Heirloom Recipes

The Dish that Made My French Mother Fall In Love with Cream Cheese

April 20, 2018

Every so often, we scour the site for cool recipes from our community that we then test, photograph, and feature. This one comes from longtime community member AlainB, who shares a recipe starring his mother's favorite ingredient: cream cheese.

Don't forget the butter! Or the salt! Photo by James Ransom

My mom has French origins and always cooks in typical French style, but for some reason when she came to this country over 50 years ago, she fell in love with American cream cheese. It's probably the only processed food she has in her kitchen, even today. She continues to pooh-pooh anything not French... except cream cheese.

I asked my mom what she considers her best recipe, and she said Leak Filo—which she had just made a week earlier for the first time. What!? The best? "Oui! My meilleure recette!"

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I tried it, and it was very good. But I still prefer the classic with spinach. I grew up with this dish, and the cheese is the best part. Every time my mom would make it, we’d say, "Oh wow, this time it's really the best you ever made it. What did you put in?" And she would say whatever cheese she had happened to throw in. Literally every time.

My mom's recipes are notoriously difficult to pin down, as she changes them constantly and isn't even sure what she puts in. You can make this with leeks instead of spinach, or mushrooms and onions, or even just cheese.

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Top Comment:
“But your mom loves it with leeks, nd I would love to know how she makes it. Just slice and saute first? Any embellishments? Thank you. Nice story. ”
— mimiwv

Some advice: I've tried making this with goat cheese (French!) instead of cream cheese, but it just doesn't come out the same. And make sure to squeeze the living daylights out of the spinach. You don't want this watery. Finally, don't skimp on the butter. Put the melted butter and salt between each layer.

Recently, my college-aged daughter moved into an apartment, and decided she suddenly likes to cook (although she never did while at home...). She always calls me for the recipe, and the last time she made it, she sent me a photo of her masterpiece.

Do you have a recipe that's been passed down in your family? Or one you want to make sure your future generations make? Let us know in the comments and it might be featured as one of our heirloom recipes!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mimiwv
  • Will Dwinnell
    Will Dwinnell
  • sexyLAMBCHOPx
  • fglick
  • Winifred Ryan
    Winifred Ryan

Written by: AlainB



mimiwv April 26, 2018
OK, you prefer with spinach. But your mom loves it with leeks, nd I would love to know how she makes it. Just slice and saute first? Any embellishments? Thank you. Nice story.
fglick April 26, 2018
Alain is my brother so that's my mom. I'm sure my mom just boiled the leeks and drained them. I, however would recommend sauteeing them or even better, roasting them after sprinkling them with olive oil and salt.
AlainB April 26, 2018
Thanks Francine. That's probably the best instructions you'll get on that leak recipe, if we ask our mom we get like half the ingredients and 3 steps missing. Every time we ask her we get slightly more information and it changes, but we eventually piece it together... :)
Will D. April 22, 2018
I suppose that store-bought cream cheese fits the definition of "processed", I think the use of that word may color some readers' impression of this food. Cream cheese can be made at home, and not nearly as "processed" as other things, like most store-bought "American cheese".
sexyLAMBCHOPx April 20, 2018
Fun article.
fglick April 20, 2018
Great recipe!
Winifred R. April 20, 2018
Somehow those kids of our decide they like to cook once they know they need to so they can eat what they most loved from home. Mine also gardens although I thought she would never, ever do it -- also so she can eat food like she did at home, although she goes out of her way to reject her parents still as much as she can (still in her mid 30s). Heck, they're kids.