Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lasagna Is Not an Appropriate Summer Dish

“Why are you making lasagna when it’s 9 billion degrees outside?” tweeted @amycrea, a tweeple who has become an IRL friend. (And who ought to know better than to ask.)

Why? Why?? What do you mean, “why?”
  • I got a new blue Le Creuset earthenware pan for my birthday! Yay! Now I’m feeling adventurous!
  • I read an article about lasagna on in a series called “You’re Doing It Wrong.” Nothing pisses me off more than being told by Internet hipsters that I’m doing something wrong. Plus, for someone who’s telling everyone they’re doing it wrong, the author holds a rather shallow understanding of what makes a good tomato sauce. Rrr! Now I’m feeling vindictive!
  • I have promised to bring dinner to my friends Deb and Sean, who are new parents. Now I’m feeling all protective.
So add it up: if you had the whole clear blue sky before you; and THEN you had to one-up someone; AND you could feed it to your loved ones—well, doesn’t that equal lasagna? Weather be damned!

Ridiculous, Ridiculous, Ridiculous
I followed Slate’s suggestion and made mushroom lasagna, except they don’t know what they’re doing so I fixed their recipe. They ARE right, however, about ingredients: get the best stuff you can find. There are three parts to the recipe: sauce, cheese filling, and assembly.

The ingredients PLUS a beadwork snail
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
½ head garlic, chopped
½ to 1 lb mushrooms, chopped
1-2 sage leaves 1 t dried rosemary
3 cans crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 cup wine
1 big sprig basil, leaves plucked and torn
Salt and pepper to taste

I overfilled ol' Bluie again. Relax, though, it's a double recipe
 Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan. Sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes until translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue sautéing until they release, then resorb, their juices. Add the sage and rosemary; then the wine, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer this while you do the next parts, and take your time; it would be best to simmer for an hour. Or more, even! Throw the basil in right at the end before assembly.

Cheese Filling
1 lb fresh spinach
1 lb ricotta cheese
8 oz shredded parmesan, pecorino, asiago, or other dry aged Italian cheese. Hey, shut up. No jokes about my grandma!
1 egg
A dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and steam the spinach. Drain it, turn it out onto a cutting board, and chop it. When it is cool enough, squeeze as much water out of it as you can.
Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Dump in everything else and blend.
Giant mess
1 lb lasagna noodles
Olive oil
1 lb mozzarella cheese (fresh or shredded, either is fine.)
Cook the noodles according to the package – I’d throw several tablespoons of salt into four or five quarts of water and boil them in that. Pull them out of the water and drain them, then toss them with a little olive oil to keep them from getting sticky.

Preheat the oven to 375°. (On this, Slate and I agree.) Grease your big old lasagna pan with olive oil, then coat the bottom with sauce. Put down a layer of noodles. Then spread another layer of sauce; drop half the cheese filling in little blobs all over the sauce and smooth it out into a layer as best you can. Put noodles atop this. Do sauce, cheese filling, noodles again. Top with a thin layer of sauce and then cover it up with mozzarella.

Just-a like-a that.
Bake the lasagna until it’s toasty on top and bubbly on the bottom. Watch it carefully, and if it is melted and bubbly but not toasty, you may want to run it under the broiler for a minute or three. Remove the lasagna from the oven and take the time to make a salad before slicing it and serving to acclaim.