It’s Gruyère week here at StreamingGourmet. I just can’t get enough of the stuff. I guess it’s also heavy cream week. Sorry! But since I bought these items for the Tarragon Chicken dish the other day, I’m determined not to waste them.
I became a fan of creamed spinach while waiting tables at the now defunct Ingleneuk Tea House in Swarthmore, PA. I was a vegetable girl there in 1991. As the main dishes were served, I offered each guest one of the evening’s side dishes from a large bowl I carried from table to table. I regularly ladled out maccaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, or creamed spinach. The restaurant served family-style meals from its opening in 1916 until its demise in a fire in 2000. With whom do I share the distinction of having served vegetables at the Ingleneuk? That would be none other than James A. Michener, a 1929 graduate of Swarthmore College. Swarthmore is a dry town, so there never were any restaurants of consequence there. Renato’s pizza and the Ingleneuk were the extent of the culinary scene in the early nineties. Except, come to think of it, for Occasionally Yours, a little café and catering company that served very decent food.
So it was at the Ingleneuk that I first learned about adding fresh grated nutmeg to creamy dishes like macaroni and cheese and creamed spinach, an addition I am quick to include in these dishes today.
2 – 4 servings
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced or 3/4 cup minced shallots
(For more flavor, add garlic too – Emeril does)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 6 oz bag pre-washed baby spinach
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon freshly grated Gruyère cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat milk and cream over low heat in a small saucepan. Make sure the milk doesn’t get scalded on start to boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and sautée until the pieces are starting to turn brown, about 6 minutes. (You could cook them more gently until softened, but I like the nutty, sweet flavor that results from browning them in the butter). Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon and allow flour, butter and onion mixture to brown for 3 minutes. This is a roux and is the basis for so many cream sauces (including my favorite mac n cheese sauces).
2. Whisk in the heated milk. Reduce heat and stir continuously while incorporating. Add pinch of nutmeg and blend. Simmer gently until sauce thickens. Add Gruyère and stir until completely melted and blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the raw spinach directly into the pan (this might break some rules, but it sure simplifies things and worked for me). Stir spinach to coat with sauce and watch the spinach wilt. Once spinach is thoroughly wilted but still a vibrant green color, remove pan from heat and serve.