Thursday, October 24, 2013

White Chicken Lasagna Petals with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage- And 15 Years of True Fall


It would be the last time I'd dig my toes into the California sand for over eight years.

We thought we'd be back sooner.  But you know... life happens, and all.

I was 28.  And it felt like the right time.  I braved my 10-year High School reunion the night before, and quit my job two weeks before that.  Not sure if I was just tired of it all.  Or if the grass seemed greener somehow, even in the mountains of North Carolina.  But, we were ready for a change.

We packed up the moving truck and while it was driven across the country, we too, set out for a long adventure.  Me, in my black Camaro, rewinding Sarah McLachlan's side A so many times, I'm surprised the cassette tape didn't snap.  And he in his red Honda Civic, with a stack of Cracker Barrel books on tapes overflowing on the passenger seat.  Not only keeping him entertained, but insuring a stop every few states for a "book swap," and to school us even more on some of the delicacies we'd soon get to know well, in the South.

Hash Brown Casserole. Okra. Cheese Grits. Fried Apples. Country Ham. The fixin's.


For most of the trip it was a straight line of white dotted grey pavement and green highway signs.  We played it by the book, with scheduled bathroom breaks, and coolers kept filled with red grapes, cheese slices and Ritz Crackers.  And just two overnight stays, with the two most strategically placed Motel 6 hotels that offered the easiest access to hit the road (and the gas station) at 5am each morning.  And don't forget the free HBO.

We didn't have cell phones. Or texting.  Or GPS (so I guess I've now missed the window to learn how to read a street map).  But we had love.  The kind of love that convinces you to leave everything you know, for adventure.  For new passions.  For a new story... all our own.

It was a long road ahead.  Him leading.  Then me leading.  An occasional wave, or an "I love you" blown kiss.  And a thumbs up gesture... reminding to crank up the air conditioning to keep sleepiness at bay. We drove.  And drove.  And with all that alone time to think, we couldn't help but think on the underlying meaning of that old prosaic question of "are we there yet?"
 
But what happened next, made it all the more clearer.  And still makes my heart flutter a bit when I think of it, even years later. 

As we crossed the border into North Carolina, I saw mountains.  And not like any mountains, I'd ever seen.  But rows and rows of mountains so green and perfectly manicured.  The first time that surreal crossed over to the real, so blatantly in my mind.  I sighed to myself and thought... "now, I get it."  And then said it out loud, even.  "Now, I get the South."


That day, I thought for sure that this would be the most beautiful sight I'd ever see.

Until a few months later, when those green mountains turned to Fall.

And as I write this, I realize that this is our 15th Fall... well, at least our 15th true Fall.  The kind of fall that surprises you with reds and oranges and yellows painting the trees.  As one last "look at me" before their leaves sadly make their way to the ground.


Not only are the colors of Fall one of my favorite things to look forward to now each year, but so are the flavors of Fall.  So, I created this recipe to remind, and honor them equally. 

The bright greens of the fresh sage, and the deep oranges from the roasted butternut squash.  All combined in a cozy, warm filling of chicken, cream, and Parmesan cheese.  And layered in blankets of won ton wrappers, which not only add a nice texture with a bit of crunch, but also make for a much simpler preparation and clean up compared to traditional lasagna noodles.

Little bites of happiness.  Rich in flavor and colors... and oh so pretty, like the fall petals of my beloved North Carolina trees.


White Chicken Lasagna Petals with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 yellow onion, cut into thin half moons
2 tablespoons flour
Half pint whipping cream
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1/4 c. chicken broth, if needed
Salt and pepper to taste
8 large fresh sage leaves, julienned
24 won ton wrappers (I like Nasoya)
Olive oil

On a rimmed baking sheet, spread out the butternut squash cubes and the onions and drizzle with olive oil.  Salt and pepper and roast at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until browned and caramelized.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, pour in the cream, and bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat to medium and add flour.  Stir constantly with whisk to thicken.  Add in cheese, the julienned sage, salt and pepper and stir to blend.  Slowly add in chicken broth if needed, to get to the proper consistency (thick sauce) while whisking.

Take off heat, and let cook for a bit.  Then carefully fold in the shredded chicken and roasted squash and onions with a slotted spoon (making sure not to allow the residual oil from the pan to go into the mix). Again, check for seasonings. Set aside.

Grease a muffin pan with non stick spray.  Then lay out your won ton wrappers in small stacks on a cutting board to create circles. Turn a drinking glass upside down on the wrappers, and cut around the glass with a knife to create circular wrappers.  Add one wrapper to each hole in the muffin pan, and top each with 1/2 the chicken/vegetable mixtures.  Add on a second wrapper, and top with the remaining mixture.  Sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until wrappers are nicely browned and cooked through.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Diane, I enjoyed reading about your memories. Once upon a time things used to be simpler but maybe more fun too. Don't need a GPS or mobile to get around and discover beauty all around us. Who knows, maybe if you would have had a mobile at the time you would have googled the mountains before and the whole effect of seeing them in real for the first time wouldn't have been that grand.
    I am looking forward to try your lasagne petals and I will remember your story when making them. Wish you a lovely weekend!

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    1. Thank you Helene! I hope you enjoy them and have a lovely weekend too. And I agree, technology only goes so far. I cherish the beauty in nature and the little things each and every day :-)

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  2. Yes, these are definitely little bites of happiness! And though I dislike the long, cold winter, I know I'd miss the change of seasons if I moved somewhere there was no true autumn or spring! Enjoy the gorgeous foliage :)

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    1. Thank you Liz!!! And yes, I'm with you on the seasons! Who would have know... I think I've truly found home :-)

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Thank you for taking the time to comment! It makes me smile :-)