Why It Works
- Low, slow cooking reduces the spinach juices to concentrate their flavor.
- Crème fraîche added right at the end lends brightness.
The bare bones of this creamed spinach recipe are pretty straightforward and classic: The spinach is cooked low and slow to gradually concentrate its juices. Combined with a creamy béchamel sauce, it reduces into a rich, thick coating with a near pudding-like texture. The only minor embellishments are a doubling-up of the alliums (I use shallots and garlic) and a last-minute shot of crème fraîche, which serves a function similar to when it's added to creamy scrambled eggs at the last minute: a final dose of creaminess and fresh flavor.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium shallots, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 pounds curly spinach, trimmed, washed, and drained
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade crème fraîche
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (about 1 cup; optional)
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach in four batches, turning each batch with tongs or a rubber spatula and allowing it to wilt before adding the next.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until no dry flour remains. Slowly stir in the heavy cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is completely softened and the sauce has thickened, about 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the nutmeg and crème fraîche and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
If desired, preheat the broiler to high. Transfer the creamed spinach to a 1-quart oval or round casserole dish and top it with the cheese. Broil until the spinach is bubbly and the cheese has formed a well-browned crust, about 2 minutes. Serve.