Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Spinach Madeleine Bake - My Way

A classic spinach casserole based on Spinach Madeleine, made with spinach, sauteed vegetables and a simple, cheesy cream sauce.

Spinach Madeleine Bake - My Way

Known by a couple of names with some variations - Spinach Madeline, Calhoun's Spinach Maria, Spinach Supreme, Spinach Justine, Spinach Gratin, Spinach Pauline, Spinach Dorinne, or just simply Spinach Bake - if you enjoy spinach you're sure to like this.

It's really a basic skillet dish made of spinach, seasonings, some kind of cheese, half and half, milk, or heavy cream, sometimes eggs and is sometimes topped with cheese or buttered bread crumbs. Each recipe has its own unique twist and variation. I've even seen one recipe that uses phyllo! Spinach Madeline is a holiday favorite for sure - be sure to double the recipe!

As far as how it came about being, I have read that a gal named Helen over on the Southern Living community boards, said that she was once a guest at the Green Springs Inn in the Tunica Hills of St Francisville, Louisiana, and that the owner and innkeeper, Madeline Nevill, laid claim to the actual invention of Spinach Madeleine many years ago. Once she opened the inn with her now late husband, she served it to guests there.

Photo Credit: Green Springs Inn

A remarkably similar, though slightly different recipe was submitted by someone else though and published at some point in the popular Baton Rouge Junior League cookbook River Road Recipes. I'm not sure in which edition (I own the 1993 edition, which happens to be the 69th printing) the River Road Recipes Spinach Madeleine was first published, but they certainly lay claim to it too.

I don't know who gets the original credit to be honest, but I can tell you that Spinach Madeleine has taken on a life of its own in popularity down around these parts for sure and its popular for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The original Nevill recipe starts with making a roux, and then adds in 1/2 cup evaporated milk, with 1/2 cup of the liquor from squeezing out the spinach. It also called for the now discontinued Kraft garlic cheese roll - or the also discontinued jalapeno roll, depending on which "original" recipe you are endeared to, so you'll have to try to recreate that, or it appears that most people are simply substituting Velveeta or Cheez Whiz these days, and frankly, that is alright by me!

Since the "original" River Roads Recipes Spinach Madeline used the jalapeno roll, its site suggests using regular Velveeta now, adding in 2 teaspoons of chopped jalapeno, but many folks are using the Mexican style Velveeta. What I did here, was to use Cheez Whiz, hot sauce and red pepper flakes.

Although he is getting a little better at least with trying new things, The Cajun won't touch spinach, unless it is well disguised in something else - and he doesn't know about it. Yes. I absolutely do that y'all and with great pride and not a bit of trepidation! It's one of the only ways I can get vegetables into a man who seriously believes that rice and potatoes are vegetables.

Here's how to make my version of Spinach Madeleine.

As always, full recipe text with measurements and instructions, as well as a printable document, are a little bit further down the page. Just swipe or scroll past the step-by-step pictures below.

This can be served right from the stovetop. Just omit the cracker topping. Otherwise, if baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use an oven safe, non-stick style skillet or butter a 1-1/2-quart baking dish and set aside. Cook spinach according to directions on package.

Drain in colander.

I'm using frozen, whole leaf spinach here because that's what I had in the freezer. Just use your kitchen shears to chop it up!

While the spinach is cooking, melt 1/4 cup butter in a skillet over low heat. 

For the rest of the dish, you will need (measurements below):
  • Minced onion
  • Minced celery
  • All-purpose flour
  • Half and half or whole milk
  • Vegetable or chicken broth
  • Some seasonings - nutmeg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce
  • A processed cheese like Kraft "Cheez Whiz," or equivalent Velveeta or American cheese
  • Bread crumbs and melted butter, if you're going to bake it.

Add the onion and celery and sauté just until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add flour, stirring in until well blended and smooth, but not brown. 

Add the milk and stock, a little at a time, until mixture is smooth and thickened.

Grate nutmeg into sauce. Blend in all of the seasonings. 

Stir in cheese a little at a time.

Until fully incorporated.

Add spinach and stir in. Taste and adjust seasonings.

At this point this can be served as is. Even better if you let it cool, cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld together overnight. Reheat over low when ready to serve. If baking and using a separate baking dish, transfer spinach to buttered dish. I'm just going from stovetop to oven in the same skillet. 

Crush up some crackers - I'm using Ritz. You'll need about 10 of those.

Combine cracker crumbs and melted butter.

Sprinkle crumbs all over the top of spinach. 

Bake about 15 minutes, or until bubbly and heated through. 

Serve as a side dish, or as an appetizer/dip with toasted bread, sturdy crackers, or tortilla chips.

Posted by on December 22, 2021
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