Winter's Last Gasp

We’ve had a very mild winter this year. In fact the running joke around here is that we’re having a lovely spring this winter. But this past weekend the mercury dropped and we got a little cold snap…YAY! 

I’m one of the only people I know down here who LOVES all four seasons. I miss snow. I miss spending time outside in actual cold weather. I miss a whole 3-4 months without creepy bugs. And I miss weather that demands warm, gooey, comforting foods. Sunday I got the excuse to make one of my faves. 

A good friend of ours has been at loose ends the last couple of weeks while his wife is visiting family up north, and we’ve been trying our best to keep him from losing his mind. He invited us over Sunday night for some oysters and steaks, and asked us to bring the veggies… Oh Yeah! My little gears instantly started turning. What would go well with roasted oysters, steak, cold weather, and a fire pit? 
Answer: Creamy Spinach. 

Think about it. Oysters are salty, a little sweet, a little creamy. Steak is savory, tender (when cooked correctly) and has that caramelized-crunchy sweetness on the outside. Spinach is astringent, and when mixed with dairy and baked it provides a lovely counterpoint to the oysters and the steak. In fact you could even plop a little on top of an oyster and broil it for a whole new taste. Yes please. 

I decided against making the traditional béchamel based creamed spinach, and instead used a combination of cream and cream cheese as my base and then mixed in Parmesano Reggiano. This way it’s tasty hot or cold (not that I’ve eaten it straight out of the fridge or anything…..). 

This goes together really quickly. I recommend using frozen spinach (easier), just be sure to defrost completely and squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it before adding it to your pan. 

2 lb frozen spinach, thawed completely and drained thoroughly
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Black Pepper and Sea Salt to taste
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened and cubed
1- 1 3/4 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Parmesan grated
2 TBSP Butter

Preheat oven to 375F

In a large pan or wok melt the butter over low heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the garlic and shallots to the pan and sweat until soft but not browned. Add in the spinach and stir to break up any clumps. Add in 1 cup of cream and stir to incorporate. Add seasonings and stir. Allow the liquid to come to a simmer and add more as necessary to create a saucy mixture. Begin adding cream cheese 1 or 2 cubes at a time, stirring to melt. After all the cream cheese has been added, turn off the heat and add half the Parm, stirring to incorporate. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and top with remaining Parmesan. Place in the preheated oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly. If desired, place under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top. 
Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be used as a dip/appetizer or as a side dish. I’ve even topped Salmon with this and baked en croute. 

Easy. Delicious. Warm. Comforting. 

I probably won’t get another weather appropriate day to make this, but I hope you will and that you’ll give this a try.