Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. I am incredibly fortunate to be spending another Thanksgiving with my dear friends, who happen to live next door. There is really nothing like being able to walk to your holiday celebration. It will be a huge feast with fantastic food and lots of friends. We’ll have a couple friends and my brother-in-law staying with us for a few days, so it is about time for me to start getting ready. And since I’m not hosting the big event, I feel compelled to bring plenty of side dishes and desserts, which I'm going to share with all of you in the next few days.
One side dish that my hostess specifically asked for was a Jalapeno Creamed Spinach that I brought last year. This is really a perfect extra side dish for Thanksgiving because it’s green and it’s spicy—a marked contrast to everything else on the table.
The first time I had something like this was at a dinner party over a decade ago with some co-workers. One of the women I worked with (named Laurie) was a really terrific cook, and she was from New Orleans. She made a spicy creamed spinach dish that everyone went crazy over. I always meant to ask her for the recipe, but before I knew it she left the company and went back to New Orleans.
Then I came across a recipe from another Laurie—one of my favorite food writers, Laurie Colwin. It was in her book Home Cooking and it looked very similar to the other Laurie’s recipe. The flavors sounded right, but the ingredients seemed all wrong—evaporated milk, canned jalapenos and frozen spinach. So I had to come up with my own version, which I am now quite happy with.
So, back by popular demand, I give you:
Jalapeño Creamed Spinach
8 cups fresh spinach
1/2 small onion, diced (optional, I’ve left it out for onion hating friends)
1 clove garlic, minced
a couple tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup grated jalepeño jack cheese
a small handful of bread crumbs
1. Steam or saute the spinach. Chop it coarsely and press it to get as much liquid out as possible.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion (if using) and garlic and then the flour. Whisk the flour into the butter and cook a little, but do not brown. Slowly add the milk, stirring until slightly thickened. Gradually add the cheese, a little at a time, while stirring, and cook just until smooth and melted. Add the spinach and mix to combine thoroughly. Add some salt and a little pepper to taste.
3. Place in a casserole and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 300°, uncovered, for about 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top.