Friday, December 24, 2010

Spinach Madeline: The Best Holiday Side You'll Ever Eat

Spinach Madeline is an old recipe from one of those 1940's era Junior League Cookbooks that uses a can of soup as the first ingredient for virtually everything.

My father has just opened this email and he is now dying laughing.

I was born in New Orleans. My parents lived there for several years and I think they truly enjoyed the local culture, which even today has a uniquely regional feeling. New Orleans is unlike any place I can think of in the US. When I was there recently I felt that the natives celebrated their differences from standard American culture. For this I was especially happy!! While we place so much importance in our culture on indiviuality we are all, remarkably, the same.

Spinach Madeline was a recipe that my parents discovered while they were living in New Orleans. I was never sure exactly where they had it first, a friend's house, or if they had the cookbook and made it because it looked good. Perhaps my Dad will comment down below and solve the mystery. But today, this recipe has gone viral. We make the spinach for every holiday gathering. And most of the folks that have married into our family are now making the dish. My brother now makes it at every holiday with his family. I do as well. And some of my sister-in-law's do too. My grandmother on my mother's side always made it and some of my friends have too. It just isn't a Christmas without someone emailing me asking for this recipe. A few years ago, my Dad converted it to a word document, so now whenever anyone asks for the original recipe there it is all typed up and ready to attach!

The recipe can be found in a book called The River Road Recipes, which is filled with recipes for things that you'd never want to eat. In fact, the original recipe is filled with ingredients that you'd never want to eat like processed cheese and evaporated milk. Though when we were kids, my folks made it exactly the way the recipe called, roll cheese and all. As I have become an adult, I have altered the recipe to make it more "real food".

Here is the altered recipe-

Spinach Madeleine

2 pkgs. Frozen spinach
3/4 tsp. Celery seed
4 tbls. Butter
3/4 tsp. Granulated Garlic
2 tbls.Flour
salt to taste
2 tbls. Chopped onion
6 oz. Pepperjack cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup vegetable liquor (from the cooked spinach)
red pepper (Cayenne) to taste
1/2 tsp. Black pepper

Cook spinach according to directions on package. Drain and reserve liquor. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth, but not brown. Add onion and cook until soft but not brown. Add liquid slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook until smooth and thick; continue stirring. Add seasonings and cheese which has been cut into small pieces. Stir until melted. Combine with cooked spinach. This may be served immediately or put into a casserole and topped with buttered bread crumbs. The flavor is improved if the latter is done and kept in refrigerator overnight. This may also be frozen. Serves 5-6.

Mrs. William G. Reymond
Adapted from River Road Recipes
(the first volume)

Mrs Reymond, you are probably not be alive today. But I can honestly say, you have contributed to countless holiday memories in my family and others. Seriously, try this recipe. If there is a dish that embodies a family gathering in my mind, it is this one!!

Merry Christmas Y'All!


  1. A slight variation of this recipe appears in Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking" which is a collection of her essays from "Gourmet Magazine." She wrote that she had served it for years and first had it in Dallas where "it was so good it made me want to sit up and beg like a dog."

  2. Yeah, That about sums it up. The leftovers are amazing with a couple of over easy eggs. And sometimes DH will mix some of the leftovers into leftover mashed potatoes, add an egg and a little flour and fry them up like little potato pancakes. Amazing.

  3. Oh I almost forgot!! Here is my Dad's comment that he emailed to me--

    Christa: OK, you're right, I did have a nice chuckle at the opening. But, I disagree with your assessment--there are many recipes in that cookbook that are very good and contain real food. And, if there are problems with some of them, I usually substitute something real. I actually learned to make a wine/cream sauce from that book. Amazing!

    Also, I think the first time we had spinach madeline was at the Hanson's house--Doris and Peter; he was the chairman of the music department who hired me, and we really loved those people. They made it, as did Doris Baron, who was another amazing cook. Then, we found the cookbook and it was history!

    However, I do disagree with a couple of your ingredients: I use celery salt and garlic salt, as called for. And, I use 2% milk instead of cream. But, the original called for condensed milk, which I detest. Also, I started using pepperjack cheese because I didn't like the processed stuff that it called for.

    So, there you have it. But, I do agree that holidays would not be right without it.

    Love you lots!!!@


  4. Dad got it wrong: evaporated milk rather than condensed milk (made that mistake one year and had mom send me back to the store) and it's almost impossible to find the garlic cheese (processed, barf) that the original recipe calls for. Also, you need so much more Worcestershire sauce than is called for, otherwise it's just any other creamed spinach recipe. And whatever it tastes like the day before, it intensifies overnight. Good eats!