Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julia Child’s Spinach Turnover

I watched “The French Chef” again, and again her recipes are NOT to be found written on the web, but you can watch the videos. A great visual was watching her squeeze the spinach by hand. She went to Provence for the assembly segment with her great friend, Simone Beck (Simcha). So, from my notes and memory, I wrote this out immediately after watching the show. This would make a great hors d’oeuvres.

Julia Child’s Spinach Turnover
The French Chef - “The Spinach Twins”

Pastry for 2 - 9” crusts, (unbleached pastry flour)
9 oz. fresh spinach, washed (Yield 2 cups blanched, drained- squeezed dry, chopped)

4 oz. fresh white small mushrooms, quartered
½ cup diced (3/8”) ham
1 Tbsp. butter

Sauce Bouillée:
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
¼ cup butter
½ cup flour
1 2/3 cup hot milk
1 egg
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg

2 eggs, 1 separated
1 tsp. water

For Cream Sauce:
Remaining Sauce Bouillée
½ cup or more cream or milk
Salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

Wash spinach well and plunge into a large kettle of boiling water for about 2 minutes, then immediately shock it in cold water. Drain well, squeeze dry and chop. Reserve 2 cups in the kettle.

Wipe mushrooms with clean damp rag. Quarter mushrooms and sauté with diced ham in 1 Tbsp. butter, set aside. 

In a heavy bottomed 2 qt. sauce pan, ("We don't like soggy bottoms in pastry or scorched bottoms in sauces." ), sauté onion over low heat in 1/4 cup butter until translucent. Put half the onion in the kettle with the spinach.

For Sauce Bouillée:
Add the flour to the remaining onion and cook the roux over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk in the hot milk a little at a time. This sauce is going to be THICK, like paste. Take the pan off the heat and beat in an egg.  Salt and pepper to taste and add a pinch of nutmeg. ("You don't ever want someone to taste something and say, 'Oh: nutmeg.'") Put about a ½ cup of the sauce in with the spinach.

For Cream Sauce:
Stir ½ cup or more of milk or cream into remaining Sauce Bouillée until it is thinned to a sauce consistency. ("I'm using cream but I suppose you can use milk if you're on one of those hideous diets.") Simmer slowly, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to finish cooking the flour. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese, to let it melt and keep a skin from forming. Set aside. When ready to serve, warm it over low heat and stir in the cheese.

To assemble the pastry:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Roll the dough into a 10” by 15” rectangle, ¼” thick. Trim the edges so that it is even and square, saving cut scraps. Lay the dough 2/3 over parchment or wax paper, to simplify rolling over the top. Paint the pastry with egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp. of water.

Spread half the spinach mixture on the lower 1/3 of the pastry that is NOT on the paper, keeping a 1/2” edge bare for sealing. Place mushrooms and ham on top. Spread remaining spinach over ham and mushrooms.

Grabbing the paper, fold the pastry up and over. Seal the edges with fingers, then press with tines of fork.

Place on greased baking sheet. Cut pastry scraps into strips. Paint turnover with an egg glaze of 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water. Decorate with strips, laying them on a diagonal. Trim edges that hang over. Glaze again. Press cross hatch designs all over with a fork.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crisp.

Slide it onto a board to cut diagonally and serve with the warmed Cream Sauce.

This can be made ahead of time, without glazing, and refrigerated. Glaze just before baking. If baking cold, it will need a little more baking time.


  1. Thanks so much for posting this. I also watch episodes of the french chef--i actually want to get them all on dvd. I think she's incredible. Chef's i watch these days put powdered sugar in everything. Julia, on the other hand, uses parsley.
    It's funny, I'm also a chemistry student- heading to pharmacy school actually... what is it with us chemists and cooking? lol.
    Well, again, thanks for the post. I'm def going to start following your blog for more great recipes!

  2. Thanks Michelle, Funny, but I almost went to pharmacy school, too. I haven't been posting much lately because I have been so busy with nursing school. I should have this summer free, then graduate in Dec. 2011.

  3. BTW, I now have the first two seasons on DVD. I will post more of the recipes in the future. I have had particular fun and enlightenment with the show on potatoes.

    1. Gail,

      This is awesome! I'm home with a sick 7-year-old and even with the stomach bug he looked at me after the "Spinach Twins" episode and said "I'd eat that! I mean, when I'm feeling better". I made the pastry dough from her book, that's chilling now, the rest is to come tonight when my in-laws arrive in VT from PA. After the snow they'll be driving through this should be a nice surprise.

      I particularly like your quotes, especially the diet one. Julia ate WELL and lived a long time. Go figure!

      Thanks again,

    2. Thanks Gail for posting this. We travelled this summer to the Smithsonian to see Julia's Cambridge kitchen. What an inspiring woman! I think I will attempt this recipe for our thanksgiving dinner pot-luck. Thanks again!

  4. Replies
    1. Sorry, it was not described. I would use my favorite recipe for pie crust or look up one of Julia's pastry recipes.
      Thanks for your interest.