Established as a private-dining club in Chicago’s boutique Whitehall Hotel in 1956, The Whitehall Club was a fine-dining fixture for 40 years before it closed. That left LRF reader Dave Lauer with an insatiable craving for Whitehall Club creamed spinach. LRF reached out to now-Colorado-based Jason Rogers–one of the last sous chefs at the Club–who was happy to share the recipe. Built with an Escoffier-styled bechamel (white sauce steeped with onion, veal, nutmeg, clove and thyme,) this home-cook-sized version of the dish yields both creamy spinach, plus a serving of milk-braised veal–delicious mixed with orzo, or Israeli couscous.
Makes 5 servings
Creamed Spinach Ingredients
- 1/4 to 1/2 lb lean veal (I used veal from a package of veal neck bones), diced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 3 cloves
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 small sprig thyme
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 5, six-ounce bags of baby spinach, picked over, and any longer stems removed (NOTE: This sounds like a lot, but one package of baby spinach comes down to just 2/3 cup after you blanch, squeeze and chop it. And after making and straining the bechamel, you will end up with 1 and 2/3 cups of sauce–that’s a perfect 1/3 cup of bechamel for each 2/3 cup of spinach–hence, five servings)
- splash of cream
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup (depending on how cheesy you like it) finely grated parmesan cheese and more fresh-grated nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a saute pan over medium heat on your stove top, saute onion and veal in butter until onion is soft, and veal browned.
- Place onion and veal in ovenable pan with salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and milk. Roast uncovered in oven at 350 for 40 minutes. A skin will form on the top, but don’t worry about that–you’re straining all of this.
- Pour all through strainer. Reserve solids and milk separately.
- Make roux: melt 3 Tbsp butter; whisk in 3 Tbsp flour. Slowly add reserved milk, whisking constantly to make a smooth sauce. Pass through strainer to make extra smooth, if you like. Set aside.
- Boil 3 quarts water. Pour boiling water over spinach (15 seconds) to blanch. Remove spinach and squeeze out water. Finely chop spinach.
- Preheat oven to 425. Back at your stove top, add bechamel to saute pan; stir in finely grated parmesan. Stir in blanched, chopped spinach. Add a splash of cream. Cook, stirring over low heat 3 to five minutes. Add a bit more fresh-grated nutmeg to taste and adjust seasoning (salt/pepper). Spoon into an ovenable crock. Grate small amount of parmesan on top. Place in oven at 425 for 10 minutes until hot and bubbling. Serve.