ÉPINARDS À LA MAÎTRE D’HÔTEL: Spinach, The Butler’s Way (or beet greens)

Epinards au beurre spinach

Confession:  I’m terrible at growing spinach.  It  just doesn’t like my garden, or maybe it just doesn’t like me.  I like spinach, but I just can’t seem to grow it.

I’ve tried starting it at different times of the season, in different conditions, with either coddling or neglect (some plants do better with one of those), or both.  I’ve tried all kinds of varieties, especially the ones whose seed-catalogue descriptions would make you think that if you planted it once, there was no stopping it after that, and you might wake up one morning with it strangling the house.  No matter….if I even got them to sprout, they would send out a few pathetic leaves and then stop there, looking unhappy, no matter what.  This year I tried again, without much enthusiasm.  I tried scattering the seeds in the row and raking some soil over them.

One plant grew.  One.  It has had four leaves on it so far, which I didn’t have the heart to pick, and looks unhappy with the change of seasons now.

However, with gardening you often have to look on the bright side, and make-do.  We have some nice beets coming along now, and beet greens are very similar to spinach – in fact, this very recipe made by my aunt in Nice was very, very like the version I made with beet greens.

The Preparation of Spinach

R. Blondeau notes specifically in the section of spinach recipes:  “Spinach is best eaten in winter or early spring; beyond this time, they are too acrid and the flavor is disagreeable.”  (With the very warm weather lately, those four leaves are probably acrid and disagreeable, anyway).  It goes on to say the leaves must be washed, and any yellow leaves discarded.  The leaves are then cooked in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes, then they are removed and plunged into cold water (it sounds so dramatic!  As if the leaves were jumping off the high-dive into the cold water).  They are then chopped and are ready for the recipes.


Reheat the spinach in a pan with salt and pepper, add 100 grams of fresh butter, mix until the butter is melted, and serve.

epinards maitre d'hotel

epinards maitre d'hotel

epinards maitre d'hotel

epinards maitre d'hotel

Spinach (or Beet Greens), The Butler’s Way

A good bunch of spinach (or chard or beet greens.  With the beet greens, cut off the long stems at the base of each leaf)

2 quarts of water

1 teaspoon salt

More cool water in a bowl for plunging

Salt and Pepper

3 Tablespoons fresh butter

  1.  Bring the 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil and add the spinach/chard/beet greens.  Cook for about 5 minutes, and then drain the leaves and add them to the cool water.
  2. Drain as well as possible in a strainer, and chop with kitchen scissors, or a sharp knife.  Put the chopped leaves in a pan that has been warming gently on the stove, and season them with salt and pepper.
  3. When most of the extra water that always remains, despite a good straining, has evaporated, add the butter and stir until the butter is melted.

Epinards au beurre spinach


{My grandmother, Claudia Meraud, was born in Nice, France.   She immigrated to the US after meeting my grandfather while he was stationed there as a US soldier in WW II.  We spent several summers together, just the two of us, living with her sister in Nice.  She passed along to me an old French cookbook titled  title is La Cuisine:  Guide Practique De La Ménagère by R. Blondeau, Chef de Cuisine.  It originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Lucie Thomas, who was a native of St. Marie-aux-Mines in Alsace.

This cookbook was published in the 1930’s, and was written as a practical guide for a household cook before the days of the fridge and the food processor.  The recipes are delicious, practical, and (of course) packed with good traditional nutrition.

I am creating translated versions of these antique recipes, re-written for the modern cook, and tested with home-grown and seasonal food.}

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