Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ukrainian Lasagna

Fine, there's no such thing as Ukrainian lasagna-but if there were, this would be it. Think of kasha varnishkas with cheese and sauce. I wasn't sure buckwheat would make a good lasagna noodle, but it works for soba. Yes, this is really how my thought process works. I thought about adding beets and cabbage, but opted for a salad instead.

(Come on, doesn't that make you want to drink to excess, write depressing poetry, possibly emigrate to Canada?)

You Will Need:

For the noodles:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole large egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup buckwheat flour
1-1 1/2 cups pasta flour (semolina/durum blend)

Beat the eggs until light and slightly thickened. Beat in the water and salt. Beat in the buckwheat and half of the semolina. Add the remaining semolina (more or less) until you have a very stiff dough. Wrap in cling film and let rest 20 minutes before rolling.

For the Cheese Filling:

16 ounces cottage cheese, drained and forced through a sieve. I drained mine in the fridge overnight.
2 large eggs, beaten
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
A generous grind of black pepper
2-3 tablespoons of hard cheese

For the Grated Cheese:

1 lb. cheese, grated. Use a combination of hard and semi-firm cheeses. I used Swiss for the semi, and parmesan, paive, and something else (I can't remember) to round it out. Use what you like, but make sure to balance it so you don't end up with an overly runny cheese layer. I wouldn't use mozzarella.

For The Sauce:

4 cups (1 qt.) vegetable or beef broth (You can use milk, but with all that cheese, I thought it would be overkill)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
A generous grind of black pepper
In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. With a wooden spoon work in the flour, stirring constantly until it foams. Slowly whisk in the liquid. Keep whisking and cooking until the thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

For The Kasha/Mushroom Filling (Can be made up to a day ahead)

4 tablespoons butter, divided
16 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup kasha (buckwheat groats) rinsed and drained
2 large egg whites, beaten (save the yolks for making the noodles)
2 cups vegetable or beef flavoured broth
Black pepper to taste (I like a lot of black pepper with grains)

In a large frying pan or stock pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook the onions and mushrooms until soft over medium heat. When the onions are soft and the mushrooms have thrown off most of their liquid, Push everything to one side of the pan. Add the remaining butter on the cleared side. Toss the kasha with the beaten egg whites and add to the buttered side of the pan. With a metal spatula, scrape and move the kasha until it is dry. Mix with the onions and mushrooms, and add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook until nearly all the liquid is absorbed (It will absorb more upon standing).

Put That Damn Thing Together:

Cook and drain your noodles. Let them cool before handling unless you enjoy burning your fingertips. Hey, I'm not judging if you do. That's between you and your lasagna noodles. Me? I prefer to let them cool. I'm kind vanilla that way.

Get out your best 9x13 lasagna pan. Grease it for easier clean up. Start layering. The final layer should be sauce and grated cheese. Place it on a baking sheet, cover it with foil and bake it 40 minutes in in a 350 degree F. oven. Remove the foil and bake another 20-30 minutes or until the top is deeply golden. Here's the part no one does, but I feel obligated to mention anyway-let that lasagna alone for a full ten minutes. Fifteen is better. It will be easier to slice, and as it is already an unapetising shade of greyish brown, you won't help it any by having it sqim across the plate. Go check your email or something, then slice into it.

If you have leftover kasha:

I had kasha, noodles and sauce, but was out of cheese. I cut the noodles into small strips, combined it with the kasha and sauce and froze it. This will be a handy side dish some evening when I don't feel like cooking.

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