Laurie Colwin altered her version or creamed spinach a bit from one served to her in Dallas during a literary festival by a cook named Betty Josey. "It was so good it made me want to sit up and beg like a dog," Colwin wrote. If you don't have one thing, you can make do—you don't want to keep cans of evaporated milk around just to use 1/2 cup in this recipe, any mix of cream and milk will work; you want to use Gruyère, great; you don't have celery salt, fine. Adapted slightly from Home Cooking (Harper Perennial, 1988). —Genius Recipes
6 to 8
10-ounce packages frozen spinach
clove garlic, minced
Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
one or more jalapeño peppers, chopped (fresh or pickled)
Buttered bread crumbs (I used 1/2 cup breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tablespoons melted butter)
Cook the spinach. Drain, reserving one cup of liquid, and chop fine.
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 (how many is a question of taste as well as what kind. Colwin used the pickled kind, from a jar. I used one fresh), 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.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.