A grand lady to meet; grand dish to serve

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 16, 2013

This dish is a Louisiana classic built around processed cheese and jalapeños.

This dish is a Louisiana classic built around processed cheese and jalapeños.

I always do scalloped oysters for my Thanksgiving feast from an old recipe handed down from the housekeeper of my husband’s grandmother, but I read an article in the October/November issue of Garden and Gun that made me rethink my recipe.

John Currence is a great chef and restaurant owner in Oxford, Miss., and I have eaten at two of his restaurants and they are terrific. His article in Garden and Gun referenced the original Madeleine recipe first published in the Baton Rouge Junior League cookbook in 1959. The book was called River Road Recipes, and it is still in print. The dish is a Louisiana classic built around processed cheese and jalapeños. I did an article about the Spinach Madeleine several months ago. Mr. Currence decided to use spinach cooked in bacon fat and add oysters and reinvent this famous dish.

This article was of interest to me since I have gotten to know the real Madeleine and go to church where she attends. She is there most Sundays. Her husband died this year, and she is somewhat in decline but still has a kind word to say to everyone.

This recipe has perhaps a hint of Oysters Rockefeller, but is not as rich. Red pepper flakes give it a little kick, but nothing really fierce. The roux made with bacon fat is the key to the flavor. We all have our Thanksgiving favorite like creamed onions and peanuts (my husband’s) and scalloped oysters (my son’s), but this recipe may be added to the list of favorites. Give it a try and I think you will like it!

Recipe from the October/November 2013 issue of Garden and Gun magazine.


Serves 6-8


3 tbsp. butter

2 lbs. fresh spinach

3 tbsp. bacon fat

3 tbsp. flour

½ cup yellow onion, small diced

1 ½ tbsp. garlic, minced

¼ cup celery

3 tbsp. heavy cream

½ tbsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 ½ tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. crushed toasted fennel seed

½ cup plus 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

2 dozen shucked medium oysters

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tsp. grated lemon zest


Melt butter in a medium soup pot over low heat; add spinach, raise heat to medium, and stir, turning until just wilted. Remove from pan, turn into a colander, and press water out as much as possible, reserving spinach liquor. Allow spinach to cool, then chop roughly.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt bacon fat and whisk in flour. Continue whisking until roux just begins to turn golden and smell nutty. Add onion, garlic, and celery, and stir until vegetables soften. Stir in ¾ cup of reserved spinach liquor, cream, lemon juice, thyme, red pepper flakes,and fennel seed, and continue stirring until mixture thickens.

Blend in ½ cup Parmesan cheese and stir in chopped spinach. Combine well. Season lightly with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool briefly.

Stir in oysters gently and pour mix into a large pie tin rubbed with butter. Combine remaining Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and lemon zest; sprinkle over casserole and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs toast.