That’s Nutmeg and it is 1 of 2 secret ingredients in creamed spinach. I am all about keeping things as simple as possible. Secret ingredients give a simple dish a taste sensation you never forget. This recipe came from Mr. Stox in Anaheim. I was there 1974-76 when the Fahnestock’s owned it.
We had just returned from Northern Minnesota where we filmed a documentary about “Living off the Land.” We built a log cabin, planted a garden and Uncle Kenny, (who 6 years later would win an Emmy for writing Hallmarks Hall of Fame Promise, the most honored movie in television history), filmed everything for our future prosperity. Our Future is still in the can. Samson was 18 months at the time. How cute was he? Some things just never change.
Just a little history and an excuse to show off some baby pictures and brag about Kenny George. After 6 months of living in the wild getting a job in a 5 star restaurant that paid actual wages as opposed to film credits and served food I didn’t have to hunt and fight the mosquitoes for was the dream job. Here is where I segue way into one more of my favorite dreamy recipes.
Creamed spinach was a Mr. Stox specialty. It was a side dish served with the Wednesday Prime Rib luncheon special. I liked the English cut (thinly sliced) with creamed horseradish sauce (recipe in Part 1). I think what makes some dishes extra special are the portions. The Prime Rib with the creamed horseradish was the main event and just perfect. The O’Brien potatoes bite for bite just the right amount. Then the creamed spinach was the ever so subtle compliment to the Prime Rib and potatoes that left you wanting just one more bite. But alas, it never came. Instead you would think about it all week and show up the following Wednesday and the whole cycle would start all over again.
So, the other secret ingredient to this ever so rich recipe is to serve small portions and no seconds. Leave them longing for just one more bite. This will insure your reputation as a great cook which has more to do with some tricks of the trade then expertise. I am very good at learning the tricks of the trade. Here’s creamed spinach ala Mr. Stox via mom.
- 1 pound of fresh spinach, washed and tough stems removed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 cup sweet yellow onions
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 finely chopped hard-boiled egg
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of chicken stock ( I only use organic BETTER THAN BOUILLON Chicken base)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Always, Always use fresh spinach. I have used the frozen in a pinch and it is not the same. This will serve 4 and leave them wanting more.
Melt the butter in medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and chicken stock, cook, stirring until the broth reduces down. Add eggs, cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg, simmer, don’t boil, until the cream is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve immediately. You can adjust all of this to your own taste. This is also a good base for anything Florentine. I promise you will be wanting more even before you take your last bite.
Damn yams have a very long history dating all the way back to the 5o’s when all the relatives and friends, neighbors and some homeless guy Dad found under a bridge would all meet up at our house early to start cooking the holiday feast. There were green beans to string, corn to chuck, apples, potatoes and yams to peel and topping everything off, an apple strudel stretching contest. Mom and Dad put the Bird in the oven the night before so mom (dad always had something to add) held the distinct honor of making the best turkey dressing ever. Mom was a great cook. Grandma was Austrian so she came by it naturally.
Ten or more people in the kitchen cooking and preparing was always hectic, frantic, and pure fun, with projects in every corner of the kitchen. Someone was always in ‘charge’ of the mayhem. Aunt Mary, the youngest of mom’s 7 sisters, a 2nd grade teacher, very methodical,organized and who regarded spontaneity as 4 letter word, got the honors in this, the year of the yam. To be fair this was her first time directing chaos.
Oven space was key to cooking the feast and timing critical. The routine in the past was when the Bird came out the yams went in. So when the turkey came out and no yams were going in everyone looked to Aunt Mary. This was quite the faux pas. She kinda forgot to assign a yam crew. It isn’t holiday dinner without yams. Forget the beans. Forget the corn. But don’t forget the candied yams.
Being a fun and creative group we found a couple of cans of pumpkin (same color) and a bag of left over marshmallows from 4th of July (it’s a wonder we all didn’t all die) threw it in a casserole, popped it in the oven and dubbed it damn yams. It was pathetic and we fooled no one. From that thanksgiving on, the battle cry was ” don’t forget the damn yams.” Aunt Mary and marshmallows were forever banned from the kitchen. She was grateful for the demotion though as she starting working on her celebrating skills instead. She got pretty good at that cheering thing.
And damn yams are really pumpkins. Click on the link above and learn the nutritional content and difference between a yam and a sweet potato. I am going to call them yams because candied sweet potatoes just doesn’t sound right.
- 4-5 fresh yams
- 1 cup brown sugar (brown sugar is granulated sugar with molasses added,you can make your own)
- 1/2 cup Maple syrup (the real thing is best)
- 1/2 cup honey (orange blossom is you can get it)
- 1 cube of butter
- 1/2 cup of frozen orange juice mixed with 1/2 cup of water
- a smidgen of nutmeg
- a pinch of cinnamon
- a dash of vanilla
- orange zest
Peel yams and cut in cubes or half circles. Shape doesn’t matter you just want it all uniform so they cook evenly. Melt half a cube of butter in a large frying pan. Saute the yams until heated through 15-20 minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, mix and pour over the yams and heat up. Butter a casserole dish, best if it has a lid. Add a little dusting of orange zest to the bottom of the casserole.
Transfer everything from the frying pan into the casserole dish. Dollop the remaining butter over the yams. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until yams are cooked through. About 45 minutes. Cook last 10 minutes with the top off.
One year just for fun I made a crumb topping out of Nabisco’s nilla vanilla wafers and sprinkled it over the top. Very nice texture. Big Hit. Finely chopped pecans adds a nice flavor too. Have fun with this. Increase, decrease ingredients substitute maybe even a little almond extract instead of vanilla. I don’t think I have ever done the same recipe twice. I am thinking of adding Grand Marnier this year. Over the years though, there is still one rule that stands firm, NO Marshmallows in the damn yams. That’s the law.
On Dec. 1, to get us all in the holiday spirit and get our brains thinking about cooking and baking, I pull out the spice pot. It is an old copper teakettle that lost its lid. I put cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, nutmeg and a little allspice, spicy teabags, in it and fill it up with water and let it simmer on the stove. The whole house smells like apple strudel and pumpkin pie. Really gets me in the mood to start cooking. Don’t forget to turn it off when you leave the house. Oh oops.
O.K. people hope you give these recipes a try. Variety is the spice of life and a little spirit, as in Grand Marnier, never hurt anything. See you next week.
Next week Desserts. Crazy cake, carrot cake and apple pancakes.