Creamed Greens

For some reason, Creamed Spinach is a staple side dish at steak houses throughout the land. The creamed Spinach entrenched in my taste memory is one that I ordered in a steak house in Chicago, near the Drake Hotel. It was rich and creamy with a fine pure taste of spinach coming through.

I can’t remember ever making it at home and I probably haven’t, although that’s one of the few ways I like spinach. The cream takes the edge off, for me, literally. For me, spinach raw or cooked has a characteristic that sets my teeth on edge. Other greens, dandelion, chard, turnip, beet, mustard, collard, don’t affect me that way.

In our California winter there are few green vegetables at the Farmers Market other than greens. As I was thinking about what would be good as a side dish for leftover Tuna Balls and Spaghetti, that creamed spinach from Chicago came to mind, but I had no spinach. Why not creamed Swiss Chard?

Step one, Google “creamed spinach.” Whole Foods Market was on the first page, so I took a look. Spinach and cream sauce were prepared separately and combined. Their recipe used grated Parmesan cheese as a thickener for the cream. That would work. Other recipes that I checked used flour as a thickener, basically a béchamel sauce, or with the addition of cheese, a Mornay sauce. One, from Boston Market (“That’s my home.”) surprisingly started with chopped frozen spinach and used no cream at all.

I went with the Whole Food Market version. They started with three pounds of spinach. My chard, once trimmed, weighed under a pound. My choice was to cut the sauce by half and have some left over.

Holy Moly, it took way longer to explain what I did than to do it. The Creamed Swiss Chard turned out to be really good and the servings just the right size for two.

Here’s the recipe, as I cooked it.

creamed greens
Adapted from Whole Foods Market
Traditional Creamed Spinach Mar 2008
Serves 2

I figured if one can cream spinach, one can cream any greens, as long as the greens are cooked tender before the cream sauce is added. I used Swiss chard, but any green will do: dandelion, mustard, turnip, beet, etc. Kale or collard greens will take a little longer.

* a pound or less of trimmed fresh greens
* 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 stalks green garlic, chopped
* 1/3 cup diced yellow onions
* 3 ounces heavy cream
* Pinch ground nutmeg
* salt and ground black pepper
* 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

To prepare the greens, remove any unwanted stems or brown parts. Tear the leaves into roughly 2 inch pieces and rinse several times in cold water until all the dirt has been rinsed off.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the wet spinach with your hand, directly from the bowl, carrying some water with the leaves. Turn the greens frequently with a pair of tongs as it cooks. Taste to ascertain tenderness. Once it is wilted, remove it from the pan to a strainer and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. (This step is very important.) Transfer the drained spinach to a cutting board and chop coarsely. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are translucent and soft (about five minutes). Add the cream, nutmeg, salt and black pepper and continue cooking until it is reduced a bit. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the parmigiano-reggiano.

In another saucepan, heat the spinach and while stirring, add the cream in bits until the proper consistency is achieved. Continue to cook until most of the cream has been absorbed and the dish is thick and creamy. Remove from heat and serve.

Now we have a great new way to do greens.

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