Friday, April 4, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Mexican Lasagne

From Better Homes and Gardens

A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for Mexican Shepherd's Pie, and this week I offer one for Mexican Lasagne (I seem to be on a Mexican food kick right now).  My recipe is based on the Sweet Potato-Chorizo Lasagne recipe from Better Homes and Gardens magazine (February 2014 issue).  As with the shepherd's pie, for some reason I had a little difficulty getting things right at first.  Ultimately, though, once the kinks were worked out the end result made the frustrating beginning worthwhile.

I have to admit that I brought on a lot of the issues myself.  The original recipe specifically stated that no-boil lasagne noodles were not recommended, but I was determined to use up some that had been sitting in my pantry for a while so I ignored the perfectly reasonable advice.  This meant that I had to figure out a way to ensure there was enough liquid in the dish to rehydrate the noodles, and therein lay the problem.  I tried presoaking the noodles in boiling water prior to use, but I let them soak too long and ended up with one giant wad of lasagne noodles inextricably stuck together (they still sit in the fridge waiting for me to cut them up and create a new pasta dish for them).  Luckily I had a second box, so this time I only presoaked three noodles at a time for just a few minutes while I assembled other parts of the dish.  This method was much more successful, and I think I like the results better than if I had used regular lasagne noodles, although that is certainly still an option.  I used less pasta in my dish, and added a container of fresh salsa for more liquid as well as more vegetables.  I was pleasantly surprised with the end result, as was my husband.  I usually avoid making lasagnes as I find them to be rather fussy dishes, but I will make this one again, now that I know how to avoid unnecessary frustration!

Mexican Lasagne

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs. total)
1 C. milk
juice of 1 lime (about 2 T.)
2 tsp. cumin
1 package (16 oz.) uncooked Mexican chorizo sausage links
12 no-boil lasagne noodles
4-6 scallions, sliced (about 1/2 C.)
1/2 C. minced fresh cilantro
2 C. shredded white cheese (I used queso quesadilla)
1 container (16 oz.) refrigerated fresh salsa

Cook the sweet potatoes (wrap in foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, or microwave them).  Cool, peel, and put them into a large bowl.  Add the milk, lime juice, and cumin.  Mash everything together until smooth (you could do this in a food processor, but my method is just as easy, especially if you have this potato masher, which has gotten harder to find for some reason).  Set aside.

Remove the chorizo sausage links from their wrappers and break them up in a large skillet.  Cook them over medium heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through.  Remove from the heat.  Drain off and reserve the fat.  Set aside.

Boil a kettle full of water.  Place three lasagne noodles in a shallow baking dish and pour the hot water over, using just enough to cover completely (you will be adding more water later, so do not overfill).  Leave the kettle on a low simmer.

Drizzle the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with about 3 T. of the reserved chorizo fat.  When the noodles just begin to soften (they will be barely flexible), place them crosswise (not lengthwise) on the bottom of the baking dish, evenly spaced and not overlapping.  Add 3 more noodles to the water in the shallow baking dish and top with a little more hot water.

Evenly divide 1/4 of the sweet potato sauce over each noodle.  Spoon 1/4 of the cooked chorizo over the sweet potatoes.  Top with 1/4 of the scallions, then 1/4 of the cilantro (about 2 T. of each).  Sprinkle with 1/2 C. of the cheese.  Repeat the layers two more times, working fairly quickly so that the soaking noodles do not become too soft (remember to soak more noodles as soon as you remove the previous batch).

Before adding the final layer, pour the fresh salsa around the edges of the baking dish and between the noodle layers (this will add enough moisture to completely rehydrate the no-boil noodles).  Top with the final layer of ingredients, spreading the last layer of cheese to completely cover the surface.  Cover the baking dish with a sheet of parchment paper that has been oiled on the coated side (place the coated side down).  Top with foil and seal the dish tightly.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, turning once about halfway through cooking if your oven heats unevenly.  Uncover and bake 5 minutes more until the cheese topping is golden brown and the casserole is bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 20 minutes before serving.  Serves 6-8.

Notes: (1) I used a 24-oz. bag of microwaveable sweet potatoes.  Since this is not quite 2 pounds, in my recipe I reduced the milk to 1 C. from the original 1 1/4 C.  (2) The original recipe did not specify, but be sure to use Mexican rather than Spanish chorizo, as the textures and flavors are very different, and Spanish chorizo is often already cooked.  (3) If you prefer, you could use regular lasagne noodles as specified in the original recipe, cooked until al dente, drained, and thoroughly rinsed in cold water.  (If you choose not to use no-boil noodles, omit or at least drain off most of the liquid from the salsa or you will end up with watery lasagne.)  (4) I found shredded queso quesadilla at my supermarket, but use any sharp white cheese you prefer (white cheddar is good).

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