Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Creamed Spinach in Pastry Shells or Popeye The Sailor's New Favorite Side Dish

So it's Thanksgiving and everyone is trying to plan out their feasting menus, shopping for food and preparing for the day of days. In short crazy time. Well of the many things that I love to put on the menu I really never thought about Spinach as a vegetable for the Thanksgiving Day table but then I thought about the rest of the Holidays and the various foods we will consume and I decided Spinach could have it's place on the table, why not.

Now I love lightly cooked spinach with garlic and oil. I adore a spinach salad with a hot bacon dressing but I absolutely love creamed spinach. It's absolutely one of the best things ever made.

Now I think I first came across this dish when I was about 11. We had just moved to the Northern Virginia area from Hawaii and my father took us to a steak house for dinner called The Joshua Tree in McClean, Virginia. It was a rather fancy place with a stone facade and wooden accents and it was very popular. It was actually owned by the Marriott corporation and was a trial restaurant they wanted to grow into a new chain. It did not however pan out, and closed several years later.  Loud, dark and sexy with a bar full of young twenty somethings, it was exactly the kind of place my Parents sort of hated. But they took us there anyway because they had heard it was good. Well it really wasn't and we never went back. I really don't remember much except that the Host was kinda rude to my Dad and that at some point in the meal to the table came this small bowl of side dish deliciousness. It was a bowl of creamed spinach and how I had never seen this done at home was besides the point. The point was where could I get more!!

Spinach as a side dish has been one of those vegetables that had food lore grown up around it. High in vitamins and iron it was a natural for food companies to market as something Mom's should feed their little ones. Even the media got into it with "Popeye the Sailor man" eating his cans of spinach growing instant muscles and beating up Brutus the bad guy. In sort spinach has been a part of the American food landscape for a long time. Creamed Spinach was popularized in the late 1800's in New York city by steak houses in the city and became a staple. It's origins are likely in Swedish or Italian cookery which both have them as well known dishes. Normally flavored with a mixture of shallots or onions, garlic and nutneg as well as sometimes a creamy herb or parmesan cheese, it is luscious and rich and very very good. I have made it over the years and have made it using all of the above. This new version comes with the addition of ranch dressing spices and white cheddar and marscapone cheese. It is oh so very good.

So in this recipe the creamed spinach is served in a puff pastry cup and topped with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of salsa. It's a nod to the "Chicago Style" spinach dip which is served at the restaurant Houston's or Hillstone as many are called now.  A little unconventional but really good. So if you want an elegant side dish which is easily prepped ahead of time and warmed in the oven, try these. They were great. Enjoy Ya'll.

Creamed Spinach in Puff Pastry Shells

For the shells you can make your own or you can do what I do and buy the pepperidge farm ones and bake them according to the package directions. Cool and cut out the top caps. Set aside.

For the spinach ( this makes extra creamed spinach for leftovers or you can bake more shells up to 24 believe me every one will want two!! )
28 oz of fresh baby spinach leaves. That's about 6 packages of the grocery store pre-washed stuff.1
2  cups whole milk
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoon butter
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
1 small onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
A couple of dashes of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ranch seasoning mix from the Hidden Valley packet
4 oz marscapone cheese
Sour Cream for garnish
Salsa for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cook Spinach with a little oil in a pan until wilted and soft
In a large pot melt butter add onions and cook till soft add garlic and cook one min
add flour and cook for about another 3 mins
then add milk slowly till it blends into a white sauce season with salt and pepper
Add bay leaf and let cook over low heat for about 20 mins remove bay leaf and add the cheddar cheese and the parmesan stir to combine
Add the ranch spices the nutmeg and pepper. Taste and add salt if desired
Add spinach to sauce and combine well.
Add Marscapone and mix well.
Check again for salt add more nutmeg if desired as well if necessary.
Hold warm up to 2 hours stirring occasionally

When ready to serve heat the shells in a warm oven about 10 mins the fill till just almost overflowing with the spinach and top each with a dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of salsa Enjoy!!

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