When I signed up for a Le Creuset class at Sur la Table, I imagined the recipes we would be preparing would be limited to lasagnas, gratins,  and that "everything but the kitchen sink" leftovers combined with rice and creamy canned soup casserole no one likes.  I came to this conclusion because this particular class came with a free Le Creuset 14" casserole dish and a Le Creuset spatula, making the class a great value, I thought, regardless of the menu.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, in addition to taking this great baking dish home, I really liked the four recipes we made -- and two were not even casseroles!  During the two hour class, we made:
  • Walnut Pesto Stuffed Pork Roast
  • Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna with Four Cheeses
  • French Country Chicken Gratin with Cognac
  • Biscuit-Topped Apple and Cranberry Cobbler

Le Creuset is a manufacturer of high end enameled cast iron cookware and stoneware.   Cast iron is a good cooking metal because it tends to heat soups and cook meats more evenly in order to enhance the natural flavors and deliver more delicious meals and desserts.  Due to this result, cast iron tends to be more expensive than other stovetop cookware - like stainless steel.  The added bonus of the Le Creuset brand is that they come in a variety of fun colors, so you can choose the monochromatic path or can have all different shapes, sizes, and colors in your collection!  Both have a high visual impact, on top of their functionality.

Since the pesto pork is simply a roulade, or rolled, pork with pesto inside, and the chicken was my least favorite, I'm going to give you the other two yummy recipes because it's good to know how to make a béshamel sauce for homemade mac and cheese (this version is a white béchamel, so use cheddar for orange) and who doesn't love fruit cobbler??

Next class, I need to remember to bring my good DSLR camera with my 40mm macro lens, because the photos from my iPhone above are not doing these dishes justice!!   Enjoy the lasagna and cobbler!

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna with Four Cheeses(8 servings)

1 (2 1/2 pounds) butternut squash, quatered, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting
2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper

1 (10 ounce) box lasagna noodles (plain or spinach), cooked al dente, drained, blotted dry
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the center.

Place squash quarters, cut side down, in a large baking dish and add the water to the dish.  Roast the squash for 30 minutes, or until firm but tender when pierced with a fork.  Let cool, peel away the skin with a paring knife, and cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Set aside and turn oven off or down to 375 degrees.

To prepare béchamel sauce, create a roux by melting butter in a large saucepan over medium low heat.  Add flour, stir with a flat whisk until the mix is smooth, and then continue to cook, stirring for 5 minutes.  Gradually, add the milk and half-and-half while whisking constantly until smooth.  Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking gently, for 5 minutes, or until the sauce boils and thickens.  Remove pan from the heat.  Stir in parmesan cheese, salt, and nutmeg.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the spinach and 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, and a generous grinding of pepper.  Stir with a sauce whisk until well blended.  Set aside.

With oven preheated at 375 degrees, generously butter a 9 1/2 x 14 inch baking dish.  Add a ladleful of the béchamel to the prepared dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom.  Arrange 1/3 of the noodles side by side, or slightly overlapping if they are wide, on the bottom of the dish.  Spoon about half of the ricotta mixture on top and spread evenly.  Top with half of the squash slices, arranging in a single layer.  Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper, dust lightly with nutmeg, and scatter 1/4 cup each of fontina and gorgonzola cheeses evenly over the top.  Add the spinach mixture by well-spaced spoonfuls and spread in an even layer.  Arrange another 1/3 noodles on top and repeat the layering process with the remaining noodles on top at the end.  Poor the remaining béchamel sauce evenly over the noodles.  Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining fontina and gorgonzola cheeses.

Bake until the top is browned and bubbly, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Consider baking on a sheet to catch any cheese overflow.  For a lighter brown top, prop a tent of aluminum foil over the baking dish, perhaps using upended pyrex mesuring cups.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Biscuit Topped Apple and Cranberry Cobbler (8 servings)

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pounds fresh Braeburn, Roma, or Gala apples, halved, cored, and cut into 3/4 inch thick slices

2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter; cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons turbinado or Demerara sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center.  Lightly butter an 11x7x2 inch glass or stoneware baking dish and set aside.

To prepare the fruit mixture, combine cranberries and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl, tossing well to coat.  Crush cranberries using a potato masher, listening for popping noises.  Allow the mixture to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon, whisking gently to combine.  Set aside.

Add apple slices to the bowl with cranberries and sprinkle the sugar and cornstarch mixture over the fruit, tossing evenly to coat.  Allow the mixture to stand until additional juices begin to form, tossing occasionally, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Arrange fruit mixture and any accumulated juices into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

To prepare biscuit topping, place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process for 10 seconds to blend well.  Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 5 times at 1-second intervals, or until the butter is cut into pieces the size of large green peas.  Add heavy whipping cream and pulse another 20 times, or until the dough holds together in small, thick clumps.  Use a silicone spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Gently squeeze the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.  Pat the dough into a rough rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Using a bench scraper or chef's knife, cut the dough into 8 equal squares and gently place atop the fruit mixture, spacing them evenly over the surface without touching.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the lightly beaten egg with the remaining 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir to combine.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with a thin coating of the egg mixture and sprinkle evenly with turbinado or Demerara sugar (think Sugar in the Raw).

Place the assembled cobbler on a rimmed baking sheet and place in preheated oven.  Bake until the fruit mixture begins to bubble up and thicken, and the biscuits turn a light golden brown color, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the cobbler from the oven and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or scoop of your favorite ice cream.