Locavore Mexican Shepherd's Lasagna

Paul from Warren Creek Farm gifted me recently with a whole bunch of Indian Corn! We sell it (on the cob) at the Co-op as a Halloween decoration, but it's perfectly edible if you grind it.

At the Co-op it's called Decorative Corn in order not to offend anyone, but I like the name Indian - it gives credit to the people who invented it: The American Indians. The domestication of corn was quite a feat, and this colorful dry corn is much closer to what the Native Americans knew than most corn people are familiar with today. I highly recommend the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann - It gives a wonderful description of corn in ancient native cultures.

Paul had a bunch left over from Halloween this year, so he shucked about 10 or 15 pounds and gave it to me to experiment with. This will be an ongoing project - I only ground a fraction of what he gave me, and I only used a fraction of that to make this dish. I can't wait to try out all it's possibilities!

Eventually, I'd like to try my hand at making masa for tortillas and/or tamales, but that requires soaking the kernels in lime, drying them, and then grinding them. This would take some time, so I decided start with grinding it for polenta....

I ground the corn using the grain mill attachment I have for my Champion Juicer. Polenta is supposed to be pretty coarsely ground, but it retrospect I think I ground it a tiny bit too course.

I got a pot of water (2 1/2 quarts) boiling on the stove and slowly added 3 cups of corn meal, stirring all the while. You have to stir pretty much constantly while polenta cooks so it doesn't stick to the pan. This batch took over and hour, and boy did my arm hurt by the time it was done!

It thickened as it cooked. I couldn't help thinking what a wonderful breakfast cereal this would make! It smelled and tasted like corn but looked a lot more like oatmeal. After about an hour and 15 minutes it was quite thick and starting to pull away from the sides. This was way longer than polenta has taken me in the past - it must be something about the corn.....

I decided to make a pie. Johnny dubbed it a "Mexican Shepherds Lasagna." First, I smoothed the polenta against the pie plate to make a thick crust.

Then for the filling. I had some local carrots in the fridge that I wanted to use, so I sauteed them with garlic and sage until they were just tender.

I set them aside and cooked the meat. We had some leftover hamburger that needed to be cooked, so I combined it with some pork sausage and little fresh oregano.

When the meat was cooked, it got set aside and I cooked greens in the same pan. This is a combination of chard from the garden and red Russian kale from Blake in Blue Lake. It's been cold here recently, so the kale is incredibly sweet and good! I cooked the greens in olive oil and a little red wine.

After the greens got wilty, I cooked the last layer - locally picked wild Chantrelle mushrooms! These were not cheap, but they're just so good, they seemed worth the splurge!!! I cut them into big strips and cooked them very lightly in olive oil. It's easy to let them get overcooked and watery, so I was careful to turn the heat off when they had just started to wilt.

It was finally time to make the lasagna! I had enough polenta to make two dishes - a pie plate and a bigger oven dish. Leftovers rock!

I started with a thin layer of tomato sauce (yes, I used Muir Glen organic canned tomato sauce... not local I know...I should have canned my own tomato sauce last summer dammit!)

Next came a layer of the cooked greens.

Then just a little shredded Parmesan cheese.

Then the meat....

and the carrots....

Then a much thicker layer of tomato sauce.

I topped it off with the mushroom pieces, which I layed on top so they didn't get lost in the confusion of the other layers.

Beautiful! I just love layered dishes like this!!

Lastly, of course, came a good layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.

In the oven they went. I cooked them at about 400 degrees for about 30 or 40 minutes.

When they were bubbling hot, it was time to eat!

This went perfectly with a nice helping of fresh Little River Farm Sweet and Spicy mix! The carrots were the only ingredient that really seemed out of place, but they were good anyway - they just didn't conform to the Italian theme....oh well, I'm not really into conformity anyway!
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1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad a person can post comments on your blog now! I keep wanting to say how tasty and informative your posts are! I've got a ways to go before I can follow your cooking, but I enjoy being inspired by your efforts! You make it look easy.


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