Well I’m finally home for Thanksgiving! You have to be living under a rock to not know about the giant storm that is walloping half of the country and ruining holiday travel plans for thousands. Given the incoming storm, I decided to take an extra vacation day and drive home on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. I thought I would be ahead of the storm. As it turns out, I thought wrong and my normally six and a half hour drive turned into a harrowing 8 hour journey complete with freezing rain, snow, and pulling my car over at the half way point to chip a quarter inch sheet of ice off of the entire body of my vehicle.
Whew… never have I ever been so happy to pull my little car into my parents’ driveway as I was last night.
My dad ran out to my car to greet me when I arrive and immediately asked what he could get for me. [meaning my suitcase, perhaps] My reply: “a strong drink.”
Well, dad took care of both my suitcase and my drink needs, and soon enough I was settled into the living room catching up with my parents and discussing holiday plans [which thankfully for us, do not involve any more driving.]
Dinner with my folks will actually be my second Thanksgiving meal this year as two weekends ago I was invited to a neighborhood Friendsgiving. Although most of the friends in attendance are new friends to me, I couldn’t have felt more welcome or blessed to be a part of their day. One of my favorite things about the holidays are the way they bring together people from all walks of life, and this experience was the perfect example of that.
With different backgrounds, come different holiday traditions, and lots of different favorite recipes. The table was absolutely overflowing with Turkey and all the fixins. I made room on my plate to squeeze a little bit of everything [and believe me, there was a lot to try]. Although everything was delicious, the one thing I absolutely had to go back for seconds on was the Spinach Madeline. Apparently Spinach Madeline is a somewhat common southern side dish, but it was a new addition to the holiday table for me. I couldn’t get enough of its creamy, cheesy, little bit spicy goodness, so I immediately went home and googled the recipe to whip it up on my own. I know its a little late to be amending your Thanksgiving menu, but this is the perfect side for all of those upcoming holiday dinners, or just for a weeknight side dish. To make it even more versatile, the leftovers heat up like a dream. I was playing the clean-out-the-fridge-before-I-go-out-of-town-game and got a big thumbs up from the boy who helped me finish off my leftover Spinach Madeline.
- 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
- 4 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs flour
- 2 Tbs chopped onion
- 1/2 cup reserved spinach juice
- 3/4 tsp celery salt
- 3/4 tsp garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 6 oz jalapeno flavored Velveeta cheese**
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 Tbs butter, melted
**The recipes I found call for either Mexican Velveeta cheese or Velveeta Cheese + a minced jalapeno. I haven’t tried to buy Velveeta in ages and couldn’t find the big block that I remember from childhood in my local grocery store. I did find these slices though and thought they worked perfectly. I know a lot of cooks are anit-“fake” cheese, so go ahead and substitute 6 oz of your favorite American cheese and some minced jalapeno. I haven’t made the recipe that way, but I imagine it will work as well.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the spinach per the package instructions (I did mine covered on the stove top with a quarter cup of water). When the spinach is cooked, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the spinach juices, and set the spinach aside for later.
In a large skillet on the stove top, heat 4 Tbs of butter over medium heat. When melted, add the 2 Tbs of butter and whisk for one minute, or until no longer lumpy. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Add the 1/2 cup of reserved spinach juice, and whisk for 2 minutes, or until the juices have thickened. Stir in the celery salt, garlic salt, and black pepper. Unwrap the Jalapeno Velveeta Singles, and cut them into large chunks. Add the cheese to the sauce, and stir until it has been melted and incorporated. Finally, add all of the spinach and toss gently until it has been coated with the creamy cheese sauce. Transfer the spinach mixture to a square (8×8 or 9×9) baking pan.
Melt 2 Tbs of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Add a half cup of bread crumbs to the butter and toss with a spoon until they are well coated. Pour the breadcrumbs over the spinach and bake the casserole for 20 minutes. This can be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated. You’ll just need to increase the baking time to 30 minutes.
After Friendsgiving I began googling Spinach Madeline to see what I could find. Most everything directed me to this recipe from the Junior League of Baton Rouge. If you are going to make southern recipe, the Junior League of Baton Rouge seems like a darn good place to start. I made a couple ingredient changes based on availability, but overall held pretty true to their recipe.