The latest recipe for Spinach Madeleine

Spinach Madeleine with Tomatoes

This is one classic spinach casserole.

There must have been 10 customers in the shop last week whom I asked of the last time they made Spinach Madeleine and all said pretty much the same. "Oh my Lord, I haven't made that in years, what's the matter with me!" and "The last time must have been decades ago, for Big Bull's Birthday Bash." or "I don't even know if I still have the recipe, you know, since mama died and all." Of course, those customers are weekly regulars and we're comfortable in discussing such delicate matters.

Stuck back in the archives of fine southern food lore is this wonderful diddy, more than a casserole as it has shown up center stage at cocktail parties (and funerals), held steadfast as a side riding next to a main course and is versatile enough to have become one of the south's best loved holiday foods. It was originally published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge in River Roads Recipes, Dec 1950. That's a testament to how good it is as, and in my opinion, it has withstood the test of time more than any other published recipe. It is also said, that the dish before being published, was first created by Madeleine Neville who owns the (now reportedly closed) Green Springs Inn B&B in St. Francisville LA. I dunno about that but I do know the same version as the original River Roads recipe also shows up in the cookbook Talk About Good printed by The Junior League of Lafayette but named Spinach Dorinne. Another testament of a fine, classic southern recipe, I mean when Madeleine and Dorinne are on the same page.

Unfortunately, the recipe has gone through some modifications from the original as Kraft Foods discontinued marketing it's super rich, spicy Jalapeno Cheese Roll back in the 1990's. Today, we use their Mexican Hot Velveeta or regular Velveeta mixed with diced fresh jalapenos. I understand the Green Springs version used a garlic cheese roll and that may explain why the River Roads recipe adds garlic salt. So many variations have appeared in print, it is hard to tell if the original did indeed have jalapenos. I suspect it was red pepper either in powder form (cayenne) or liquid (Tabasco). And for the food snobs out there, this recipe ain't the same if you don't use Velveeta. That's just how it was meant to be.

Here is my rendition of this spinach dish with of course, my personal spin. Enjoy!

super creamy, super rich flavor

Spinach Madeleine on Church Street

Many times I have served this stuffed in cherry tomatoes as appetizers, slathered on slices of small tomatoes as a side and even topped with a vidalia tomato salsa. To me, it's only natural to broil small ripe tomatoes on top for a delectable savor.

serves 5 or 6
2 -10 oz packages steam'ables cut-leaf spinach 
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced onions
1/2 cup reserved spinach liquor
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, warmed
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (I like the sweetness of Alaga brand)
salt to taste
8 oz Mexican style Velveeta, cubed
2 or 3 small ripe tomatoes, sliced (Campari are perfect)

Cook the spinach in microwave according to package directions. Place spinach, one bag at a time in a fine mesh sieve or strainer over a bowl and using the backside of a large spoon, press the water out of the leaves. Press all over the spinach until all the liquor has drained. Remove spinach to a bowl and do the other bag. Reserve the liquor (and spinach).

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour stirring until smooth and lump free. Stir in onions and cook until soft, but do not let brown. Slowly add both liquids stirring and cooking until sauce is thick and smooth. Stir in garlic, pepper, Worcestershire and pepper sauce. Add salt to taste. Stir in cheese until it blends and sauce is creamy. Fold in cooked spinach mixing in rather well.

From this point, you can serve as is but some folks like for it to rest in the refrigerator overnight for flavors to meld and deepen. I like to bake it a while, say 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees F until bubbly and then top with the slice tomatoes and run it under the broiler until the tomatoes "melt". Yummy.

Other suggested variations and uses for this recipe:

great on Steak Night
  • Brush the top with melted butter and top with a gratin of soft bread crumbs before broiling.
  • Use this recipe when making tomato pies, morning quiche and even when stuffing fish fillets (great for fish rolls)
  • Make a killer oyster appie by using Spinach Madeleine along with 1 tbsp of Herbsaint and 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs when making Oyster Rockefeller 
  •  Stuff into hollowed tomatoes and bake with a bacon/cheese/cracker topping
  • Make Crawdad Dip by adding a pound of crawfish tails while adding cheese
  • Alternate layers of seasoned steamed sliced summer squash with Spinach Madeleine for a superb luncheon dish
Can you think of any more? Let me know by sending in your comments...


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