Creamed spinach meets spinach salad: A spinach salad coated with a warm and creamy parmesan sauce.
Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your na-a-ame (dun, dun, dun, dun), where they’re always glad you ca-a-ame…Ok, so turns out, if you don’t have the Cheers theme song stuck in your head right now, you likely think I’ve lost my marbles. Instead, let’s go ahead and use it as a mere indication of our differing ages. When I think about my favorite place to go and unwind, similar to the atmosphere of the famed TV bar, visions of dark wood paneling, dim lighting, and friendly, familiar faces all come to mind.
And, while the place I like to hang my party hat isn’t nearly as dated as the 80’s sitcom, it is an absolute classic: The Republic 1836 is so much more than a bar, although, we are going to have to talk about the bar. Aw, come on; get sidetracked with me. First off: Those bartenders, though. They are something else. Good natured, jovial and friendly are just a few of my favorite adjectives to describe them, but the most important one would be “skilled.” Or, talented…well-trained? I don’t know.
What I do know, is for a gal who is super picky when it comes to cocktails, these guys know their stuff and I never leave disappointed. My favorite spot is also known for being a steakhouse joint, where Chef Wade Barkman has been rocking out for ten solid years, taking classic appetizers, side dishes and desserts, and turning them into refined and highly desirable dishes. Now, let me just tell you, if you are anything like me and you love a little variety in your life, order a steak. Alongside that steak, you will get not one, not two…no, not even just three, but FOUR sauces to dip your perfectly-cooked, sous vide steak in. Word.
I love so many things about The Republic, but probably one of the things I am most nostalgic about is a side dish that was once featured on the menu. Well, actually the side dish is still featured on the menu, it’s just an updated, more traditional version. Which I totally get. Chef’s gotta keep us on our toes and stuff, but inside, a little piece of me died the night I found out the recipe for my beloved creamed spinach had changed. Oh, there I go being super dramatic again.
Truthfully, I was just a little bummed, then a glass of my favorite red made its way to the table, alongside a juicy filet that cuts like butter, and all was right with the world again. Somehow, in the chef’s original creamed spinach dish, the spinach itself still had some freshness, vibrancy, and structure living within its leaves. How’d he do that to creamed spinach? Spinach wilts so fast and so easily. There was definitely a warm, cheesy sauce involved, but it didn’t affect the integrity of the spinach. In fact, it was more like a hybrid of creamed spinach and spinach salad. It was a total mystery, until one fine day, it all clicked.
A friend told me her husband couldn’t eat it because it wasn’t gluten-free. Why wouldn’t creamed spinach be gluten-free? Bingo. There was a roux. Now, I know some of you are ready to run for the hills when you hear a scary kitchen word like “roux.” But, please don’t flee. Stick around for a while and let me absolve all your fears. First of all, a roux is just butter and flour mixed together in a hot pan in such a way that it forms a little paste. Nothing scary about that. I’ll bet you’ve pasted lots of stuff in your day. Ok, so it’s a different kind of paste, but still, no need to be frightened.
Here is my one big tip for this dish though: Read the recipe before you begin. I promise it’s not super complicated or hard, but it helps to know what’s coming next, as it is a pretty quick-fix and the steps might seem as though they’re flying by. Ok, you ready for the greatest, most delicious, most perfect spinach dish of all time? Oh, thank goodness. Me too. Here we go. Creamed Spinach Salad for the win. Oh, sorry.
Just one more thing. Full discloser, here: I truly don’t know if this is way Chef Wade did it or not. I never asked him for the recipe. However, this rendition was certainly enough to satisfy my craving and it has become our go-to side dish for grilled steaks and is also merrily served every Christmas Day alongside our roasted prime rib. I hope you will enjoy it as much as our family does. Ok, now this time for real; Creamed Spinach Salad for the win!
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk warmed
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese separated
- 16 ounces baby spinach
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Generous pinch black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons of water in a measuring pitcher on stand-by
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Do not allow the butter to brown. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a paste is formed. Add in warmed milk a generous splash at time, whisking thoroughly after each addition to form a smooth sauce. Add 1/3 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, and begin adding the spinach to the saucepan one handful at a time, gently folding it into the sauce until coated. It will likely be necessary to add a tablespoon of water after each addition, to loosen up the sauce and coat the spinach evenly. Top with remaining cheese, serve immediately and enjoy.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Would pair well with: