In an effort to clear one of our short beds to make room for summer vegetables like our cucumbers and squash, we harvested a boatload of spinach and have been enjoying spinach-themed dishes over the past few days. So when my turn to prepare dinner for the crew rolled around, I found myself trying to come up with a spinach dish and finally settled on a side of creamed spinach.
From my restaurant days, I remember receiving bags of baby spinach, which we used in pasta dishes, appetizers and sides. It was always so perfectly shaped and bite sized, so when I came across spinach leaves in our beds that were the size of my head, I was a bit shocked. Of course, this is the difference between baby spinach and all-grown up spinach meaning that size of the leaves was expected to be much different, but I was still surprised. I will add that the task of de-stemming a spinach leaf is much easier when you only have fifteen leaves and the stems are the size of number 2 pencils. As I began chopping the leaves, I noticed a coarseness and thickness to them I hadn't expected and I found myself appreciating the texture as I got the spinach ready for the pot.
I'd made creamed spinach dozens of times before and had a pretty solid plan of attack, which I didn't totally adhere to (more on that later). Once the spinach cooked down into a nice Popeye-style consistency, I poured it in the strainer and started sautéing the onions and garlic in margarine with salt, pepper and cayenne. Once the onions get a nice sweat on them (and soften), I added the cream cheese until it became uniform and covered the bottom of the pot. Then the half-n-half went in (if you really want flavor, texture and delicious calories, opt for heavy whipping cream) and I mixed the liquid in until the cream mixture mimicked a thick Alfredo sauce.
Now that I had the creamed part, I added the spinach and here is where I strayed from my aforementioned plan of attack. I let the spinach strain, but didn't actively strain it, so a lot of the water in spinach made it back into the mix leaving the final product a little runnier than I preferred. If I had it to do all over again, I would have used a towel (preferably one that you don't mind turning green) and pressed the spinach in the strainer to void it of all water possible. Despite my lapse in proper spinach-draining etiquette, I found that everyone at the table enjoyed my efforts, which always makes it worth while.