If there is a Holiday Meal Hall of Fame, they would use a sculpture of Spinach Madeleine for the trophy. This cheesy and somewhat spicy spinach dish is the best-known side dish and favorite of thousands in South Louisiana. It's a rich, creamy cheese sauce spiced with a touch of jalapeno and cayenne, then mixed into cooked spinach and baked to a golden brown. It has no peers. It’s right up there with the traditional oyster dressings, dirty rice and candied yams to headline the holiday meal. Sweet Daddy D has been making this for decades along with just about everyone else in South Louisiana. This will change the landscape of your holiday table.
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Where Did this Recipe Originate?
This recipe appeared in the first volume of River Road Recipes-The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine published in 1959. Since that time, River Road Recipes has become a culinary bible for not only South Louisiana home cooks but home cooks all over the world. It has been reprinted 80 times and has sold in excess of 1.4 million copies. This iconic cookbook is published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge and features tested recipes from South Louisiana home cooks, not celebrity chefs. Subsequently, three more volumes have been published adding more than 1200 recipes to the original volume’s 650 recipes. Together, the four volumes of River Road Recipes have become the #1 community cookbook series in the nation. It’s a must-have in your cookbook collection if you are interested in Cajun and Creole Cuisine.
The recipe for Spinach Madeleine was created by Mrs. William G. Reymond (Madeline) in 1956, somewhat as a fluke. Needing to serve food for the bridge club gathering she was hosting, she decided on her mother-in-law’s creamed spinach recipe. She added the jalapeno cheese and other ingredients that she happened to have on hand to save a trip to the grocery. Needless to say, the bridge club loved it, as did other groups to which she served it. As a member of the Junior League, she submitted the recipe for consideration in their first cookbook fundraiser. The popularity of the recipe paralleled the extreme popularity of the cookbook which has been sharing Spinach Madeleine with the world for over 60 years. Mrs. Reymond’s recipe has been reprinted in countless newspapers, magazines and websites entrenching it deeply in the Holiday traditions of South Louisiana. No doubt its popularity will continue for many years beyond Madeline’s recent passing in 2020 at the age of 91. I wouldn’t want a Thanksgiving dinner without it.
Here’s What You Need
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. To me, this dish represents a special meal. Maybe it's a birthday or anniversary celebration or a special gathering of friends and family, but it definitely means Thanksgiving and Christmas to me. To get started, pop the cap off a beer and read the recipe all the way through. No matter how many times I’ve made this recipe, I always ready the recipe thoroughly. Make sure you know what you need and what you’re going to do with each ingredient.
Prepare the ingredients
You should start with the spinach so it has time for the liquid to drain (make sure to save that!). Cook it according to the directions on the package and place it in a strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. Set that aside for now. Measure the dry ingredient: place the flour in a prep bowl, then put the celery salt, granulated garlic, black pepper and cayenne (if using) in one prep bowl together. Measure the butter, finely chop the onions and cut the jalapeno cheese into small cubes; set everything aside. Combine the evaporated milk, the spinach liquid and Worchestershire sauce into a measuring cup and set that aside. Have some seasoned breadcrumbs and extra butter handy. Prepare a 3-quart baking dish by spreading softened butter all over the inside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You are ready to go, how’s your beer?
Make the cheese sauce
Place a dutch oven over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk or stir constantly until a smooth white roux develops, which should only take about 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the onions and stir constantly until they are turning soft. Make sure not to brown the onions, so no more than 2 or 3 minutes.
Next, slowly pour the liquid ingredients (evaporated milk, the spinach liquid and Worchestershire sauce) into the onion-roux mix. You may need to increase the heat a little until it starts to simmer, then return the heat to medium. Whisk constantly until it’s a smooth, thick sauce with no lumps, about 3 minutes.
Add the dry ingredients (black pepper, celery salt, granulated garlic and cayenne, if using) and stir well to combine.
Maintaining a medium heat, toss in the cubes of cheese a few at a time, stirring constantly to blend the melting cheese into the sauce. This should take about 5 minutes.
Add the spinach
Once the cheese has melted and you have a smooth sauce, add the spinach to the cheese sauce and stir to thoroughly combine.
Bake the Madeleine
Turn the spinach mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spoon. Lightly sprinkle the top with seasoned breadcrumbs and place small pieces of butter on the top.
Place in the 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling on the side.
Hints and Tips
How many will this serve?
When served as part of a large holiday feast with lots of other dishes, it’s hard to say how large each serving will be. This recipe will easily provide 12 full servings. My recipe is double Mrs. Reymond’s original recipe because I always make this for a crowd. If your gathering isn’t so large, cut my recipe in half.
Do I need to use Jalapeno Cheese?
The touch of pepper from the cayenne and jalapeno cheese in the recipe distinguishes this dish, in my opinion. Mrs. Reymond’s original recipe used Kraft Food’s Jalapeno Cheese Roll but the company stopped making that product in the late 1990s. As a substitute, I have used plain Velveeta cheese with jalapenos added and also Velveeta Mexican Cheese. Now I use Velveeta Jalapeno Cheese if I can find it. (Note-this recipe is so popular in South Louisiana that sometimes it’s hard to find frozen spinach or jalapeno cheese running up to Thanksgiving!). Volume III of River Roads Recipes has a “lighter” version of the recipe which uses 4 ounces of Veletta with 2 teaspoons of minced Jalapeno peppers. You can experiment with your favorite cheese as long as they melt well and you don’t leave out that little kick.
Does this have to be baked?
No, you can serve it right from the skillet once you have blended the spinach into the cheese sauce. I prefer it baked, but it’s very tasty either way.
Can this be made in advance?
Yes, this is one of those recipes that’s even better the next day. Making it the night before helps when the kitchen is busy doing Holiday cooking. This recipe also freezes well, just make sure that it is wrapped airtight. It should last a couple of months in the freezer.
Can this be used as a dip?
You can use this as a dip or spread, either hot or cold. Just spread it on some toasted baguette chips or your favorite crackers.
Here's some more Thanksgiving recipes from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Here's What You Need
- 4 packs frozen spinach a total of 40 ounces
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons AP flour
- 4 tablespoons yellow onions chopped fine
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup spinach vegetable liquid
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon black peppers
- 1 ½ teaspoon celery salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon cayenne peppers optional but highly recommended
- 12 ounces Velveeta Jalapeno Cheese
- ¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- kosher salt to taste
Here's What You Do
- Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package. Drain and reserve the liquid.
- Combine the liquid ingredients-evaporated milk, spinach liquid and Worchestershire sauce in a measuring cup. Set aside.
- Measure the dry spices into a small bowl.
- Cut the jalapeno cheese into small cubes and set aside.
- Prepare a 2.5-quart baking dish by spreading softened butter all over the inside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the Madeleine
- Place a dutch oven over medium heat and melt the butter.
- Add the flour and whisk constantly to form a smooth white roux, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the onions and stir constantly until they are turning soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Slowing pour the liquid ingredients (evaporated milk, spinach liquid and Worchestershire sauce) into the onion-roux mix, whisking constantly as it incorporates into a smooth and thick sauce. Increase the heat to bring it to a simmer, then reduce the heat again. About 3 minutes.
- Stir in the dry ingredients (black pepper, celery salt, granulated garlic and cayenne, if using).
- Add the cubes of cheese a few at a time, stirring constantly to blend the melting cheese into the sauce. Maintain a slow simmer for about 5 minutes until a smooth cheese sauce develops with no lumps.
- Remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the drained spinach to the cheese sauce and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Turn the spinach mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spoon.
- Lightly sprinkle the top with seasoned breadcrumbs and place some small tabs of butter on top.
- Place in the 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling on the side.