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Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving is YAMtastic.

  Here's how this all started. My cousin Marc and his wife Shayna decided that it is long overdue that our generation take over the family's Thanksgiving Feast. They sent out evites ('cus, hello, 21st Century) everyone is supposed to check off something they will make and bring. Like most American families we are an eclectic mix of ethnicities. Mostly Italian but with notable members of Latino, Portuguese, and Korean. On our Thanksgiving table it's not unusual to find Tamales, Civeche, Antipasto, Sardines, Rolled Anchovies, Olives and of course all the usual American stuff. God help me but I love stuffing wrapped in turkey skin with cranberry jelly.

 Also my Dad's Old-Fashioned's. It's a Cocktail friends, look it up.







 And sweet-potatoes. Yams are a tuber, Sweet Potatoes are a rhizome. If you say "rhizome" a whole bunch of times it sounds really funny. One is New World, one is Old World. The confusion comes from where you live. You might call a Yam a Sweet Potato, you might call it a Yam. In the stores they are both labeled as Sweet Potato. To add to the confusion canned sweet potato is usually labeled as "yam"
 One is red and one is white.
See? 
Someone always makes the Southern-American mess with marshmallows and brown-sugar. Fine. No problem really. More of a dessert than a side-dish at that point. It's not my favorite thing, more of a chore to eat. One dimensional and doesn't really show off the flavor of the main ingredient. Sorry Mom.

 Yes, I'm show-boating. Deal. I wanted to make something special that reflected more of an Italian style.

 My family deserves my best efforts, I don't cook for them enough but I really wish I did.
Here goes nothing.

Chef Nick does Sweet-Potato Lasagna. Shhh they think I'm doing a side-dish.

Mise-en-place

3 large but regularly shaped red ones
1 large white ones...ya know, or not
2 eggs
pinch of cinnamon
4 shallots
Lasagna Noodles, 1 pound, cooked just under al dente
Ricotta Cheese
some frozen Spinach
2 whole eggs
fresh Parsley
fresh Sage
and Rosemary
and Thyme chopped roughly (it's just like that song isn't it?)


Béchamel Sauce (For all you professionals, we're doing a Mornay)

Goat Cheese (about 3 TB)
flour
butter
Whole Milk (1 qt)
1 egg
pinch of ground Nutmeg
pinch of Chili Powder
1 large clove of Garlic, smooshed

For the top
Some Bread-Crumbs
Butter
Asiago Cheese, shredded

and of course, Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper

I'm going to break this down into steps.

Peel the Shallots and slice across to make sticks. Melt some butter in a pan and cook the Shallots until nice deep brown.

deeper brown than this













Peel your YAMS and cut into large pieces, try for uniformity. Cover with water, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar and any herb stems you might have left.



Bring to a boil until soft. Drain and TIP put them back in the pot over low heat until dry. Remove to bowl.
Add half your chopped Herbs, good pinch of Salt and Pepper and a scant pinch of Cinnamon. Add the eggs. Mix well and add the Shallots. Set aside.

Cook your noodles. Because we're going to finish by baking we don't need them perfectly done, just a little under. Once done remove from cooking water and deposit them into ice water, remove and put on a plate for later.

ice ice baby




Thaw out the spinach. Place between two dry and clean towels TWIST and SQUEEZE. We need to remove as much water as possible. Combine with Ricotta, some of the Herbs, pinch of Nutmeg and a healthy pinch of Salt and Pepper. Set aside.




And now we make our Béchamel.
I've made it before on this Blog but there seems to be a curse. Every single time, none of my pictures come out so keep your fingers crossed.

Basic stuff
whisk one whole egg in a bowl, set aside
Warm up the Whole Milk. This is why we have microwave ovens. Not boiling for God's sake, just hot. This prevents lumps from forming.
Melt about 2 TB butter over high heat
before it burns, lower heat and
add an equal amount of white flour
Add the pinch of Nutmeg and Chili Powder

stir around until it stops smelling starchy, use your nose, trust me that you'll know


 Continue over low heat and add the milk, keep whisking  You think it won't matter, yes it does. Raise heat to medium. You'll notice a gradual thickening.

Take off heat and with a ladle, add a bit to your beaten egg and stir around until combined. This is called tempering. It allows you to raise the temperature of the egg without cooking it. You'll need the egg's protein to add body and sheen but we do not want scrambled eggs in our sauce.
tempering
Add your egg mixture back to the pot, off heat and whisk. Put back on medium heat and keep whisking. It will thicken beautifully. Remove from heat. The "carry-over" heat will work for us. Add remaining Herbs.

 Add the Goat Cheese and Garlic. Whisk until smooth, set aside. The remaining warmth will release all the love from your herbs.

Layering.
Simple.
Coat the bottom of an open baking pan with cold Butter. Yes Mom I used your old baking pan, what else?
Lay down a thin layer of the sauce


Put down one layer of the noodles and carefully cover with half the YAM mixture



Cover with another layer of noodles and half of your Ricotta and Spinach mixture. Dump half of your Béchamel on top, press down deep.

Cover with another layer of noodles. Got it? SAUCE-NOODLE-YAM-NOODLE-RICOTTA-NOODLE-SAUCE-NOODLE-YAM-NOODLE-SAUCE-TOPPING



Here's the top.
One layer of the cheese.
Mix together by hand 2 TB of cold butter with 1/2 cup of Bread-Crumbs (or so) sprinkle across top.
Cover with shreds of the cheese.


In a 375F oven, bake covered with aluminum foil for 45 Minutes.
Remove foil and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes until it browns lightly.


Remove from oven and let it rest for 20 minutes or so.



 I'm thankful that I still have my Mom and Dad. I'm thankful for my brother Pat and his family. I'm thankful for my Aunts and Uncles and cousins. I'm also very thankful that so many of you are still reading this blog, I couldn't do it without you. Happy Thanksgiving one and all.

 I'm thankful that I am, as always
cooking poor, eating rich
Get your grub on
Ciao








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