Spinach Madeline: A Thanksgiving Tradition

Spinach Madeleine, the recipe that put the first Junior League of Baton River Road Recipes Cookbook on the map! This savory and bubbly warm dish is now a traditional favorite for family gatherings, potlucks and supper clubs all around our great state for over 50 years.

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The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

Spinach Madeleine can be served as a warm appetizer dip with toast points or cocktail crackers, as well as, a flavorful side dish complimentary to many main dishes. Remember, Spinach Madeleine also freezes well. So consider when preparing, double the recipe and freeze half.

This dish is also a good way to introduce spinach to those who might be reluctant to try green veggies. The blended flavors and spices are sure to please even the most doubtful of picky eaters.

The original recipe calls for a roll of 6 ounces of Jalapeno cheese. Kraft Foods no longer makes the product so we have substituted 4 ounces of Velveeta cheese, cubed, and 2 teaspoons of minced jalapenos!

Spinach Madeleine

  • 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onions
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup vegetable liquor (the liquid reserved from cooking the spinach)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 2 teaspoons jalapeno, minced
  • Red pepper to taste

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, jalapenos, 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 breadcrumbs. The flavor is improved if the latter is done and kept in the refrigerator overnight. This may also be frozen.

Serves 5 to 6.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Baked Cauliflower

After a long day I am sometimes at a loss for what side dish to prepare to accompany my main dish. Last week I turned to my mother, a former Junior League member, for assistance. Of course she knew exactly what I needed based solely on her knowledge of the River Road Recipe books and what I told her I had in my kitchen. Below is the easy and crowd pleasing Baked Cauliflower that saved the day!

From River Road Recipes I, page 53.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Level of Difficulty: Medium

Servings: 4-6

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sauce pan
  • Small pot
  • Glass baking dish

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup buttered bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated cheese, or more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cook the whole cauliflower in boiling salt water for about 20 minutes. Drain and place in baking dish.

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2. Melt Butter in small skillet. Add flour and stir until blended. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth and thick. Add salt, pepper, pimento, and green onions. Blend.

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3. Pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated cheese. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

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A History of Spinach Madeleine

It goes without saying that Spinach Madeleine is hands down one of the most famous recipes in the River Road Recipes cookbook series. In fact, Spinach Madeleine was named as one of the Century’s Best Recipes in an article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle in December 1999. For many Baton Rougeans, no holiday dinner would be complete without this delicious dish! In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to highlight the history of this iconic recipe.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The original Spinach Madeleine recipe is found on page 63 of River Road Recipes I: A Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.

The recipe’s creator, Madeline Nevell Reymond, created this legendary recipe by accident.  She was a young and inexperienced cook when she decided to use up a jalapeno cheese roll that she had in her refrigerator by adding it to a spinach dish she was preparing for a ladies’ luncheon.  The result was a dish that became one the most popular special-occasion vegetable dishes in Louisiana.  This is evidenced every year by the empty freezers in the grocery stores at Christmas time after all the frozen spinach packages have been snatched up.

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When Kraft Foods decided to discontinue making the jalapeno cheese roll, which is called for in the recipe, hundreds of distraught cooks called Kraft Foods to protest.   The powers-at be at Kraft were amused by Louisiana’s devotion to their jalapeno cheese roll, but discontinued the product anyway.  Fortunately, the River Road Recipes committee developed a new version of Spinach Madeleine in 2000 so that cooks can still serve this outstanding dish. A lighter version of the recipe appears in River Road Recipes III: A Healthy Collection.

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The recipe is versatile and can be served alone or as a warm appetizer dip with toast points or crackers. Spinach Madeleine also freezes well, so it can be made in advance of hectic holiday dinners! To make sure you have this holiday classic at your Thanksgiving table this year, check out the recipe here!

Community Project Spotlight: Ready Hands!

After our son was born, my husband and I were amazed at the outpouring of love from friends and family – most of which came in the form of food! Nearly every day for weeks after he was born, church members, coworkers, friends, and family members stopped by to ooh and ahh over our bundle of joy and bring us dinner. It was a lifesaver during this chaotic time. As we struggled to adjust to life caring for both a newborn and a toddler and trying to stay on top of all our other responsibilities, having these “extra hands” to take care of one of our family’s basic needs truly meant the world to us.

Through its Ready Hands! committee, the Junior League of Baton Rouge lends an extra hand to nonprofit organizations hosting events throughout the Baton Rouge community. Ready Hands! touches nearly every aspect of our community, and Junior League members volunteer thousands of hours each year assisting organizations who fit within the League’s mission by providing brown bag lunches, frozen casseroles, handing out water at 5ks, assisting with registration at events, playing bingo with residents at Oak Park Plaza for their birthdays each month, preparing and assisting for luncheons and fundraisers, and countless other acts of service. If your nonprofit organization needs assistance for an upcoming event, learn more about Ready Hands! here!

Chicken-Spaghetti Casserole, River Road Recipes I, p. 129

This Chicken-Spaghetti Casserole is a great dish to bring to someone in need of an extra hand. As a bonus, kids love it too, making this dish a crowd pleaser for the entire family. Make it ahead and simply pop it back in the oven to reheat when you are ready to serve. The recipe makes 8-10 servings, so I recommend making it in two separate casserole dishes. You can keep one dish for your family and bring the other to a friend in need!

  • 1 large hen
  • 1 stick butter or oleo
  • 3 medium onions, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, minced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • One 16-ounce package spaghetti (Angel Hair or similar)
  • 1/4 pound mild cheese, grated
Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Boil the hen in enough water to make 2 quarts of stock. Sauté the onions, peppers, celery, and garlic in butter. Add 1 quart stock and tomatoes to the pan and simmer together. Bone the chicken and cut into  large pieces. Mix with the sauce and put it in the casserole dish. Add the cooked and drained spaghetti to the remaining quart of chicken stock, and mix well with the chicken and the sauce. Bake for 40 minutes at 350°, sprinkle with the grated cheese, and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

Photo by Leslie Ellis.

In a hurry? Modify this recipe by simply picking up a freshly cooked rotisserie chicken and a two quarts of ready made chicken stock at the grocery store instead of cooking your own hen!

Serves 8-10.