Lasagna and changes.

So it’s winter. I’ve missed sharing Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Years with the blogging world. But, to be fair, there’s already a glut of holiday blog posting. My silence was just a lovely respite from people sharing their traditional indulgences.

OK, lame excuse. I was busy. I started a job in November. I moved to east central Indiana. I bought a couch. These are all very big things when taken as a whole.

I’ve been living on my own for a little over three months now. When I first moved in I was restless and missing the new friends I made over the summer.

The weekend before I started work I was texting my friend Nureen. She was sharing her adventures of cooking in her dorm at NYU. Therefore, I dedicate this long overdue recipe posting to Nureen, the most smiley person I know.

I wanted something comforting, something warm and something completely delicious. For me that usually involves something baked and savory. Enter Ina Garten’s “Portobello Mushroom Lasagna.”

I should explain about my relationship with Ina Garten. To put it simply, I adore her. She’s great. Her books are well designed, and they always have a fairly expansive vegetable section, which rocks. I have five of her books. Five. One cannot say that I am not devoted to my favorite things.

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So this lasagna definitely falls into the decadent category. It has whole milk, butter, cheese, pasta and mushrooms. I usually like to pair this with a salad, preferably peppery arugula with a lemony vinaigrette.

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna by Ina Garten, from “Barefoot Contessa at Home,” pages 112-113. (serves 6)

Ingredients

kosher salt

good olive oil

3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles

4 cups whole milk

12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided

1/2 all-purpose flour

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

My notes on the ingredients:

My black pepper comes from a can. As does my salt, it has a little girl with an umbrella on it. Now that I think about it, my parmesan cheese also comes from a can. It’s green–the can, not the cheese. I usually use whole milk for this recipe because it just tastes better. Yes the butter content and high fat milk are alarming, but this recipe is made to feed six adult people. No one should be eating an entire pan of lasagna by themselves. While using all portobello mushrooms is preferable, those babies can get expensive. Substituting some plain white “button” mushrooms works just fine too.

Now to those who are crying in horror at my lack of faithfulness to the recipe, or my complete disregard for the “good” ingredients, stay calm. It’s not that I don’t appreciate using really superb ingredients, but I’m cheap. I’d like to say frugal, but no, I’m just cheap. Especially when it comes to items like salt and pepper. That’s what I like about cooking, you can adapt most any recipe to your peculiarities.

Now on to the method. I’ve decided to use the Brit term “method” instead of my Yankee “directions.” I feel method is more open to the cook’s interpretation. Directions sound like commands, and I’d hate to be a dictator in the kitchen. (Confession: Actually, I’d think I’d like it too much. As an only child I have the bossy/stubborn gene in spades.)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 375* F. Bring a large pot of water to boil with 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside. (PSST: I used those no-boil noodles. Worked like a charm.)

2. For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer (read: small bubbles) in a saucepan and set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixutre (a.k.a. a roux) all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg. NOTE: This is too much salt for me. I usually cut it to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cook the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick. Set aside off the heat and try to not eat it all before you assemble the lasagna.

3. Separate the mushroom stems form the caps and discard the stems (or save them to make into a lovely mushroom stock later). Slice the caps 1/4 inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, 12-inch, saute pan. (Again, you could cut the butter and oil in half here.) When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and then set them all aside.

4. To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8x12x2-inch baking dish. (I normally use a 9x13x2 and it works fine.) Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, the one-third of the mushrooms and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Repeat two more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms and cheese. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.

5. Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

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I made this and then ate it for the rest of the week. It was a perfect way to start my new life. Thanks Nureen for the inspiration! Miss you.


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