Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Domestic Blitz (recipe attached!)

Not everybody who knows me knows that I love to cook. Seriously, spending four hours in the kitchen on a weekend day while listening to the news or audiobooks is just my style. So, combine that with a visit from Interesting Development, and you've got me acting like June Cleaver. In the last 24 hours, I have kind of cleaned the house, done laundry, and picked up Interesting Development from the airport. I then came home and continued my domestic blitz by making a vegetarian version of "meatloaf" (lentil-free, I promise!) and roasted green beans with mushrooms. While the loaf was cooking (for one hour at 350 degrees, just like all those casseroles of our 60s/70s childhoods!), I began cubing two butternut squash for my contribution to tomorrow's holiday feast. This one I got off Epicurious, and I am posting it here today, as per the nefarious plan hatched the other day in the comments section at Historiann. You can make the filling a day early, but make sure to bring it back to room temperature before you do the assembly.

Note that this recipe contains almost an entire stick of butter? Including butter on the inside of the foil lid? And that this doesn't even take into account all the cheese in the sauce? Even though it's so rich that you will only be able to eat a small portion,* you will surely gain five pounds just looking at this thing. But let me tell you, it's totally worth it.

[post-production notes: 1) Figure on two hours prep time, and that's if the squash is already peeled and cubed, and the hazelnuts are already toasted and de-skinned. 2) make the squash cubes small -- about the size of a die, or even smaller. 3) I had trouble getting the b├ęchamel to thicken. I think I reduced the heat too much after the boil stage. Next time: lower it to keep it just below boiling stage, and never stop whisking. 4) I found I only had enough filling for two layers, plus the "lid" layer", so rather than thirds, I divided the filling in half. If was just fine, and I recommend it this way. 5) My recommendation is now to divide the pan into 12-15 pieces. You can always have seconds.]

Butternut Squash "Lasagna"


For squash filling

1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel (as much as you can -- skins add bitterness), and coarsely chopped

For sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling lasagna

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 cup grated Parmesan (3 oz)
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagne (I like to use fresh pasta -- store-bought, of course)


Make filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep heavy skillet or wok over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cools:
Cook garlic in butter in a heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of sauce with wax paper if not using immediately.)

Assemble lasagne:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover with 3 pasta strips, leaving small spaces between each. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta strips, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagnae in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagne stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

*In a 9 x 13" pan, you get eight "normal" servings, but it's so rich that I generally divide this into ten servings, but YMMV.


Anonymous said...

This looks delicious--I'll have to try this on the grad students I'm having over for dinner in a few weeks. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Susan said...

This looks to die for. I will, when I get home, send you my quick bean lasagna (also veggie) which has the advantage of taking only about 1/2 an hour of work. . .
But this is a Christmas meal.

Oh, and my word is "coucons"; cook on, I say!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I linked to this recipe from Historiann, and tried it over T'giving weekend. (Not for the actual day, but on Saturday.) It's a great recipe! We all really enjoyed it - even my "What do you mean this doesn't have any meat in it and is filled with squash?!?" father. I had the same trouble with my bechemel not thickening, and was surprised because I've made a ton of bechemels and have never had this problem. I was thinking with one difference between this and another recipe I use is in the other one, I heat the milk before adding it to the roux. Anyway, I didn't have fresh pasta, so just added the runny bechemel to the noncook noodles and they absorbed the extra while baking, so it wasn't runny in the end. Oh and I'm infamous in my family for reducing fats in recipes. I used just under half the amount of butter to saute the squash and skim milk, and it turned out super rich anyway.