Years ago I went on a post-vegetarianism meat eating binge. I think everybody goes a little cray-cray after finding themselves out of self-imposed dietary restrictions. And I was vegan before that for years, so you can imagine the fallout! Bacon! Bacon cooked in brown sugar! Actually, I didn't cook a whole lot of meat, but I did tend to order it whenever possible. Once I was out at the Metro in Milwaukee (not sure now if that is the right name? or was that the place that had free hors d'oeuvres on Thursdays? and we would go order a couple drinks and stuff ourselves at the buffet like whores for shrimp cocktail? anyway) with Jocelyn and her moms and I ordered a big ol' burger that had as a topping fried spinach. Fried spinach! It was super crispy and along with that amazing texture it had a delicious silky flavor. So fast-forward to now and I have wicked cut back on the meat eating but I still remember the weirdly awesome fried spinach. So I warned Melanie ahead of time that it was an experiment but I went ahead and tried making it for part of our dinner last night:
I used a great big bunch of spinach for this--not the bagged-up, wee little baby leaves. Those are generally preferred for salads and most light cookery as they are more delicate and tender. But for frying, I got a bunch that had much larger leaves and was more robust looking. Trimmed the stems off and washed them very well--spinach is incredibly sandy so don't screw around. Get out your salad spinner. If you don't have a salad spinner, fill your sink with cold water and dump your trimmed up leaves in there and swish them around real well, then dry them off. You don't want Melanie to be eating sand. She'll be nice about it but secretly upset. When your spinach is clean, stack up about 8-10 leaves flat on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and then slice down crosswise to make thin strips. We have used this technique before with greens--it is a chiffonade and is very useful. When you have finished getting all your spinach into a chiffonade, set it aside and heat up about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large pot. Get it super hot and sizzly, then dump in your spinach. Grab some tongs and move your spinach around in the hot oil. It will shrivel up and get wilty pretty quick, but you're not done yet! Keep it moving in the hot ass oil until it turns dark dark green and is crispy in texture. It takes a little while, maybe almost 10 minutes. I suspect in the restaurant they probably just popped it into the deep fryer--much easier. You can tell when it gets crispy though, so remove it from the hot oil, spread it out on paper towels to drain and crisp further as it cools. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh black pepper. You won't be sorry--it's ridiculously delicious. Fried spinach is a really special side dish and it would also make a great garnish for some interesting main course.
Melanie and I drank wine and ate butternut ravioli from the farmer's market with sage and butter, to go with our fabulous fried spinach. We also had salmon and roasted spaghetti squash and probably ate too much.