Creamed Spinach

I hope you had a lovely weekend with family and friends- no matter what or how you celebrate. In Denmark, the 2nd Christmas day (26th Dec :o) ) is winding down and I'm thinking about all of the delicious food that was made and enjoyed over the last 5 days. 

The cooking for all of the various meals- ceremonial and not- was a group effort and most days we ended up with 4-7 different dishes to try. There was a bounty of tasty, nourishing, and, importantly, delicious food. 

This recipe for a basic creamed spinach was a hit at the main Christmas meal and again on the 1st Christmas day lunch. It's one of those dishes that surprises people- it still surprises me. When I think of 'creamed spinach' I have memories of overcooked, sad spinach swimming in a not very tasty cream sauce. The ratio of my memory is nearly 50% spinach, 50% cream. 

In this version of the recipe, I barely cook the spinach at first and I rely on vegetable stock with just a touch of cream and cheese. The result is a dish that is creamy and comforting but also tastes decidedly like spinach and lacks the heaviness of most gratins. It is also a quick and forgiving recipe. This spinach can work as a side dish or even a main dish with a piece of toast or maybe some beans.  

Serves 2-5, Prep time 10-15 min, Cook time 30min

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg fresh spinach
  • 45g butter
  • 10g flour
  • 200mL vegetable stock- try homemade (recipe coming)
  • 30mL cream
  • 65g grated hard cheese- almost any will work
  • Salt 

Preheat oven to 175 C

Wash the spinach- with this much it's much more efficient to simply add spinach to your clean sink, fill with cold water and swish around. Dirt and debris will naturally sink. With the sink still full of water, gradually add handfuls of spinach to a very large cooking vessel. (I needed to cook in batches). The idea is to slightly cook the spinach at first so before you begin, prep a bowl/sink/vessel  by filling it with cold water to shock the spinach (stop cooking).

Cooking part 1: Cook the spinach, covered, over high heat. The water that remains on the leaves from washing provides enough liquid to steam/blanch the spinach. Stir a few times to ensure the leaves on the top also get cooked. After 2 (baby spinach) to 4 (adult (?) spinach) minutes, drain the spinach in a colander and submerge in the cold water bath. Repeat this step until all spinach is cooked. 

Chop the spinach. In small batches, remove the spinach from the water bath, squeezing out as much of the water as possible. Roughly chop the spinach into more bite-sized pieces. 

Cooking part 2: Heat your cooking vessels over moderately high heat. Add the butter. When the butter is melted, add all of the chopped spinach and about 2 teaspoons of salt. Cooking, stirring, until most of the water is gone. The spinach will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. When this happens, add the flour and stir until no longer visible. Add a bit of vegetable stock at a time, stirring and cooking- scraping up any stuck spinach or browned bits. Add the cream and stir. At this point the spinach should be 'wet' but there shouldn't be liquid standing in the pan. If there is, cook a bit longer. Remove from heat.

Taste! A very important step for any baked or gratin type dish. Now is your chance to change how the final product will taste. Add more salt and a bit of pepper if you like. 

Cook part 3: Stir in half of the cheese to the spinach, transfer to baking dish (a small gratin dish should work) and cover with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes- increasing the heat for the last 5 minutes so the cheese is sufficiently brown!

 

Notes:

This dish can be made vegan by using another oil for cooking and relying on only vegetable stock for the liquid. It will be delicious.

Spinach can be blanched and chopped in advance, dish can set assembled but not cooked for about 30-60 minutes

I suspect frozen spinach could be used but you'll miss out on some of the prana of fresh vegetables. 

The kind of cheese will affect the flavor so try your cheese before hand.