Back in the day, mom and I made creamed spinach. It was both homey (creamed) and wholesome (spinach). I liked whisking the white sauce paste-thick and chopping the spinach checkerboard-neat. Soothing work.
Once, after stirring together the dish for dinner, mom dipped in a spoon and took a taste. Then I did. We kept up the routine until we scraped bottom. Then we made a replacement batch and never mentioned the incident again.
Times change. Creamed was out. Chard and kale and mustard greens were in. Even when I indulged the homesick hankering for creamed spinach, I doctored it with heavy cream and absinthe. I fancied it fancier.
Then one night for no reason I reverted to mom's recipe. It was every bit as homey and wholesome as I remembered. Only more so.
Mom's creamed spinach
Prep: 15 minutesCook: 15 minutesMakes: About 1 1/2 cups
2 bunches mature spinach
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
Freshly ground pepper (white or black)
1Steam: Snap off thick spinach stems; leave fine stems intact. Wash spinach thoroughly. Dry none too thoroughly. Heap into a big pot along with the garlic. Cover, set over medium-high heat. When steam starts escaping the pot, turn off heat and let rest a few minutes. Peek: Spinach should be intensely green and wilted.
2Chop: Fish out garlic and mash with a fork. Dump spinach into a colander and press firmly to release liquid. Spinach will be reduced to a damp green puck. Set puck on a cutting board and chop tic-tac-toe style – two or three times in each direction, no more.
3Thicken: In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until foamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. When all milk has been added, cook this white sauce until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with the mashed garlic, several good grates of nutmeg, some pepper and salt. Stir in spinach. There you go.