Makes 5 cups/Serves 8
• 2 cups half-and-half
• 1 cup milk
• 1 1/2 teaspoons chicken base, or 1 cube chicken bouillon
• 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic*
• 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (2 1/2 cups)**
• Salt and ground white pepper, if desired
• Ground nutmeg, for garnish
• Crisp, cooked, crumbled bacon, for garnish
In a medium-size saucepan, heat the half-and-half, milk, chicken base, Tabasco, and seasonings to a simmer. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
In another medium-size saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk well to combine. Cook this mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Slowly whisk the heated milk mixture into the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens. The sauce will be very thick.
Stir in the spinach and simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve while hot.
*Note: Granulated garlic is dried granular garlic, not the same as dried minced, dried chopped, or garlic powder. It has the best flavor of all the dried garlic products, in our opinion. Some supermarkets carry it in the gourmet spice section, and it’s available from spice shops.
**Variation: To make the recipe with fresh spinach, you will need 4 (10-ounce) bags trimmed, washed spinach (not baby spinach).
Working in four batches, wash one bagful of spinach at a time in a basin of cold water. Drain in a colander. Place the batch in a 6-quart pot over high heat, cover, and steam. While the spinach is steaming, repeat the process for the other three bags, putting each on top of the spinach in the pot (it will shrink down considerably). Cover and steam until the spinach is wilted and cooked. Drain in a large colander. Press down on the spinach with a spatula to extract as much as possible. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and chop finely.
Line the colander with a lint-free, clean kitchen towel. Put in the chopped spinach, bring up the ends of the towel, and, as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, twist the towel to form a sack and squeeze dry. You should have 2 1/2 cups of cooked, chopped, squeezed spinach.
Stir the spinach into the cream mixture and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to mix. Adjust the seasonings. Serve hot.