Creamed Spinach Deluxe

De Arbol (Capsicum Annuum) means tree like in Spanish. The plant has thick, upright, woody stems and the chile itself is narrow, curved and bright red in color. Believed to be closely related to the pequin, the De Arbol is thin fleshed, with tannic, smoky, grassy flavor and searing heat. This chile has a heat range of 7.5 on the heat scale of 1-10. De Arbol Chiles are comparable to a Cayenne Pepper. Scoville heat units 15,000 to 30,000.

Suggested Use:
De Arbol is a hot chile and a staple in Southwest kitchens. Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish. Be adventurous and add them to your next stew or chili along with the other spices. Add some heat to your next salsa or Mexican dish.

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1/4 cup water
4 (6 oz.) bags baby spinach leaves

2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 dried small red chile, such as japones or de árbol
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream


Bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil in a large pot. Add half of the spinach to the pot and toss until wilted, but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining spinach and toss until it is just wilted. Transfer the spinach to a strainer and set over a large bowl. Press on the spinach to release all the liquid. Transfer the spinach to a work surface and coarsely chop. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, bay leaf, dried chile and peppercorns. Saute until the onion is soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the flour and salt. Cook until the mixture is pale gold and has a nutty aroma, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Boil until the mixture is thick, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Strain the béchamel sauce into a medium bowl.

Heat the cream in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until it is just simmering. Add the béchamel and whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to simmer. Add the spinach and stir until it is heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Test-kitchen tip: Be sure to remove as much water as you can from the cooked spinach (otherwise the finished dish may be watery, rather than creamy).

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from Bon Appétit Magazine, March 2006.