Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Lasagna

About a year or so ago a wonderfully talented cook, Madelyn Hood, served Mark and I a wonderful dish of stuffed shells that had a delicious winter squash filling. She has since that time talked to me about a small catering she provided where the main dish was once again a pasta dish using winter squash (or was it pumpkin?). So I've thought about creating a pasta dish with winter squash for a while now.

My family spreads Thanksgiving out over the entire long weekend. Didn't make it to Madison this year (though I managed to deliver a Bavarian Apple Torte and a Blackberry Pie to them) but we still had our small family gathering at home Thanksgiving Day, and then one with Mark's family at a gathering at his sister's in Indy on Saturday. I had made some Brie with caramelized onion fondue for day-long nibbling while dinner was made on Thanksgiving day. The following day I kept working on creating a recipe for a new lasagna for the Saturday gathering and decided to combine the flavors of butternut squash with the brie and caramelized onion. The following recipe is what I came up with.

Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Lasagna
with Portabella Mushrooms and Brie


4 cups pureed butternut squash*
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 - 2 cups bread crumbs (from 3 slices of whole wheat)

(I really need to become better at food
 photography.....this photo does not do it justice)

6 -8 medium onions - halved and thinly sliced (5-6 cups)
2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups thinly sliced portabella mushrooms
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

1 package egg roll wraps
(trust me .....these work great as lasagna noodles)
1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese
1 lb. round of Brie
more fresh grated Parmesan


For the Butternut Squash Puree:
I prefer the method shown by the folks at Food Mayhem for preparing puree. While the squash is roasting in the oven you can slice the onions and make the bread crumbs.

I don't bother with the food processor for the puree.  A potato masher works just fine.  Add the puree to a pot in which you have already started the olive oil and minced garlic. Add the vegetable broth ( I usually buy the vegetable broth powder at Bloomingfoods) and cream and the shredded parmesan cheese.  Salt isn't absolutely necessary, but be generous with the freshly ground black pepper.  Stir in the bread crumbs.
Set aside.

For the Caramelized Onions with Portabella Mushrooms:
The technique I prefer for caramelizing onions is the one advocated by Mark Bittman, the New Your Times columnist and the author of How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  You cook the onions without oil for twenty minutes......if you have to, you can add a little water during this time.  You stir infrequently, with a wooden spoon scraping up the "browning" which is actually the sugar cooking off and stirring it back into the onions.  Once the onions have cooked for about twenty minutes you add the olive oil.  This is when I add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and the fresh rosemary. Stir and cook until the mushrooms have cooked and everything looks yummy!  I have a hard time refraining from just eating caramelized onions straight by themselves.  It can pay to make plenty extra since they keep in the fridge well and improve everything, in my opinion.

Making the Lasagna:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.  Mine at home bakes hot at 375 so I adjust accordingly. Grease a large baking dish.  I use a  half-size commercial baking pan, but you can use a heavy 9-12 in. baking dish.

Open the package of Egg Roll Wrappers. Keep a empty dish with a lid on the table to keep them in while in the process of layering so that they don't dry out.  Be sure to peel them apart carefully...they are very thin.  Or you could opt to use two packages and have sturdier noodles, leaving them doubled.  I'm sure this would be fine.

Do the layering any which way you want.....really. But for those of you who want instructions:
Spread a very thin layer of the squash mixture on the bottom of the pan and cover with the egg roll noodles. It will take three noodles - two whole and one cut in halves.  Cover this with a layer of the onion/mushroom mix. You can see my camera phone picture of the strips of Brie I layer with the onions.

Another layer of noodles.  Next layer squash. Noodles. Mozzarella. Noodles. Caramelized onions with portabella mushrooms and Brie. Noodles. Brie. Noodles. Squash....and so on. On top a layer of noodles topped with mozzarella, brie and some parmesan.

Cover the casserole with foil for the first half hour of cooking time, and then uncover to let the cheeses get a nice and bubbly look to them.

Let the lasagna set for a good ten minutes before cutting into portions.  A hint from the kitchens (I manage Food Works for Middle Way House) is that you cut through the first layer with scissors. Then you follow these cuts with a knife to get perfectly evenly cut portions of lasagna.

This is a very rich dish!  Smooth and creamy.  Enjoy!!!!