Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lasagna(s)

(Sorry if this post is poorly written and rife with errors...I'll proof it later.)
I don't know why I made this. I mean, it wasn't bad...the previous comment shouldn't be interpreted negatively, I only meant to express that I wasn't sure what possessed me to make lasagna. After all, it is pretty far from my usual fare of noodle soup and heavily spiced stewed meat dishes. To prove my point, I've currently got a pot of pork braising in a guajillo chile based sauce. Coincidence? I think not. (BTW, the braised meat in chile sauce is loosely based off of this recipe.)

Anyhow, here we go. This is going to be a loooooong post. These recipes are pulled straight from New Best Recipe, All-New Edition...as always, this is my go-to cookbook when I want to cook "round-eye" food. If you don't know what that means, don't sweat it.

First up, a vegetable lasagna. I'm using kale, chard and spinach:
The greens picked off of the stems. I'm only use the leafy parts, no stems. If you don't feel ambitious, just use spinach. This is about 20 ounces of leafy greens:
Not shown here but bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Drop in the greens, a couple handfuls at a time, and cook until wilted. For greens like spinach, this should only take 5 seconds. For heartier greens like kale, this might take longer. Drain the wilted greens and then wrap them in a kitchen towel. Wring the greens of excess water. Set aside until needed.

Bechamel:
Mince the shallots...1 cup. Mince 4 garlic cloves:
Melt 5 tablespoons of butter and cook until the foaming subsides. Add the shallots/garlic. I goofed up. I stupidly added the shallots and butter at the same time. Cook until the shallots have softened:Put the heat on low. Add 1/4 cup of flour. Cook for 1.5 minutes and stir constantly. Whisk in 3.5 cups of whole milk and bring to a simmer. I did it 1 cup at a time. You'll notice that the mixture definitely thickens. Don't let it burn/stick to the bottom of the pot. Add 2 bay leaves, .75 teaspoons of grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat. To finish, whisk in an ounce of grated Parmesan. Remove the bay leaves and set the bechamel aside.

Blend up 8 ounces of cottage cheese and an egg. Set aside.

Take 1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles and place in a dish. Cover with hot tap water. Drain the noodles and place on a plate. If your box is anything like mine, you'll have 15 noodles but this recipe only calls for 12. Don't sweat it:Time to build the lasagna. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Take a 9x13 dish and butter the bottom and sides. Spread .5 cup of bechamel on the bottom of the pan, (mine is green because I added a bit of basil puree that we had in the kitchen.):At this point, mix the wilted greens into the remaining bechamel. Be sure to break up the greens so that there aren't any large clumps.

Layer 3 noodles on top of the bechamel:Add 1 cup of the bechamel/greens mixture and spread over the noodles.Spread 2 ounces of grated Parmesan on the greens. Add 3 more noodles.Spread with another cup of the bechamel/greens. Add 1 cup of shredded fontina. Then three more noodles. The above picture is just as I was adding the next layer of noodles. Spread with another cup of bechamel/greens and the cottage cheese/egg mixture.Add 3 more noodles, the remaining greens/bechamel and a final cup of shredded fontina cheese.

Let me summarize that for you because it can be confusing:
1. Butter the pan.
2. 1/2 cup of bechamel.
3. 3 noodles.
4. Stir greens into bechamel. Add 1 cup of bechamel, spread over noodles. Add 1 cup of shredded Parmesan.
5. 3 noodles.
7. 1 cup of bechamel, spread over noodles. 1 cup of shredded fontina.
8. 3 noodles.
9. 1 cup of bechamel and cottage cheese mixture.
10. 3 more noodles.
11. Remaining 1 cup of bechamel, 1 cup of fontina.

Take a sheet of aluminum foil and spray one side with cooking spray. Cover the lasagna and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbling away. After that, broil the lasagna so the top browns (this took 2 minutes) and this is what you should have:
Meat Lasagna:

Made much the same way as the veggie lasagna, I will first make the constituent parts before I assemble the final product.

Meaty Tomato Sauce:Finely chop a medium onion:Mince (or grate) 6 cloves of garlic:

Heat pot, add olive oil. Sweat the onion..you are just looking for the onion to soften a bit:Add in the garlic and cook for a few minutes.

Add 1 pound of ground meat. Recipe calls for equal parts ground beef, ground veal and ground pork but I used a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground pork. Break the meat up into bits. Add salt and pepper to taste.At this point, add a quarter cup of heavy cream:Cook until the liquid from the cream has cooked off:Take a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and drain off the liquid...I drank the liquid....like ghetto V-8:Add the diced tomatoes to the pot along with 28 ounces of pureed tomatoes:Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning...go aggressive...the tomato sauce is a major taste component of the lasagna so you don't want something bland. The cookbookbook says that the sauce can be made a few days ahead. It's also pretty good as a spaghetti sauce. After all, it is sorta derived from a classic Bolognese recipe. I had a snack of freshly cooked rice topped with the tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Surprisingly delicious.

What's lasagna without the ricotta cheese mixture? Mix 15 ounces of ricotta with 1 cup of grated Parmesan. Chop up basil leaves so you have 1/2 cup and mix that in....season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in one large, beaten egg. Set aside.

Shred 1 pound of whole-milk mozzarella cheese. The recipe specially warns against using low-fat mozzarella.
As seen above, soak and drain one box of no-boil lasagna noodles.
Butter a 13x9 baking pan. Add 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce.
Add 3 noodles:Add three tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on each noodle. That's a total of 9 tablespoons per lasagna layer. Smoosh the ricotta and try to spread it. Add a cup of shredded mozzarella:Add 1.5 cups of meat sauce on top of the shredded cheese:
Add 3 noodles and repeat the ricotta, mozz and sauce layer twice more. Final layer will be noodles, remaining sauce, 1 cup of mozz and as much Parmesan as you want. Recipe calls for 1/4 cup, I used more than that.As before, spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover. Cook in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 25 minutes. If the top isn't brown enough, you can broil it. Here is what you end up with:Here's the Cliff's Notes version:
1. Butter 13x9 pan.
2. Add 1/4 cup of tomato sauce.
3. Add 3 noodles.
4. 9 tablespoons of ricotta mixture, 3 tablespoons per noodle. Smoosh and spread.
5. 1 cup of shredded mozzarella.
6. 1.5 cups of tomato sauce over the mozzarella.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 twice.
8. 3 more noodles.
9. Spread remaining sauce over the noodles. 1 cup of mozzarella. Parmesan.

FOR BOTH RECIPES, I CAN NOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH...ALLOW THE LASAGNAS TO COOL FOR 10 MINUTES BEFORE YOU TRY TO EAT THEM. OTHERWISE, THEY WILL BE TOO HOT AND WILL NOT BE AT THE OPTIMUM TASTE TEMPERATURE.

Making lasagna isn't rocket science. Use the above recipe as a basic blueprint.

Time- Alot. This was not an easy project, especially when I made both lasagnas on the same day. Probably close to 2.5 hours of active work. I really, REALLY need to invent and perfect my cooking robot. A mechanical Thomas Keller...this is my dream.

Food Cost:
Veggie Lasagna-
Greens- $5.67
Shallots- $1.50
Whole Milk- $1.79
Parmesan ($9.99/lb)-$2.00
Noodles- $2.69
Fontina- $2.50
8 oz. Cottage Cheese- $1.50
Aluminum Pan- $1.94
Incidentals- $0.75
Total-$20.34. Serves 6, comfortably so $3.39 per serving.

Meat Lasagna-
1 pound of meat- $1.75
28 oz Pureed Tomatoes- $2.58
28 oz Diced Tomatoes- $1.69
15 oz of Ricotta- $2.49
Parmesan ($9.99/lb)- $2.50
Basil- $1.99
Noodles- $2.69
Mozzarella- $3.99
Aluminum Pan- $1.94
Incidentals- $1.00
Total- $22.62/6= $3.77 per serving.

Text only link click here.

LOLcat:

2 comments:

quyentlam said...

I really love the lasagna. You did a great job with it. It definitely is the best that I have tasted so far.

Quyen

Mike Czyzewski said...

Thanks!