Roasted Polenta and Seafood Lasagne February 24 2014

Last night's post on Facebook was pretty popular, so I guess I better make with the recipe like I said I would.

For those of you that prefer some adventure in their cooking, I will give you some basic background: In essence, you use polenta that has been chilled on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet where you would use pasta in a regular lasagna. This is a nice change of pace from the usual flavor and texture of the dish. In the case of our photo, the contrast was even more drastic since we used a bechamel seafood sauce instead of the usual bolognase. However, we did put a small amount of tomato sauce in a red pepper-tomato sauce we used.

I am going to post a basic set of polenta cooking guidelines on a separate post, so you can reference that there.

When you make your polenta, make it a little loose to get a nice thin sheet for your "pasta" layers. some planning is good here. I did this by setting the pyrex casserole dish over my cookie sheet to get an idea of how many continuous pieces I could get out of my chilled polenta, I got two almost perfectly sized pieces. There is a lot of room to refine this process, of course!  Anyway, there is much space for improvement, but only so much time to give you a recipe. So here goes.

The Polenta:

  • Pour the "loose" polenta onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill until congealed (several hours).
  • Cut the polenta into sheets to fit your casserole dish. You need at least two pieces. Use a sharp knife to cut through the paper, also. Lift the sheets with the paper to avoid breakage. Be careful.
The Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
  • 1 roasted red pepper.
  • 1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp hot pepper vinegar (we make our own).
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • 1 chopped clove of garlic
Combine the ingredients and puree in a blender.  This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
The Bacon:
  • Fry up 6 pieces of bacon and set onto paper towels. Let cool. Crumble.
Ricotta mixture:
  • In a bowl, mix together 8 oz. of whole milk Ricotta cheese, 4 oz. frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and drained), 1 egg, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  
  • You will also need about. 2 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves, uncooked.
The Bechamel Sauce:
Note: This is the last thing to prepare before assembly .Don't overcook your shrimp, you're going to put this in the oven, after all.
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 shredded carrot
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1.cup milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 pound shelled shrimp
  1. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion, and carrot. Stir while cooking over medium heat until the onions are translucent. You know the deal, right?
  2. Stir in the flour and keep stirring until the vegetables are thoroughly coated and the flour is browned, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in vermouth and keep stirring until reduced.
  4. Combine the stock and milk, then slowly stir the mixture with the vegetables and vermouth. Add a bit at a time, letting the roux absorb the liquid before adding more. Cook, stirring continuously, until thick and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add salt. Add shrimp. Cut off heat.
The Topping
Grate a half cup of cheddar cheese. This goes on right before you put it in the oven. Dice a few scallions. They go on very last as garnish.

Put it Together.
  1. Butter a Pyrex casserole dish. Gently place the first polenta layer in the bottom.
  2. Spread the bacon evenly on top of the polenta.
  3. Spread the red pepper sauce evenly over the bacon, using a spoon or rubber spatula.
  4. Place fresh baby spinach leaves (uncooked) evenly over the red pepper sauce, completely covering it.
  5. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the fresh spinach layer.
  6. Pour half of the bechamel over the ricotta mixture.
  7. Place the second layer of polenta over the bechamel.
  8. Pour the rest of the bechamel over the polenta.
  9. Shred cheddar cheese on top
  10. Place on middle shelf of the oven preheated to 450.
  11. Cook until hot and bubbling (at least a half an hour).
  12. Let cool for 10 minutes or more.
  13. Top with scallions and sprouts and serve.