Next time you grill a few ribeyes, recreate the steakhouse vibe at home and put together a few classic sides to go with your prime cuts, such as hand-cut steak fries and creamed spinach. Creamy spinach is about as simple as it gets – spinach, cream, onion and maybe some garlic. But when cooked at home with finesse, it leaves you with a mouthfeel so rich and velvety you might never want a steakhouse version again. Simple dishes do best when kept that way, without superfluous ingredients getting in the way of honest flavors. The best way to thicken cream for spinach is with reduction, a natural, gentle way to adjust consistency.
Things You'll Need
Melt 2 tablespoons of whole butter for every 2 pounds of spinach in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Add 1 small diced onion or 2 diced shallots for every 2 pounds of spinach to the butter if making a classic creamy spinach.
Cook the onions or shallots until soft, about 4 or 5 minutes. Pour 1 to 1 1/2 cups of room-temperature, heavy cream in the saucepan for every pound of spinach. Make a mental note of how far the cream reaches inside the saucepan. Remembering how much cream you started with helps when you have to determine how much you’ve reduced it.
Check the temperature of the cream using a probe thermometer or a candy thermometer. Adjust the heat of the stove as needed so the cream stays around 170 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit — just a few degrees below the scalding temp of 180 degrees F.
Cook the cream until reduced by 1/3, about 10 to 15 minutes. Skim the froth and skin that forms on the surface of the cream using a wood spoon and discard it. Stir the cream occasionally, but don’t scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon.
Add the cooked spinach and, if cooking classic creamy spinach, the nutmeg. Cooked spinach releases some water when you add it to hot cream, so continue cooking for about 3 or 4 minutes to adjust the consistency to compensate for it. Finish with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Always start with room-temperature heavy cream when heating it. The less the temperature difference between the cream and the heat source, the less the chance of burning it.
Use a wood spoon when reducing cream. Wood spoons have less chance of stirring up the burnt cream sticking to the bottom of the pan if you accidentally scrape it.
Whisk some whole milk, 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time, into the cream if you accidentally thicken it too much.