The Accidental Locavore thought this version of creamed spinach would be great with a roast beef I cooked recently. I love garlic confit, it’s great for so many things (toss with broccoli or spinach, salad dressing etc), and since you just use the cloves for this recipe, I tossed some extra in the oil (my new hack for peeling a lot of garlic is at the end).There was also a taste test between fresh and frozen spinach, so check out the results at the end. Serves 4 generously. You can make all the parts ahead of time and refrigerate. Baking and resting takes about 40 minutes.
For the garlic confit:
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled (or more for other uses)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil, for greasing and sautéing
- 2 pounds spinach, stemmed
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon butter
Make the garlic confit: Put the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan, and cook over very low heat until the garlic is softened and golden, about 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve, reserving the oil for another use. Transfer 3 cloves of the garlic to a blender and if you added extra cloves, save them, refrigerated, for another use.
Make the cream sauce: In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the cream with the cornstarch. In a saucepan, bring the remaining cream to a simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the cream is thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt. Add the cream sauce to the blender and puree with the garlic until smooth.
Make the spinach and finish the dish: Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 1 1/2-quart gratin pan. Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a very large sauté pan and, working in batches, sauté the spinach until just cooked. Transfer to a colander. Squeeze out as much water from the spinach as possible. Using paper towels, blot any excess water. Coarsely chop the spinach and transfer to a bowl (you should have about 3 packed cups). Add the cream sauce and mix well. Season with salt. Spread the spinach in the prepared dish and top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes, serve and enjoy!
My verdict: I love creamed spinach and this was really delicious! It was nice and thick, with the breadcrumbs giving it a nice crunch. I would definitely make it again. Frank seemed to think this was a lot of work, but I just did it in stages. First the confit, and while that was cooking I did the spinach. Later on, I made the sauce, put it all together and popped it in the oven while my roast was finishing up. You wouldn’t need to make the garlic confit and it would still be good, but as I said in the intro, it’s a great thing to have in the fridge, so why not? While this recipe calls for cooking fresh spinach, I made one dish with fresh and one with frozen. The guests didn’t know which was which. One person preferred the frozen spinach, the rest of us went for the fresh, but everyone said there wasn’t much of a difference. The next time I make this, unless there’s fresh, local spinach available (which should be a big difference in taste) I’ll definitely use the chopped frozen stuff. A large bag would be more than enough for this recipe. And the hack for peeling a lot of garlic fast? I rubbed the cloves between two of my silicone GIR lids! The garlic confit that I didn’t use for the sauce I puréed with a little of the oil and it’s in the fridge waiting for some unsuspecting broccoli.