and then add the onions and garlic, mix well, sprinkle with nutmeg, salt and pepper; set aside.
Begin to make the béchamel sauce (recipe below) then combine spinach and sauce in a dish which can go into the oven or microwave, to be heated, if needed. Otherwise, serve immediately to sheer delight!
White Sauce or Béchamel
Do not be afraid of this sauce. It is cooked with a roux, which may take practice to make, but it is well worth mastering. Béchamel is added to lasagna, as well as various other dishes like creamed cauliflower, it is also a base for other sauces. The traditional sauce calls for an onion studded with cloves added to the milk, as it cooks, but I prefer to omit the onion and clove flavors, unless I am making this sauce for a specific dish, which will be enhanced by those flavors, I do not add it for Lasagna.
Flour 2 tablespoons
Butter 3 tablespoons
Milk 2 cups – 1 can of evaporated milk (12 ounces) plus ½ cup whole or 2% milk
Pepper – 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg – 1 teaspoon
In a heavy sauce pan, melt butter, when it comes to a bubbly stage add the flour and stir rapidly. Over low heat, cook flour and butter, stirring into a paste, this should only take a couple of minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, and whisk vigorously to incorporate into a smooth sauce. Let it cook for about ten minutes, and correct seasonings. This is a thick creamy sauce, like the consistency of melted cheese. You must stand at the stove, constantly, when making this sauce. The butter will help prevent the milk from bubbling over, but you cannot leave it unattended – just keep whisking or stirring.
Prepare the béchamel sauce, as directed above, to the point the sauce begins to thicken. Add ¼ cup of Gruyere or Swiss or Parmesan cheese, and continue stirring, incorporating the cheese. Server over steamed vegetables, or add fresh shell fish and serve over rice or pasta. You could also add a teaspoon of dry mustard.