Popeye had a lot to do with me liking greens.
As a child, I went through a period where I hated turnip greens, sweet potatoes, bananas, liver, buttermilk, beets, and Mexican food. Greens was at the head of the list — until my mother bought a can of spinach.
My brother and I got her to buy a can of spinach because we wanted to be like Popeye. It might have been "Popeye" brand. She had to open the can about three fourths of the way so it would look like the cans in the cartoons. Popeye squeezed the cans open and plopped the spinach into his mouth. Part of the lid always was attached to the can. My mother had to put heavy tape around the edge of the lid so we wouldn’t cut ourselves while trying to look like Popeye. This sort of lessened the effect we we were trying to achieve.
The outcome of all this was we discovered we loved spinach. It didn’t taste like canned turnip greens, which, I later discovered, my mother didn’t like, either. She served them because they’re good for you.
Well, if chef Ryan Trimm was cooking when I was a child, I might have bypassed Popeye and the empty spinach cans. I tasted Trimm’s creamed spinach during a recent trip to his 117 Prime restaurant. It’s one of the most delectable side dishes I’ve eaten. And, I’ll even say, it’s the best creamed spinach I’ve ever eaten.
I asked Trimm to tell me about it.
“I knew what was in creamed spinach and I made it,” he says. “I played with it. I knew the basic idea of what creamed spinach was and we played with it ‘till I got it.”
He wanted it to be “traditional creamed spinach - a combination of two different cheeses, shallots, garlic, spinach, cream, and salt and pepper.”
And, he says, “It’s always a white cheese."
The taste is spectacular. “Ours is rich. We put more cheese in it than most people do. It costs a lot to make. It’s not cheaply made by any means.”
I ordered the creamed spinach with my steak at 117 Prime, but, I have to say, I could make a meal out of the spinach. “It’s about 12 ounces of creamed spinach,” Trimm says.
Creamed spinach is something Trimm just likes to eat. “It’s something I remember from steak houses. I love spinach, sauteed, Italian spinach. And creamed spinach is something I’ve always enjoyed. When I go to a steakhouse, I almost always order sauteed mushrooms and creamed spinach. They’re two favorites.”
Two of his favorite places to get creamed spinach are Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York and The Palm in New York City.
Now you can stay in Memphis and get a great one.
Note: I’ve added a video of chefs Trimm and head chef Alex Switzer making creamed spinach at 117 Prime. It’s going to make you hungry.
117 Prime is at 117 Union Avenue; 901-433-9851