Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mushroom Lasagna

From the outset, I want to point out, this is not a quick, weeknight dinner. I happened to be home all day, but I certainly wouldn't attempt this expecting to have dinner on the table in anything approaching a reasonable time.

There are a number of steps that can be made ahead, but again, they are time consuming at each stage. My only consolation is that for all the exhaustion of putting this thing together, the boys really enjoyed it, and there is enough of it to feed them for a few days. Cooking in quantity rocks.

I opted to make duxelles from the mushrooms, and then add them to a rich sauce. You could simply cook the mushrooms down to the point where most of the water evaporates, but this is for lasagna- a dish prone to becoming watery under the best of circumstances. With that in mind, I went ahead and wrung the chopped mushrooms out in a dishcloth. Surprisingly, even after extracting a measurable amount of liquid, they still gave off a few ounces when I cooked them. This may vary by type of mushroom.

I used cottage cheese, but ricotta would also be fine. You should however, leave several hours (or overnight) for the liquid to drain before forcing it through a sieve. Same problem as the mushrooms-too much liquid in lasagna can be unpleasant. Take the extra time, and drain your cheese. "Oh my mama said, you can't hurry cheese, so you just have to wait, she said lasagna don't come easy, so shut your mouth and clean your plate..." Wow, sorry, I have no idea where that came from.

For The Mushrooms:

2 lbs. mushrooms chopped very fine, then squeezed dry in a dishcloth a handful at a time
4 finely minced shallots
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup veggie or beef broth
1/4 cup Madeira

In a large, heavy pot cook the mushrooms and shallots in the butter and oil. When they start to reduce, add the thyme and salt/pepper. Cook over medium high heat until they begin to brown and come apart. Add the broth and Madeira. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set aside until you are ready to make sauce. These can be made well ahead (days, if need be).

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk

Melt butter until sizzling. With a wooden spoon, beat in flour over medium heat until it foams. Slowly whisk in the milk. Continue whisking and cooking over medium heat until sauce thickens-about five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in mushrooms. Cover with cling film to prevent a film from forming on sauce. You could drizzle a bit of cream on the top, but cling film has less calories, and we haven't even gotten to the cheese yet.

For the Cheese Filling:

1 lb. cottage cheese (4%) drained and sieved
3 whole eggs
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Beat together until well combined. May also be made several hours ahead and kept chilled.

For The Shredded Cheese:

Use what you like, strangely I prefer a bit of Swiss in lasagna, but use what you like. About 3-4 cups.

For The Pasta:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
(about) 2 cups semolina flour

Beat eggs until light. Beat in water and salt. Add semolina slowly until it comes together. Knead lightly, then wrap in cling film. Let rest 20 minutes. Roll out as thin as possible and cut into 9 sheets if using a large 9x13 pan. Otherwise, cut to adapt to your cookware.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook lasagna noodles for 3 minutes (I do a few at a time, removing them to a baking sheet while the next batch cooks). Pat them dry, and assemble your lasagna in layers. The top layer should be mushroom sauce and a scattering of shredded cheese. Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. remove foil and bake 20-30 minutes longer, or until cheese is nicely browned. Let stand a good five minutes before cutting.

Makes a "big old plate of lasagna!"

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