Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Nana Grenon's Ragout

My nana's mother was by all accounts a lovely woman and very talented at cooking in the old fashioned "a pinch of this, enough of that, cook until it's done" style. My nana was the baby of the family, and for a time after she had my father, she and my grampy lived with her parents. The result of this is that my father was completely beloved and spoiled by his grandparents. Grampy Grenon would wake my father up early and take him everywhere with him. His nana (Nana Grenon) would always cook up my father's favorites. One of his absolute all time favorites is Nana's Chicken Ragout. It also happens to be an ideal use of Thanksgiving leftovers. Nana Grenon is French Canadian, and like many French Canadian dishes this is meant to stretch a meal, with the dumplings being a substantial part of the soup. It's the French Canadian version of chicken noodle soup, and it's perfect comfort food. Feel free to adjust or adapt the ingredients. Think like a grandmother.


For the soup -
1 C onion, chopped
1 C celery chopped (I mince mine because Ryan does not like celery)
2 C carrots (cut into disks, coins, whatever you call them)
5-6 C chicken stock (or turkey stock) preferably homemade
salt and pepper
2-3 T olive oil
1 T sage
1 T thyme
approximately 2 C of chopped leftover chicken or turkey. Use what you have. The dumplings will make up for it if you don't have enough. You can use chopped white meat or all the little bits you have, it's up to you.

For the dumplings -
1 C stock - cooled
2.5 C flour
salt and pepper

Pour the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and celery and cook on low for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, carrots and whatever chicken or turkey bits you're add. Add salt and pepper for taste. This recipe takes a lot of salt, so taste carefully. Bring the stock almost to a boil. While you're waiting for it to boil, make the dumplings. Use a cup of cool stock (I usually set it aside before I start cooking) and mix it together with the flour and about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add about 2 t fresh thyme to the dumplings if you like. The thyme is completely inauthentic, but it is tasty. The dough will be incredibly sticky and hard to work with. With very well floured hands, roll out the dough very thin. If you don't get it thin you will have yucky gloppy dumplings. Make sure you move the dough a lot while rolling and keep it well floured. When it's thin (maybe less than a 1/4 inch thick?) slice in 1" squares. These can be very irregular, it gives the soup character. When the stock is very hot but not boiling, Add the thyme and sage and throw in the squares of dough and cook for 3-5 more minutes until the dough is cooked.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I've been away from the blog for the last two weeks for many reasons. Some fun, some stressful, but let's pretend it's just because all my energy has been focused on bringing you more ways to make butternut squash, which I consider to be one of the true joys of fall. I'd been working on perfecting my butternut squash risotto recipe when I got distracted by the idea of butternut squash lasagna. This recipe seemed to be very highly recommended, but as someone who's spent a day picking the tiny shards of skin off a pan of hazelnuts, I'll admit, I was daunted. So I found one by Giata that did not require any earth-shattering efforts on my part and was quite pleased. It's sweet and cheesy and just may be that vegetarian entree you were looking to serve at Thanksgiving.

from Giata De Laurentiis
3 T olive oil
1 (1.5 -2lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 amaretti cookies*, crumbled
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
3 1/2 C whole milk
pinch nutmeg
1/2 C fresh sage leaves
12 no boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
1/3 C grated parm (I always mean the real stuff, parmigiano reggiano, not a shaker from Kraft)

*You may be able to find amaretti cookies at your local grocery store, but definitely at your Italian market or grocer. For heaven's sake, unless you love amaretti cookies, don't pay the premium to get Lazzaroni which are easily double or triple the price of less famous brands.

Preheat your oven to 450 F. Toss the squash with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Cool slightly then puree the squash together with the amaretti cookies in a food processor. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Reduce oven temp to 375 F.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes until all flour is coated with butter and is sort of goldeny sludge. Add the milk slowly, whisking to incorporate the flour butter mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. You are looking for slight thickening, the sauce should coat a spoon lightly. Add the nutmeg and stir through. Mince your sage and add that as well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble your lasagna. Lightly butter a 9 by 13 baking dish. On the bottom, put down a layer of the sauce, you should have plenty so be generous. Then add a layer of noodles. Cover with a layer of squash, then a layer of the mozzarella, then a layer of the sauce - I had a lot of extra sauce and just poured it over, it all got soaked up and the lasagna was not watery at all. Repeat three times. On the top add a bit more shredded mozzarella and the parm. Cover the top tightly with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes more. Finally, remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. It will look delicious and golden and bubbly. Like so:


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