Creamed Spinach and Cheese

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I’ve got some bad news for you. You can follow this recipe exactly as written; you might even like what you end up with. But whatever you do, your ultra-’50s creamed spinach—a.k.a. frozen greens mixed with gloppy canned soup; tres chic—won’t be as good as the dish I made for Thanksgiving last month.

Why? Because barring some sort of crazy cosmic coincidence, chances are that your spinach, unlike mine, will not be hand-squeezed by a Moo.

That’s right: My wonderful, long-suffering mother personally spent umpteen minutes wringing out four full packages of frozen spinach at my apartment on Thanksgiving eve, leaving me free to conquer less tedious tasks. (Yes, my brother and I call my mom “Moo;” yes, I am fully aware that this is weird, especially now that both of us are married adults.) It was a true display of motherly love for which I will always be grateful, especially in light of recent events. (Guys: If you can, call your mom. She’ll appreciate it.)

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I’m not going to lie to you: the spinach-squeezing is tiresome, the amount of cheese you’ll need to grate is sort of alarming, and the cream of mushroom soup—which I swapped for cream of chicken, because I’m not really the world’s biggest mushroom fan—is undeniably gross to a modern palate. (To be clear, canned cream of chicken soup is gross too. Canned cream of anything soup is gross.)

But you know what? Despite all that, this creamed spinach—a convenience-food mashup that bears only the slightest resemblance to the real thing—may have been the biggest hit of my Thanksgiving. When we finally went to pack up leftovers, there was barely any left; what little remained disappeared from our fridge before anything else. Guess there’s a reason grocery stores still put up displays brimming with cream of whatever every time holiday cooking season rolls around; gross as it may be, the stuff does make for a mean casserole.

Especially one you didn’t have to make all by yourself.

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Creamed Spinach and Cheese

4 packages frozen, chopped spinach
2 cans cream of mushroom soup [Word to the wise: If you do, in fact, use cream of chicken instead of the mushroom stuff, you and your mother will find yourselves digging through the resulting mush with your fingers to remove the gnarly little lumps of chicken neither of you realized would be included in the soup. It’s a great way to get in the holiday spirit!]
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

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Cook spinach and drain well. [We—who am I kidding, my mom—used the microwave, nuking each package individually before letting the contents cool, then wringing until her Moo-ey little hands could wring no more. It’s sort of like the latke-making process, which, by the way, is about a bazillion times easier once you get a fancy food processor. Again: Get married for the gifts!]

Place in a casserole; add soup and cheese, and mix well. Cover and bake in a 350 oven about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. [Or don’t, if you want crispy corners—though there may have been so much fat involved that mine never got quite as browned as I would’ve liked.]

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The verdict: Like I said—it’s a hit! Retro and gloppy and yes, sort of intellectually disgusting, but if you don’t have the patience to make a béchamel, you could do a lot worse than the so-called creamed spinach you see before you.

It’s not exactly everyday food—unless, perhaps, you’re a Stepford wife—but I can definitely recommend it for big group gatherings, the sort of thing where you’re presenting a table filled with rich, inviting options. In fact, do me a favor: make this the next time you have one of those. (Invite your mom! She just wants what’s best for you!!) Then watch—snobbery be damned!—as it disappears first.

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