Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catch up - Nov 8th - Hazelnut and Butternut Squash White Lasagna

I went to a Private Equity presentation last night put on by a friend of mine from Grad school. He's investing in a investment firm in Mexico and they had a presentation at the Granville Island Hotel. It was mainly LOVELY cheeses so I thought I'd catch up on a meal we had in November. It is one of my faves that D makes. He first made this a couple of years ago because he was looking for a hearty vegetarian lasagna/lasagne that he could sink his teeth into. Funny enough, it was the first lasagna he'd ever made. With all the cooking he's done, it's pretty odd.

I've made a variety of the 'red' lasagna/lasagne with either spinach and ricotta or only veg like broccoli and peppers with or without soy ground round. I even got away with feeding a fussy pair of kids the soy ground round, chock full of broccoli and they didn't blink except at the spinach salad I served on the side.

We found this one on Epicurious originally but adapted it a bit. The biggest change is the amount of cheese. The original asked for 2 cups grated cheese from one 1/2 lb of cheese. That's half a brick. There was no way it was going to suffice. We put cheese at every layer and on time. We also added freshly grated nutmeg to the bechemel sauce. It is a classic add to white sauce and it bring out the butternut squash really well. You don't need alot at all.

It is an incredibly filling dish and impresses dinner guess immensely. Lasagnas seem like alot of work but if you organise in sections, it's actually fun.

Serve this with a big wine with decent acidity to counter balance the richness. We had a Pirramimma Shiraz.

Hazelnut and Butternut Squash White Lasagna

For squash filling

1 large onion, diced (1/2 cm or 1/4 inch square, feel free to use a slap chop or food processor but basic knife skills are best practiced on an onion :^D)
3 T unsalted butter
3 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Whole, about the size of a football.
1-2 clove garlic, minced
1 t salt or to taste
1/4 t white pepper (or black but not red)
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 t chopped fresh sage
1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , (toast by placing in a dry cast iron or teflon pan until start to brown and you can smell them. Put them in a clean kitchen town and rub them around like you’re toweling off a pet, lift away, leaving as much of the skins behind, course chop)

For sauce

1 clove garlic
3 T unsalted butter
5 T all-purpose flour
¼ t freshly grated nutmeg
5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 t salt
1/4 t white pepper (Or substitute fine fresh ground black. Don’t use red. It will colour the sauce!)

1lb to 1.5 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated. By fresh, it’s the brick form that’s slightly squiggy compared to mass produced but the bricks are okay. This is not the white bocconcini unripened mozzarella balls!!
1 cup finely grated Parmesan FRESH! The real stuff. You might get away with the fake green plastic cone stuff on your pizza or pasta but not when it is an essential ingredient.
12 (7- by 3 1/2-inch) sheets no-boil lasagna, normally a pack and a half. This is annoying but you can make adjustments to make the layers different but keeping some around will always even out eventually.


Squash filling:
Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet 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 15-20 minutes. This is longer than when we made the risotto because there is more and the pan is full. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, sage, and nuts. Cool filling.

Make sauce while squash cooks:
Cook garlic in butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream, whisking.It will thicken quickly so keep an eye on it and add more milk if need but not more than an extra ½ cup. 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 to keep from congealing on the surface if your not using immediately.

Assemble lasagna:
Preheat oven to 420°F.

Toss cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish (or other baking dish with similar volume, mine was higher and a bit squatter.) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping handful of cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.

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

It is an OUTSTANDING dish. Do not cut too big a piece. It is is incredibly filling. Cut a 3 inch by 4-5 inch piece to start and have more if you want. It is rich and creamy. I find some béchamel sauces too light that its texture in lasagna reminds me of animal fat, blech. This one does not.

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