Thursday, February 4, 2010

Portobello mushroom lasagna

Since one of my friends moved to Pittsburgh, we've alternated weeks making dinner for the other.  I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to cook for more than one (it's so nice!).  Naturally, I have piles of recipes saved for future dinners, and two of those recipes were begging, just begging, me to give them a try: portobello mushroom lasagna and salted brown butter Rice Krispie treats.  The first I'll write about today, the second will be featured tomorrow... mostly because the first is a bit lengthy.

A few words about this lasagna.  It is amazing and rich and so all-over-body-warming.  One thing it is not, however, is low calorie: whole milk, butter, cheese, pasta.  But honestly, who even cares.  If you are concerned about those things, I wouldn't encourage you to continue reading :)  This lasagna is perfect for a cold winter night with a simple romaine and spinach salad on the side.  Think cream of mushroom soup -- not the canned kind, but the homemade kind with tons and tons of mushrooms -- between noodles and parmesan cheese.  The prep took a little longer than expected but, as Laura put it, "Who cares, I have nowhere to be and this is freakin' awesome."  Well said, pal.

Lots of pots and pans required for this one.  This was only the second time in two years that I really wished I had a dishwasher... really, really wished.  And here is the final product, a bit blurry because we were hungry and the words "screw it, I can't wait any longer to eat this" may or may not have come out of my mouth.  You'll understand once you try it.

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna
(adapted from Ina Garten)
-the recipe says serves 6, but I counted 12 portions

Kosher salt
3/4 pound lasagna noodles (I used all of a 16 oz. package)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups whole milk
8 + 4 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms (without the stems), cleaned and cut into 1/4" slices
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.  Fill a large pot with water, a tablespoon of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil.  Add lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan.  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 mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick.  (It will get really thick.  Think milkshake consistency.)  Set aside off the heat.

Heat 2 Tbsp of oil and 2 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet.  When the butter has melted, add half of the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt, and toss to coat evenly with oil and butter.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking, until mushrooms are tender and have released some of their juices.  Pour mushrooms and juice into a bowl and repeat steps with the other half of the mushrooms.

For lasagna assembly, I used a 9 x 13" glass dish and just adjusted the noodles accordingly.  You should have about 4 cups of the white sauce at this point.  Pour 3/4 cup (original instructions didn't have this, but I added it because it's important) of the white sauce and spread into the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange a layer of noodles (keep in mind you'll need 4 noodle layers) on top of sauce.  Spread another 3/4 cup of sauce over the noodles and arrange 1/3 of the mushrooms on the sauce.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese over mushrooms.  Repeat this order two more times: noodles, sauce, mushrooms, cheese.  Arrange the last of the noodles and spread the remaining sauce around and finish with cheese.

Bake in over for 45 minutes.  Remove dish to cooling rack and let it rest for 15 minutes.  I know it'll be difficult, but trust me, you need to wait and let the lasagna cool and firm up just a bit.  Serve, enjoy, and rest assured that your stomach has never been happier than at this moment :)

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