When I make creamed spinach, I am transported back to a few special dinners at the quaint House of Prime Rib, a San Francisco institution that has served the same menu since 1949. Dinner started with a simple lettuce salad with julienned beets made at the table served along with a warm crusty loaf of sourdough bread and a generous ramekin of butter.
When it was time for the entrée to be served, a waiter rolled a large silver trolley containing the meat and side dishes up to the table and sliced the prime rib to order, and served it with a helping of creamed spinach (or corn) and a hearty piece of Yorkshire pudding. Baked potatoes with all the trimmings were also an option. Quite a feast!
The dish that always stood out for me was the creamed spinach which included crunchy bits of bacon. Creamed spinach became a classic side dish for holiday dinners at our house. If there was any of the dish left over, we reheated it and topped it with a poached egg for breakfast the next morning or used it as a filling for crepes.
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled*
2 bunches fresh savoy spinach, washed and stemmed
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 cup half-and-half (or cream)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach to the water and blanch leaves for 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat and pour spinach into a strainer, discarding the water. Run cold water over spinach (or plunge strainer into an ice bath) to cool spinach quickly. Drain. Place spinach in a bowl, stir in the lemon juice, and set aside.
In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and cook briefly for a few seconds, then whisk in the flour and cook, while stirring, for one minute. Slowly whisk in the half and half (or cream) and stir until mixture is smooth and mixture thickens slightly. Whisk in salt, nutmeg, and white pepper — taste and adjust seasonings.
Stir in crumbled bacon and add the cooked spinach, along with any juices in the bowl. Serve hot.
*Crumbled bacon is optional, but adds a nice flavor.
YIELD: Serves 4