Monday, March 13, 2006

Greens-stuffed Manicotti

Here's another delicious way to eat your greens on a cold evening. Manicotti are stuffed with a tender mixture of chard, spinach, mushrooms, and shallots, then baked with a cheesy sauce.

When I first made this recipe 10 years ago, I remember thinking it was tremendously involved. It took three different pans to prepare.I went out and purchased special ramekins just like the ones in the picture in Georgeanne Brennan's The Vegetarian Table: France. (This is a wonderful vegetarian cookbook with many awesome recipes.) But the resulting meal was so sublime, it was well worth the extra clean up.

Brennan talks about the first time she had ate this dish as a student in Aix-en Provence:
"Cannelloni, I discovered, were pasta rolls, filled and sauced and then topped with cheese. They came out of the restaurant's little kitchen bubbling hot in individual ramekins, the sauce and cheese forming a sort of crust. I learned to dip my bread into the sauce while I waited for the cannelloni to cool. "

I was inspired to make this recipe when I found large manicotti shells at the grocery store. I had a big bunch of organic rainbow chard in the fridge, just waiting for inspiration. Here's my adapted recipe:

4-6 large manicotti shells, cooked

2 tbsp butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 mushrooms, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 bunch of rainbow chard leaves, chopped
4-6 oz baby spinach

fresh bread crumbs

Roux (Sauce):
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk

2/3 cup Swiss or Gruyere, grated

Cook the manicotti shells according to the instructions. Place on a plate wiped with olive oil to avoid sticking.

Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook 1-2 minutes. The greens should be wilted.

Make the roux:
Melt the butter and add the flour. Cook, stirring rapidly for 2 minutes (the mixture should be foaming). Add the milk and turn up the heat. Cook until thickened.

Finish the filling:
Add the breadcrumbs and a little of the roux to the greens until you have a loose paste.

Using a small spoon, stuff the manicotti with the filling. Place the stuffed manicotti in butter indiviual ramekins.

Cheese the roux:
Reheat the roux and add 3/4 of the grated cheese. Beat until smooth. If the sauce is stiff, add some more milk (or water). Add a shake or two of cayenne and pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti.

Top with remaining cheese, dot with butter, and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn the oven on to broil and broil for 2-3 minutes until orange-brown blisters form on the top of the sauce. Serve with baguette and wine.


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