In sport, victory and defeat are measured by inches. If the ball hadn’t hit the crossbar, the puck sail a hair over the net, the finger slicing through the pool curl at the wall, the ball catch the wind just enough to miss the white line. It’s a matter of course worth the attention of any diligent steak house chef.
Until say, the 1970s, the steakhouse chef was a revered fellow on the culinary scene. A steak and perhaps half a broiled lobster sat atop the food world, symbolizing luxury and skill. But, as with cars and computers, we improve, or at least vary stuff, hence the contemporary menu. Left behind is the guy who can cook a good piece of meat, but-at least in the general mindset-little else. He’s befuddled by a bunch of kale, a bucket of sweetbreads, or even a packet of yeast.
Lost in the shuffle is respect for execution. I’d rather have a perfect steak than a crummy kale salad, for instance. And the chef who can execute excellent sides (for me, the decisive mark of quality) is someone who can cook anywhere. The prime offenses: stringy creamed spinach or a plate of barely browned, diced potatoes labeled hash browns. The former should be smooth and properly seasoned, the latter a crisp cake whose potato interior is light and buttery and steaming hot.
Once you master the sides, you don’t even need the steak. Or you can cook it for hash the next day, also kind of a side. Until eventually you become an eater of primarily side dishes and turn into a side dish snob and never enter another steakhouse. And sit at home in your jammies eating homemade creamed spinach and hash. Today’s post: creamed spinach.
(NOTE: To gratinate this sucker lay several slices of gruyere over the top and broil.)
Creamed Spinach (via food.com)
2 (10oz) bags spinach
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
¼ cup minced onion
1 bay leaf
2 cups milk
salt and pepper
- Cook spinach in boiling water a few minutes till wilted, drain under cold water in a colander, squeeze out as much moisture as possible, chop coarsely, transfer to a food processor and process to a slightly chunky puree. Reserve.
- Melt half the butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add flour, stir till golden, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in onion, bay leaf, and clove, whisk in milk, simmer till thickens, about 10 minutes, reduce heat to low, cook a few more minutes, whisking.
- Add spinach to warm sauce, simmer a few minutes, stir in remaining butter, season and serve.