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Spinach Madeline - best way to thicken?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
We make a lot of spinach madeline where I work and I am having some problems getting it to thicken. I add a flour and water paste to the chopped spinach and cheese mixture but when doing large batches it does not want to thicken. Should I add more of the flour and water paste (which I personally don't like using), do I need to cook it longer and/or cook it at a higher temperature? I afraid too much paste will take away from the taste.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Bill
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Bill
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post #2 of 13
Post the method you use for the small batches and we'll make the adjustments for you.:chef:
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One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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post #3 of 13
I agree that adding more flour will not be good, tastewise.

Are you draining the spinach really thoroughly before you add it back to the other ingredients? Squeezing the liquid out so that the spinach is dry and you're only using the recipe amount of spinach liquid?

What formula and method are you using, anyway? When I make something similar, I cook and drain the spinach, make the basic sauce as a bechamel or white sauce (with the prescribed amount of spinach liquid) so that it thickens, then mix in the cheese and add the spinach back in.

As Ma Facon said, tell us what you do now and we'll see what other help we can offer.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ma Facon & Suzanne,

In a large sauce pan we cook 2 - 5 pound blocks of frozen chopped spinach with a small amount of water, two stick of butter and cook until the spinach is thawed. Then add 2.5 pounds of Velveeta cheese, reduce heat and add flour and water mixture (done by look and thickness, not measured). Add flour mixture to spinach and cheese and blend well, raise heat and stir constantly until thick. We add Cajun seasoning, garlic powder and hot sauce to give it a little zip.

We don't strain the spinach, just the way I was taught.

When I double the recipe (20 pounds of spinach) it never seem to thicken as well.
Bill
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Bill
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post #5 of 13
With the large batch thaw the spinach first, don't use water [ you only use it to get the spinach to thaw anyway ] Use a larger pan like a grande marmite or similar or even a GI pan, A tilt skillet is optimal, Lengthen the cooking time after you add the slurry, You really should make two of the regular batches side by side or one after another if you don't have the right pan.:chef:
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One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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http://www.frappr.com/chefsunited
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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post #6 of 13
One of the kitchens I ran made huge quantitites of spanakopita, using 36 pounds of spinach at a time. We would thaw 3-pound packages of spinach and literally wring out the water with the wringer of a mop bucket. (Don't worry, it was dedicated only to squeezing spinach. :p )

I don't remember the exact proportions, but a 5-pound block of frozen spinach is going to include at least 2 pounds in water weight -- so each block already has 1 quart of water or more. You need to know how much water is actually there: Thaw a block, drain it to almost dry, then measure the liquid that you get. Take that amount into consideration when you add water for cooking and when you measure out your slurry. And yes, measure everything! Not measuring your liquid and your flour leads to the inconsistent result you're getting. Standard proportions should always work, and if you are just eyeballing you'll never get them right. Finally, cooking cheese -- even Velveeta -- can cause it to separate.

But I still think that you are, forgive me, doing it backwards. I would do it this way:

Two 5# packages frozen chopped spinach
1/2# butter (I assume your "2 sticks" are standard 1/4# sticks, not 1# blocks)
1 to 1 1/4 cups AP or bread flour*
Salt, spices (whatever amounts you currently use)
Hot sauce (ditto)
2 1/2# Velveeta, diced or shredded
  1. Thaw the spinach. Drain it thoroughly (until almost completely dry) and save the liquid.
  2. Melt the butter, stir in flour and spices, cook briefly to remove the raw taste. *Bread flour will give you stronger gelatinization.
  3. Whisk in spinach water and extra water as needed to total 2 quarts. Stir in hot sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
  4. Stir in spinach and cook until it is warmed through (frozen spinach needs only a bare minimum of cooking time).
  5. Add the cheese and stir it in only until melted and mixed through.

This can be scaled up in proportion, and even if doubled will still easily fit into a standard rondeau (1 gallon of sauce plus the spinach and cheese).
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 13
I was trying to explain improvements on there way of doing the recipe , I didn't want to step on anyones feet. But I do agree with the revised method.:chef:
http://www.frappr.com/chefsunited
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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http://www.frappr.com/chefsunited
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -


'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
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post #8 of 13

watered down spinach

I agree with the revised recipe also. Spinach contains great quantities of water. When ever I use it I always cook the spinach (if using fresh) then cool and strain and squeeze. Suzanne, I like that wringer idea. How ingenious. Personally I don't want to step on anybodys toes or "familly recipe" but I have to concur with Suzanne that the original recipe sounds like a backwards way of making a creamed spinach w/ cheese.
caio
David :lips:
Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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Hard work never killed anybody but it sure has scared a lot of them.
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post #9 of 13
Another good way to squeeze the water out of spinach is a potato ricer (the kind that looks like a garlic press on steroids).
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Spinach madeline thicking

To all,

No need to worry about stepping on my toes, I'm here to learn, improve and try new methods. I also wondered why we do it the way we do, but hey, I'm the rookie in the kitchen. I'll try the revised recipe at work tomorrow and let everyone know how it turns out and if I get the "evil-eye" from anyone. Some cooks in our kitchen are sensitive!

Thanks to all!
Bill
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Bill
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post #11 of 13
Why do you do it that way? Probably because that's the way the first cook to do it there did it -- not knowing any better. And that cook taught it that way to the next cook, who taught it to the next cook, who . . . And so you are making a recipe the hard way. :(

That's the way things were at the place I mentioned, with many recipes being made NOT according to good kitchen principles -- for example, when they put stuff into the fridge to cool down after cooking, they left it in the pots in which it was cooked, and never went back to stir it as it cooled. Sure, it was right that they knew to cool down the food as rapidly as possible, but they simply didn't know that it would cool faster if it were transferred to another container, out of the heavy metal pots that also had to cool, and that it would cool more evenly if it were stirred. And it was clear to me that the recipes there were created and written by people who didn't have much understanding of how flavor is developed -- some recipes were a riot of ingredients and procedures, not all of them absolutely necessary but added because the recipe developer didn't know basic principles.

When I got there, they were storing things in the walk-in that didn't belong there, like cases of salt :eek:, but leaving sesame seeds in the hot kitchen. They were transferring the herbs into tightly tied plastic bags. :cry: Why on earth do that? Because they just didn't know the right way. (In their credit, I must say that the spinach-squeezing was already SOP when I got there. :) )

There's a story that illustrates this problem well: A young man says to his bride, "Honey, I love your pot roast. But why do you cut off the ends of the meat before you cook it?" She replies, "That's just the way my mother does it." So he says to his mother-in-law, "Your daughter's and your pot roast is fantastic. But why do you cut off the ends of the meat before you cook it?" "That's how I saw my mother do it," says the m-i-l. So the guy goes to his wife's grandmother, and says, "I just can't get enough of the pot roast the ladies in your family make. But why do you cut off the ends of the meat before you cook it?" And the lady says, "Because when I was a new bride, I didn't have a pot big enough to cook the whole piece."
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Spinach Madeline - best way to thicken?

After being off work for almost a week with the flu, I was finally able to try the recipe suggested by Suzanne at work tonight. To say the least it turned out much better than the way we were doing it. It had a much better taste, smooth texture and thickened perfectly. I thought the 2 quarts of liquid would be too much, but you were right on the money, it was just right. No more flour and water paste, woo hoo!

Thanks Suzanne!!!

Just out of curiosity, why add the seasoning at the beginning with the butter and flour?

Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions.
Bill
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Bill
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post #13 of 13
I'm so happy for you!!!!!! :bounce: We are all here on ChefTalk to help each other. :D

Why add the seasonings at the beginning? I don't know, that's just the way I always do it. :p

No, seriously: many spices have a raw flavor, and cooking them early on mellows them out. Sometimes that flavor is okay -- there are Indian recipes where you want the taste of adding a specific spice at the very end -- but generally I prefer to cook the spices first. Also, it's much easier to blend the spices completely if you make them part of the roux rather than add them after the sauce is made. No hidden lumps of cayenne this way. :eek:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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