October 19, 2010

Mushroom Lasagna

Confession.  I don't really like lasagna - wait - I'll always eat lasagna and sometimes I love it.  But sometimes, eeeh, not so much.  I'm still trying to figure out what it is.  Maybe too many Stouffers in high school and college?  And I don't think I really like the ricotta cheese.  But I love everything else about lasagna - the layers of goodness with a crunchy top??  Yum.  So I decided to make a white version because it has more cheese and milk, and the Barefoot Contessa's version looks pretty tasty.  It's a recipe that's actually from a cookbook I own!  Part of me hates using Internet recipes because I feel so weird cooking and referring to my laptop screen for the recipe instead of a book (or magazine).  I need to sit down and read the cookbooks I have and maybe do a month with no web recipes.  Go old school.  I just like it more.  I guess I should also mention I have a new love for mushrooms ever since the chicken tetrazzini.  And it frustrates my mom the gourmande to the extreme - I would have NEVER eaten this had she prepared it for me.  I referred to mushrooms as fungus exclusively until a few years ago.  Now I love them.  Maybe some stuffed mushrooms are next??

Mushroom Lasagna
3/4 lb. dried lasagna noodles
4 c. whole milk
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
Olive Oil
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 lb. mushrooms (According to the labels at the grocery - I used a mixture of shitake, cremini, and portobello.  I can't tell mushrooms apart, so I'm sticking with those)
1 c. fresh Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions.  A helpful hint I learned somewhere - when the noodles are done (works for any pasta) and they don't need to stay warm, you can rinse them in cool water and it prevents sticking!  Or you can use olive oil.  I think the water rinse is easier.  For the mushrooms, discard the stems and then cut the mushrooms up into 1/4 in. slices. Saute in two batches with 2 T. of butter and 2 T. of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt for about five minutes until they are tender.  Set aside.

To make the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer (I used the microwave) and melt one stick of butter in a medium sauce pan.  Add the flour and cook for one minute over low heat, stirring constantly to make a roux.  Add the warm milk to the mixture and add 1 T. salt, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1 t. pepper, and thyme and cook (keep stirring!) for 3-5 minutes until thickened.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the white sauce over the bottom of a 8x12 baking dish.  Add the first layer of noodles.  Then add more sauce, 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 grated Parmesan, and the repeat two more times.  Top with a final layer of noodles and then the rest of the white sauce and then the rest of the cheese.  Bake for 45 minutes and let sit for 15 minutes when it's finished before serving. 

Lasagna had quite a learning curve for me.  I learned that it's probably smart to actually COUNT the number of lasagna noodles you need.  I ended up a noodle short on the top because I was a poor planner.  I would have used 4 per layer, so I needed to cook 16 noodles.  Also, assembly was a mess.  I should have used a ladle for the white sauce - it was all over the counter.  Lesson learned.  BUT despite all the oopsies, it was so so so delicious.  Stud and I had some friends over to break in the new fire pit and this was perfect with some red wine and salad.  The mushrooms add a great flavor and I think even huge meat eaters would be a fan.  This lasagna was a HUGE hit.

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