Monday, November 15, 2010

Meatless Monday & Love 4 Lasagna: Sweet Corn Lasagna

This past July my sister threw what could not have been a more perfect bachelorette (or stagette as they say he in the Great White North) weekend for me.  It was chock full of lounging by a pool, great food, great friends and a select few bachelorette type activities.  I had the best time and was able to eat some amazing food.  Our first night we ate at Cube Marketplace, a gourmet market mixed with a cafe that focus on traditional Italian cooking with a California twist.  They buy almost all locally at the Santa Monica Farmer's market and only buy from producers who practice cruelty-free farming.  This place was so up my alley it's scary and ridiculous that I hadn't eaten here before.  Each week they pick a different region in Italy to focus, so you could literally eat there every week and not have the same thing.  

For the life of me I don't remember what region was the focus when we were there, I just remember delicious wine, delicious cheese and delicious foods.  The one that specifically stuck in my head was the Sweet Corn Stuffed Pasta.  We agreed on a couple of appetizer items and then each of us selected a salad or pasta or other entree, one of my girlfriends chose the Sweet Corn Stuffed Pasta.  While I had heard amazing things about Cube, for me this is a dish that could have gone either way.  Upon tasting it I couldn't believe I was skeptical!  It was delicious a ricotta corn filling in a brown butter sauce with crispy sage, it was delicious!

When I was brainstorming ideas for Love 4 Lasagna I thought of this dish and thought it could potentially translate well into a lasagna and could do double duty for Meatless Monday.  The problem was I didn't entirely remember what was in the dish and since they have an ever changing menu I couldn't even go online to see how the dish was described in the menu.  So I went on the Cube site, went out on a limb and emailed telling them what I was doing and asked for the recipe.  In less than 6 hours I had the recipe in my inbox, such a pleasant surprise!  Upon reading it I knew that the sweet corn filling would be the perfect jumping off point for my lasagna.  I made a few tweaks along the way but the following recipe is where it ended up, all credit for the idea and the bulk of the filling recipe goes to Jun Tuan who is from Cube and sent it my way. 

Since the inspiring dish was tossed in a brown butter sauce and I LOVE all things brown butter, I wanted to find away to incorporate the brown butter into the lasagna. I settled on a brown butter bechemel that I added just a touch of ground sage to.  It's kind of the glue that keeps the whole dish together, along with the copious amounts of savory, nutty parmigiano reggiano.

Sweet Corn Lasagna                                                                                                          
Inspired by Sweet Corn Stuffed Pasta from the chefs at Cube LA
Printable Recipe

5 cups of sweet corn - I used frozen sweet corn thawed
4 Tbsps butter
1 large Spanish onion, small diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup honey*
1 cup mascarpone
2 cups fresh ricotta
salt & pepper

4 Tbsps butter
4 Tbsps unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups milk - room temperature
1/8 tsp ground sage
salt & pepper

1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 or more cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1.  In a large sauté pan, heat butter and sauté garlic and onions till soft but not browned. Add corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add cream and honey and bring to a simmer.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes or till cream is reduced halfway. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan and cool completely.
2.  While the corn is cooling make the Brown Butter Bechemel, heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and melt butter.  Continue to heat the butter, swirling occasionally, until it starts to brown and smell nutty.  Sprinkle the flour on top of the melted butter and mix the butter and flour together.  Continue cooking over medium heat for 2-3 mins. Pour the milk in an even stream, whisking constantly until is incorporated and the sauce begins to thicken.  Add in the sage and season with salt & pepper.
3. In a food processor or blender, purée half of the cooled corn with ricotta and mascarpone. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the corn. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
4.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter a 9x12 casserole dish and spread a thin coating of bechemel on the bottom of the pan.  Layer, but don't overlap, the lasagna noodles.  Top with 2 healthy scoops of the corn mixture and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with a handful of parmigiano.  Add another layer of noodles, top with a bit of bechemel, two healthy scoops of corn mixture and a hand full of parmigiano.  Repeat two more times and top with a final layer of noodles, the rest of the bechemel and parmigiano.  Top with a bit more salt & pepper 
5.  Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes.  Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving with crispy fried sage leaves.  

*NOTE With this recipe is that you should taste your corn before adding the honey.  If your corn is already quite sweet you may want to be careful with how much you add.  The filling functions a bit different here than in the inspiring dish where I found the sweetness to be perfect.

This is a really different take on lasagna, the sweetness and the texture of the filling once it was baked almost reminded of a dish my mother made when we were younger, which we called Noodle Pudding.  From what I can tell Noodle Pudding is similar to what is commonly know as Kugel, regardless it reminded me of that dish.  I do still love the way the sweetness of the corn plays with the mascarpone and ricotta and the large amount of parmigiano add a savoriness that really balanced it out.  I may even add a bit more next time.  

I took some liberties with the recipe to make it work for my project.  Such as, I didn't use as much butter as was called for when sauteing the onions and garlic.  I also forgot to pick up heavy cream so I used half and half and cut down the amount since it's not as thick as heavy cream and I didn't want to be reducing all day.  The original recipe also calls for parmigiano to be mixed in with the filling, but as I was layering it with the pasta I chose not too. 

I do love this filling and will absolutely be using it to make ravioli and toss it in a brown butter sauce with some sage, just like they do at Cube.  It's also a testament to any of you out there that have a dish at a restaurant that they love, this is the second time I've request a recipe from a chef (the first was for my favorite Tomato Soup) and the second time I've received it.  If you want to make something at home, go ahead and ask the worst they'll say is no.  

Check back here later today for a round-up of all the Love 4 Lasagna posts. 


Just a reminder for all of my Toronto readers:  The Art of Cookingpresents Jamie Oliver  for one night only November 18 and I get to offer you a $10 per ticket discount on General & VIP tickets and a $20 per ticket discount on groups of 5 or more.  Just click here and you will be taken to the discounted ticket page or if you go through the Art of Cooking main page just enter the discount code JN29.  It's truly a great opportunity and I hope you'll all join me.  

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