How to Cream Any Green

How to Cream Any Green
This kale was from a bag and not de-stemmed. Boooooo. (Photo: Claire Lower)

I love a creamed green, because of all the cream. The most commonly creamed green is spinach, and it is my favourite, but spinach isn’t the only green you can cream, oh no. You can cream collards, or mustard greens, or even kale (if you must).

I do not care for kale. It is tough leaf with a mediocre flavour. It’s not disgusting, but it’s not as good as a lot of other greens, such as the aforementioned collard greens, spinach, or even chard. This is why I chose kale to test my green creaming method — if it can make kale enticing, it’s good!

My method is simple. All you have to do is remember the three B’s:

  1. Blanch your greens
  2. Brown your butter
  3. Be a smart person and use heavy cream

Let’s go through each B, one at a time:

Blanch (or boil) your greens

Relying on hot cream to cook your greens is how you end up with gloppy, undercooked greens, so cook your greens in boiling water before they see any dairy. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a tough green, like kale, but even spinach should get a quick dunk in boiling, salted water.

Once your greens are soft and have taken on a bright, verdant hue, rinse them in cold water and dry them in salad spinner (or roll them up in clean kitchen towels).

Brown your butter

Most creamed green recipes will skip this B, but I think it’s important. The combination of melted butter and heavy whipping cream is heavy and a little dull, and browning the butter gives the steakhouse side a little more depth and a nuttier, more savoury character.

Be a smart person and use heavy cream

It’s called creamed spinach not halved & halved spinach, so act accordingly. You’re already eating a vegetable, let’s not make the experience worse in the interest of “cutting calories,” or something equally foolish.

Let’s put it all together

For sturdier greens (like kale) I use a ratio of 283 g green, 4 tablespoons salted butter, and 3/4 cup heavy cream. I also use a little bit of flour (to help things thicken). If I’m making creamed spinach, I’ll up the mass of green to a pound, because it is so delicate, and it shrinks so much (and because I like the taste of spinach). Feel free to increase or decrease the greens as you see fit, is what I’m saying, but this ratio is a good place to start. If you want to get fancy and sauté some garlic in the butter before adding the greens, or finish the whole thing with parm, you are certainly welcome to do so. To cream (two generous servings of) any green, you will need:

  • 283 g greens, washed and de-stemmed (if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • A big spoonful of flour (about a tablespoon — you won’t use it all)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh nutmeg

Add the salt to about 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the greens, and cook until they are tender. For spinach, this will take 30 seconds; for kale, this will take a few minutes.

Drain the greens and rinse them with cold water, then dry them in salad spinner (or roll them up in clean kitchen towel and gently press the moisture out). Add a tablespoon of flour to a small sieve and set it near the stove. Set the greens aside, add the butter to a large sauté pan, and heat over medium heat. Let it foam and sputter, until it darkens to a deep golden brown, then turn the heat to low, add the greens to the butter and toss to coat, then dust the flour over the greens. Toss one more time, add the cream, and stir until thick. Finish with freshly grated nutmeg, and serve immediately.

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