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Todd English's ultimate dish

Todd English's ultimate dish

Pumpkin Lasagna with White Truffle reminds celeb chef, restaurateur of his childhood, and first eatery

Celebrity chef and restaurateur and celebrity chef Todd English is known for his culinary expertise, and with restaurants spanning the country, he certainly knows his way around a dish or two.

But what if he could only have one? Just one? What would it be?

That's the question "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" asks famous chefs every week in our new series, "THE Dish."

The answer: Pumpkin Lasagna with White Truffle.

Todd's favorite dishes to cook at home revolve around pasta. Lasagna noodles are something he loves. His mother used to make lasagna, so it invokes nostalgic memories of his childhood.

This pumpkin dish for him is the ultimate comfort food, but at the same time reflects his desire to add a modern twist to classic dishes. This recipe, for example, is served inside a sugar pumpkin -- not your typical "lasagna."

This dish also was one of the first menu items from his first restaurant, in Charlestown, Mass. It remains one of his favorites because it evokes memories of opening that first one, and he loves that the ingredients really highlight the best fall flavors.

Among many culinary kudos Todd's gotten, he's a four-time winner of prestigious James Beard Awards. He's also host of the Emmy-nominated PBS travel series, "Food Trip with Todd English."

He's also the author of the recently-published cookbook, "Cooking In Everyday English: The ABCs of Great Flavor at Home."

On the show, he paired three side dishes with the Pumpkin Lasagna: Corn Spoon Bread, Orange Fennel Salad, and Notorious F.I.G.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!

RECIPES

Pumpkin Lasagna

  • One (8-10 lb) pumpkin
  • 1 dozen fresh sage pasta sheets
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup ground amaretti cookie
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12 fried sage leaves
  • 1 jar white truffle puree
  • 2 fresh white truffles (30-40 grams)
  • 4 quarts water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pumpkin Puree Sauce:
  • 4 cups of canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 qt heavy cream

Method:

Place the pumpkin puree in a sauce pot and add the cream, and maple syrup. Add in butter, pepper, and nutmeg and slowly cook over low heat about 20 minutes.

In another sauce pot, bring water to a boil and blanch the pasta sheets in the salted boiling water for one minute, then toss the pasta into the pumpkin puree sauce and incorporate well.

Pumpkin Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice top off pumpkin, scoop out seeds and any membrane. Toss with oil, salt and pepper.

Roast pumpkin in oven for about 15 minutes to slightly cook, then remove and begin to build lasagna "free-form" style inside pumpkin by laying one sheet of pasta in the bottom of the pumpkin, then spreading 1-2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese on top and 1 tablespoon of white truffle puree. Continue by sprinkling a layer of cookie, almond and parmesan. Continue layering until pumpkin is filled. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Finish with fried sage leaves and grate fresh white truffle over top of lasagna.

For the recipes for Todd's side dishes and two bonus recipes, go to Page 2.

Corn Spoon Bread

  • Milk, 4 cups
  • Stone-ground yellow cornmeal, 2 cups
  • Fresh corn kernels, 2 cups
  • Sugar, 1/4 cup
  • Baking powder, 1 Tbsp.
  • Kosher salt, 2 tsp.
  • Large egg whites, 3
  • Large eggs, 3
  • Unsalted butter, 1/2 cup, divided
  • Honey, 1 Tbsp.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine milk and cornmeal in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and stir in corn kernels.

2. Combine sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add cornmeal mixture, stirring with a whisk.

3. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add eggs to cornmeal batter, stirring with a whisk; fold in egg whites.

4. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1?4 cup butter to pan, tilting to coat bottom. Cook over medium-low heat 3 minutes or until butter begins to brown. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

5. While spoon bread bakes, combine remaining 1?4 cup butter and honey in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 2 minutes or until butter melts. Drizzle honey butter over top of bread. Serve immediately. 10 to 12 servings

Orange Fennel Salad

  • Navel oranges, 4
  • Fresh parsley, 1?2 cup chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1?4 cup
  • Fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbsp.
  • Kosher salt, 1?2 tsp.
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1?2 tsp.
  • Fennel bulbs, 2 large thinly sliced
  • Garnish: fennel fronds

1. Section oranges over a bowl, squeezing pith to extract 1?4 cup juice. Add parsley and next 5 ingredients; toss gently. Garnish, if desired. 7 servings

Notorious F.I.G.

  • Dried Turkish figs, 6
  • Lillet, 7 Tbsp., divided
  • Light rum, 3 Tbsp.
  • rosemary Simple Syrup (page 40), 1 Tbsp.
  • Ice cubes, 1 cup
  • Garnish: dried fig, fresh rosemary sprig

1. Process figs and 1 Tbsp. Lillet in a food processor 30 seconds or until figs are pureed.

2. Combine 1 Tbsp. fig puree (reserve remaining puree for another use), remaining 6 Tbsp. Lillet, rum, Rosemary Simple Syrup, and ice in a martini shaker. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Pour into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish, if desired. 1 serving

For two bonus recipes, go to Page 3.

The Venetians have a word for the ideal consistency of risotto: alla onda, which means "like a wave." You should be able to pour the risotto onto the plate, where it will set slightly.

Beet Risotto with Blue Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Fresh beets, 6 medium with greenery (about 1 3?4 lb.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 5 Tbsp., divided
  • Fresh rosemary, 2 Tbsp. chopped, divided
  • Orange zest, 2 tsp., divided
  • Kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp., divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp.
  • Chicken broth, 3 2/3 cups
  • Beet juice, 2 1/3 cups
  • Onion, 1 cup finely chopped
  • Arborio rice, 2 1/4 cups
  • Dry white wine, 1 cup
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Unsalted butter, 6 Tbsp.
  • Blue cheese, 1 cup crumbled
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary sprig

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut tops off beets, leaving 1 inch greenery on each. Scrub beets under cold running water; pat dry. Cut each beet, lengthwise, into 3 wedges, leaving a portion of greenery on each wedge. Place beets in a large bowl; drizzle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. rosemary, 1 tsp. orange zest, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Line a large jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil; lightly grease foil. Place beets in a single layer on prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 35 minutes or until beets are tender, turning once.

2. Heat chicken broth and beet juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm; keep warm.

3. Saute onion in remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat 7 minutes or until tender. Add rice, stirring to coat. Cook rice, stirring often, 3 minutes (do not brown). Stir in wine. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until wine is absorbed.

4. Add 2 cups warm broth mixture, stirring constantly, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat procedure with remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, until liquid is absorbed. (Total cooking time is about 28 minutes.) Remove pan from heat.

5. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. rosemary, remaining 1 tsp. orange zest, remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and butter, stirring until cheese and butter melt. Cover and let stand 3 minutes.

6. Pour risotto onto serving plates. Place 3 beet wedges on each serving, and sprinkle evenly with blue cheese. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately. 6 servings

Drink: California Petit Verdot

"Old School" Chicken Cacciatore

I'm a food history nut who loves uncovering the origins of recipes. Originally, chicken cacciatore did not incorporate the tomatoes we assume. Instead, wine or vinegar was the base for the braise, so the sauce was quite dark. This version is inspired by a 15th-century recipe, and it is believed to be the predecessor of Coq au Vin.

Ingredients:

  • Skinned, bone-in chicken thighs, 8 (about 4 lb.)
  • Kosher salt, 1 tsp.
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp.
  • All-purpose fl our, 1 cup
  • Olive oil, 1?4 cup, divided
  • Shiitake mushrooms, 3 cups sliced
  • Shallots, 1?2 cup finely chopped
  • Anchovies, 2 coarsely chopped
  • Garlic, 3 cloves minced
  • Capers, 3 Tbsp. drained
  • Dry red wine, 2 cups
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1?3 cup
  • Fresh sage leaves, 4
  • Bay leaf, 1
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Semolina Polenta
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1?2 cup coarsely chopped

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in fl our, shaking off excess.

2. Cook chicken, in batches, in 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate, and wipe Dutch oven clean.

3. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to Dutch oven, and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and next 4 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Return chicken to Dutch oven, and add wine and next 3 ingredients.

4. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 11?2 hours or until meat is tender enough to fall off the bone, basting chicken occasionally with liquid in Dutch oven. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over Semolina Polenta; sprinkle with parsley just before serving. 4 to 6 servings

Drink: Italian Barbera

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