I started fixin’ for some creamed spinach when I was pregnant — yes, they aren’t kidding about those iron cravings — but I never got to making it this summer. Because I didn’t have… time. Now, just pause for a second while I reach through this computer to throttle my summer self for thinking she knew what not having time was all about.
Then I had a baby and I was still craving creamed spinach but, you know, then I had a baby and really didn’t have time. And a week passed and then a month and a second month after that and on the very first day of his third month of life I was still drooling over an imaginary bowl of creamed spinach and decided enough was enough.
Do you know what this means? I am officially a baby-wearer, and not just a baby-wearer, but a baby-wearing home cook: one who straps her baby into a Bjorn to free her hands to trim the stems off the spinach, swish it in cold water, cook it down, squeeze out handfuls, and chop onions, quickly realizes that chopping an onion was a terrible idea, puts the baby down, hastily resumes chopping the onion while the baby fusses and loudly demands an explanation for his abandonment, puts the baby back in the Bjorn, cooks the onion in butter, makes a roux, makes a bechamel, stirs in the spinach and seasons it and finally — no, did you hear me? F-I-N-A-L-L-Y — has before me a bowl of creamed spinach.
And if you’ve been depriving yourself of creamed spinach because you fear butter or cream or because you think only steakhouses make it well or have a wee tot taking up all of your spinach-creaming moments, I hope you hear me out when I say that none of us have an excuse to any longer. It can be done! And it is totally worth it.
Oh, and I know that creamed spinach is supposed to be a side dish, I mean, I’ve heard that before, but I couldn’t resist doing one last thing to it. “Deb, you poached an egg while carrying a baby? Now you’re just showing off!” I swear, that’s not the case. I’ve just been craving runny eggs (and runny cheese, and a running fountain of bourbon while we’re at it) almost as long as I had been craving creamed spinach, and yesterday was the day I didn’t have to wait any longer. Er, for the runny eggs and creamed spinach.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to wash some dried yolk out of my son’s hair. (P.S. Still totally worth it.)
2 pounds baby spinach or 2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, tough stems discarded
1 3/4 cups heavy cream or whole milk, or a mix thereof
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Wash your spinach well but no need to spin or pat it dry. Place spinach in a large pot over high heat. Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach.
Press or squeeze out the excess liquid any number of ways, either by wringing it out in cheesecloth (my favorite method), putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing the moisture out with a spatula or large spoon or letting it cool long enough to grab small handfuls and squeezing them to remove as much water as possible. Coarsely chop the wrung-out spinach.
Wipe out large pot so you can use it again.
Heat milk or cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Keep warm. Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic, if using, in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes. Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes. Stir in nutmeg, spinach, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.
Do ahead: Creamed spinach can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered then reheated over moderately low heat until hot. However, it really tastes best eaten immediately.