January can get pretty dark, in every way. As it trudges along glacially, the time we do not spend pulling ourselves upright is spent talking our loved ones off a ledge. Particularly in the ski racing world—the world of my people—January gets harsh. Wind, cold, ice, wet socks and crowded vans. Combine that with a stretch of injuries, illness and crashes (sometimes all three) and you’ve got your perfect storm of yuck.
We know it’s coming—post holiday blues, failed resolutions, short cold gray days, translucent skin, not-quite-right windshield wipers…and yet, it gets us every time. In the beginning our plan for January is all about kicking butt, but it ends up being more about getting by. Non skiers, I know you’re with me now.
Because my soft spot for underdogs is especially mushy in January, I’m marching through Food52’s best, yet most ignored recipes for 2015. These are things from odd and humble ingredients like burnt toast and lentils. I’m starting with everything on the list that’s green because, well, it’s January. See failed resolutions and cold gray days, above.
Up first, creamed spinach without the actual cream, a comfort food involving some vegetables and fiber and not a lot of work. Next on my list is a green soup suitable for Vegans, gluten-frees and paleos. But today, we’re all about easing into this gently with frozen spinach and just a few ingredients you probably already have plus a fresh green kick. I’m looking at you, jalapeño. Nothing fancy. Not even grating. We’re just getting through this together.
We all need a big hug in January. Here’s yours.
Cold Comfort Creamed Spinach (or Squash)
Barely tweaked from Laurie Colwin’s Creamed Spinach
Notes: I made this with cheddar because, well, I’m in New England. Must we discuss? For jalapeños I used fresh—half of one of those huge mutant ones you sometimes find in the grocery store. I was in my groove so I did the same thing with half a cooked butternut squash (here’s a clinic on that), using chicken broth instead of spinach liquid, the other half of the mutant jalapeno and the rest of the evaporated milk. I liked that even better. Let’s hear it for green AND orange.
Serves 6 to 8
- 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or equivalent amount of cream and milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon celery salt, seasoned salt or plain old salt
- 6 ounces Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Muenster, Gruyere or some such cheese, cubed
- 1 or more jalapeño peppers (fresh or pickled)
- Buttered bread crumbs (use 2 tablespoons melted butter for 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, making as much as it takes to make you happy)
Cook the spinach. Drain, reserving one cup of liquid, and chop fine if not chopped already.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Blend and cook a little. Do not brown.
Add onion and garlic.
Add one cup of spinach liquid slowly, then add evaporated milk, black pepper, celery salt, and cheese. Add one or more jalapeño peppers (know thyself and thy heat tolerance), and the spinach. Cook until all is blended.
Turn into a buttered casserole topped with buttered bread crumbs, and bake for about 45 minutes at 300° F until the top is crisp and golden. If you want to speed up the browning, toast under the broiler.
Cold Comfort Creamed Squash
Follow directions above, substituting cooked winter squash for spinach, and 1 cup chicken broth for the spinach liquid.
This is the type of thing that begs to be put in a dish, covered snugly and carried elsewhere to someone who needs a little comfort.