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Rachel Saunders is a jam maven. In her second book, Blue Chairs Cooks with Jam & Marmalade, she is not making jams but using them and using them widely and well. Oh, and sweetly.

Jams and marmalade and butters are, in most of our minds, things to adorn some toast or a bagel. We don’t think of them as ingredients, real stand-on-their-own-feet ingredients, that can provide either principal substance or crafted nuance to a dish.

I’m posting this recipe on Father’s Day and perhaps you may find this early on in the with wit time to offer it up to a dad or husband. Or a grandfather!

But if you find this too late for this Sunday, keep this recipe close at hand. What a perfect brunch dish this is. A very satisfying one-dish meal. You just need one-glass to go with it: something sparkling or bloody.

This recipe calls for My Apple Butter from the cookbook. And, no, I’m not going to post the recipe here. I really encourage you to stroll out and take a look at Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade. Check out that apple butter recipe and the others and I’m sure you’ll be putting the book under your arm. Back in your kitchen, the ideas here are sure to elevate your cooking. Sweet or savory or both, Blue Chair Cooks is a big, interesting, important book.

Creamed Spinach and Leeks with Cheddar

Yield: serves 4-6


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably European-style
  • 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, including some of the green, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon plus a large pinch of freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons My Apple Butter (see page 60 in the book!)
  • 1 tablespoon and 1½ teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ cups warm whole milk
  • 1½ cups packed coarsely grated cheddar cheese, preferably Irish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water close at hand. Immerse the spinach leaves briefly in the boiling water in batches to wilt and then transfer them swiftly to the ice water with a slotted spoon. As soon as the spinach is cool, use your hands to squeeze as much moisture out of it as possible. Chop the spinach and place it in a medium bowl.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil over low heat. Add the leeks and sauté until the leeks are wilted and very tender, about 15 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, the mustard, ¾ teaspoon white pepper, and the apple butter, breaking up the apple butter as much as possible. Remove from the heat. Add the leek mixture to the spinach.

To make the cream sauce, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking vigorously, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and 2 large pinches each of salt and white pepper.

Cook the mixture slowly over very low heat, stirring continuously and slowly with a heatproof rubber spatula, until thickened.

Whisk in the cheese and continue to cook, stirring, until the sauce is smooth. Do not ever let the sauce boil. When the sauce is done, pour it over the spinach and leeks, stirring well to combine. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then taste for seasonings and serve warm

Source: Blue Chair Cooks with Jam & Marmalade by Rachel Saunders [Andrews McMeel, 2014]

Photo Credit: Sara Remington