A friend of mine, the Proprietor of Global Yacht Concierge recommended me immediately when she got a call for HELP from an on board Chef to prepare crew meals for one of the super yachts leaving in a matter of days for the Transatlantic Race, Newport, RI to Cowles, England. I had no idea what I’d be asked to do but I replied to my friend’s text – Sure recommend me. I’d love to help.
The mission which I chose to accept after my brief conversation with the Chef was to prepare 6 meals for 16 people. The meals I would prepare would be in addition to what she’d prepared and snacking provisions. I was asked to make: a traditional Bolognese, a chili con carne which I incorporated organic, soaked, boiled and steamed black beans into, a lamb Tagine, with apricots & organic, soaked, boiled and steamed chic-peas, a beef and lamb Irish stew, a Thai chicken curry and last but certainly not least a butternut squash lasagna which I feel was my pièces de résistance.
The Chef and I met before 9A on a Saturday morning at the Coffee Grinder on Bannisters Wharf to get me some petty cash and hand off her vacuum sealer, sans the bags, which she insured me I’d find them amongst the Ziplocs in the super market, no problem. I’d placed a meat order a day or two in advance of my arrival in Newport. With cash in my pocket I made my way up to the Bellevue Avenue Stop & Shop to pull all the groceries together. Not until I was checking out did I remember I needed the bags for the vacuum sealer. I ran to that aisle only to find the shelf was bare of exactly the bags I needed. Back at the customer service desk with two carts of my groceries I was advised that I could most likely get them “At the Walmart or the larger Stop & Shop out on 114.” The customer service woman helping me offered to keep the carts in the producer cooler in the back at the super market while I got my car & procured the food sealing vacuum bags.
I walked down the hill minutes before my noon start with the zip car I’d picked up at IYRS on Lower Thames. My first time ever in a Walmart added nearly an hour onto my now dwindling day. Working like a Swiss time piece I unpacked & organizing all the provisions between 2 refrigerators, counter space & cabinets in my friend’s kitchen just as a text came to HOLD OFF ON THE COOKING. There was an electronics ‘issue’ on the boat. Three hours later I was granted permission to”…carry on and cook”.
Allow me one tale of woe because I did at one point remind myself that ‘Smooth Seas Never Made a Skillful Sailor” and boy did I have a day of it – which is why by the time I was preparing the butternut squash lasagna I prepared that dish like I was cooking for a wedding. So briefly, the rough seas…having never made a Bolognese or an Irish stew nor is it food I’d ever eat or would even try, I went at preparing these dishes first. The incorporation of the bacon, draining of excess fat and reincorporating the lean part of the bacon back into the mix of over 6#s of ground beef & pork, 2 cans of tomatoes, onions, 2 cups of milk, herbs, and a cooking time over nearly 4 hours had my first ever vacuumed sealed bags of Bolognese, (which I was told was GREAT) weighing in at over 10#s. The Irish stew, working with the worst recipe I’ve EVER encountered took just as long to make. This too was taste tested and a big nod and an AOK had me hauling the over-sized pot into the 2nd refrigerator in the garage for an overnight cool down before vacuum sealing the contents into bags meant for just this purpose.
The following morning at exactly 9AM I plugged in the loaner vacuum food sealer to the most disturbing racket, sounding like combat fire. I text the Chef to ask about this, her reply was “Yes, it’s been known to make quite a racket, is the green light on?” I replied immediately, “Don’t notice any light going on.” Fortunately my friends have a food sealer – staring me in face. I prepared my work space for the sealing venture. The Bolognese went fine but all the while I wondered, is there a technique to getting food into a plastic bag for sealing, when the second bag of Irish stew, awaiting a ladle of the goods, keeled over, spilling at least a quart of greasy Irish stew, carrots, parsnips, potatoes & onions – all over my friend’s kitchen counter, around & under wicker baskets of produce & breads, a coffee maker & a blender. I remained as calm as possible & had the mess cleaned up before anyone arose for to begin their day.
Cut to the 3rd and final day of cooking, I woke early on a sunny Monday morning with 4 meals packed & delivered, well rested and ready to prepare the butternut squash lasagna & the Thai chicken curry. Melding two recipes I’d read I began prepping the ingredients for the butternut squash lasagna.
Here’s what I did:
I preheated 2 ovens to 425 degrees.
First I cut the bulbous bottom off the long neck of the squash. Then I peeled & cubed the top half of 2 good sized butternut squashes, tossed the uniform sized cubes in olive oil & course ground sea salt in a mixing bowl then spread them out on 2 foil lined baking trays. The squash was cut perfectly uniformed. I cut the bottom parts of the squash in half, turned them flesh side down on the end of the tray and got all that in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the cubed pieces were soft. Then I turned the heat down to 350 degrees, cleaned the seeds out of the bottom halves of the squash with a spoon, scored the flesh, dropped a thin pad of butter & a splash of maple syrup into each cavity the seeds had come out of and baked off the bottom halves, flesh side up until they were soft.
Next I prepared a Bechamel sauce, a sage infused brown butter & the Ricotta cheese mixture which consisted of a quart of whole milk Ricotta, 2 Cups shredded mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses,which I whisked & thinned out with whole milk & a cup or more of vegetable stock.
I cooked off 1 box of traditional Lasagna noodles while I prepared the sage infused butter & the Bechamel sauce. I rinsed the noodles in warm water & some oil so I could handle them and laid them out on a tray with parchment paper. I folded ed the sage infused butter onto the mashed & cubed butternut squash
Then I was ready to put the Lasagna together. I began with a layer of the Bechamel on the bottom of each baking dish. Then a layer of the noodles, then the butternut squash onto each of the noodles & spoonfuls of the Ricotta mixture on top of the butternut squash. A layer of noodles, the squash & Ricotta mixture. Topped with the Bechamel, & grated Mozzarella & Parmesan.
I cooked off both baking dishes in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes & sprinkled the tops with smoked paprika when they were cooling.
I let the baked off lasagnas to cool for a good hour or so which allowed me to cut each serving dish into half allowing me to pack each beautifully into the bags for vacuum sealing and then freezing.
I hope this entry will help you to make the dish. Let me assure you, making half the recipe is smooth sailing compared to what I carried on here than. It’s a fabulous dish and I believe the guys will enjoy it and feel satiated as they race across the Atlantic Ocean.
Castle Hill, Newport RI