Whenever I opt to make steaks for dinner I have an ulterior motive: creamed spinach. It's not written in stone that all steaks must be served with a side of creamed spinach, steakhouse-style, but in my mind that's the way it goes. My go-to is a quick version with shallots softened in butter and quick steamed spinach finished with nutmeg and cream, but while it's always great, it's missing that rich Béchamel quality that you get at a real-deal steakhouse.
This recipe for Classic Creamed Spinach from Nigel Slater's Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch showed me exactly what my spinach was missing: a roux. Slater begins his creamed spinach by infusing milk with black peppercorns, bay leaf, and an onion. The milk is simmered and added to a mix of butter and flour, then whisked into a very thick, creamy roux. Spinach, cream, and nutmeg are incorporated at the very last minute, resulting in the kind of creamed spinach that you'd order at a steakhouse that's been around for longer than you have.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Tender to give away this week.
Reprinted with permission from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. Copyright © 2009, 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
- 1 1/4 cups (300ml) milk
- A small onion, peeled
- A bay leaf
- 6 black peppercorns
- 2 pounds (1kg) spinach
- 4 tablespoons (50g) butter
- 6 tablespoons (50g) all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Put the milk in a saucepan with the onion, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and cook for ten minutes for the aromatics to do their stuff.
Discard the very toughest spinach stalks, then cook the leaves in a lidded pan with a film of water in the bottom. They should be tender in just a minute or two, maybe less. Drain and cool under cold running water, squeeze thoroughly but gently to remove most of the water, then chop finely.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed nonstick saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t burn. Whisk in the warm milk; you don’t need the aromatics, they have done their work. When the sauce starts to thicken, decrease the heat to a low simmer and let it bubble gently for a good fifteen minutes. An occasional stir, taking care to get right in the corners, will prevent it burning.
Stir in the cream and chopped spinach, then finish with salt, pepper, and a fine grating of nutmeg.