Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lasagne Bolognese

Lasagne Bolognese, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I fully realise that I would be stirring the bolognese pot here by even calling this a "bolognese", but I doubt that my readership (of 2 or is it 3 now?) is gonna call me on any liberties and artistic license I take here in the little kitchen.
In the past, I've  noodled away  many, many hours into the next day, preparing and simmering a bolognese sauce made with chuck, pancetta and pork sausage meats in a wine, milk, broth and tomato paste reduction. I am aware that traditionally, a bolognese or ragu surprizingly does not contain garlic, seasoning (besides salt and pepper) or any herbs (perhaps a bay leaf).
This is not that bolognese. What this is, is another happy refrigerator rescue.
Lately, my weekends tend to start this way: Spend a couple of hours at my favorite coffee house OCD'ing on my favorite blogs and foodie websites to inspire my weekend cooking ventures and shopping list. There's usually a stack of library cookbooks and magazines waiting to be perused and tagged. then head to my the little kitchen and cook or reheat something for lunch before I head to the store with my shopping list.
Last weekend, I tagged along to Costco with my friend and neighbor Sheena. I go to Costco maybe once a year, because in general, it's pretty impractical for me and my little apartment.
I did go with a very small list: bread (I wanted to try freezing it), bacon (you can never have too much bacon), pesto and parmesan cheese (I had big plans for pasta and pesto chicken sandwiches).
I didn't get any of those things.
What I did end up with, amongst new underwear, vitamins, chapstick (most of which I'll manage to lose within 2 months) and a 2 year supply of Cetaphil lotion, was a giant box of baby spinach and a 2 pound container of cremini mushrooms. I had visions of stratas, tarts and quiches dancing in my head, wanting to make something pastry based.
I never did that. 
I made salads and wrap sandwiches every day this past week yet the box of baby spinach appeared untouched and not much of a dent in the mushrooms either.
Lasagne seemed like a fine finish to my Costco bounty. I dug through the pantry to come up with two half empty boxes of no-boil lasagne noodles, one of which was whole wheat.
In addition to my giant box of spinach and 2 pounds of mushrooms, this is what I pulled out of my fridge:
the remains of a 2lb container of ground chuck
3 left-over spinach and feta chicken sausage links
half a pound of bacon
about a cup of caramelized onions
about a 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
about a cup of sauteed fresh corn with caramelized onions
a half quart of skim ricotta

then thanks god for a fairly well stocked pantry: 
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, thyme and tarragon
tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 oz can of crushed tomatoes
into the ricotta:
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella
I started to saute the mushrooms in butter and olive oil and a pinch of sea salt in one pan and in another pan, started cooking the diced bacon just until it started to crisp. This is a personal thing for me. I don't like the texture of chewy bacon (anything less than well done). Then in went the garlic for about 30 seconds. I added the cumin and coriander at this point and stirred it all around until fragrant, about a minute.
I added the beef, sausage (squeezed out of the casing) and dried herbs and while that was all cooking through I tossed around the mushrooms and added about a tablespoon of dried tarragon to them once they'd released their moisture. I love tarragon.
At this point I added all of the rescued pre-cooked condiments to the meat: roasted peppers, caramelized onions and sauteed corn. While that was all heating through I went back to the mushrooms and deglazed with a little sherry. Then I added the spinach and let that all wilt down.
I started the 5 minute tomato sauce: heat up olive oil over medium heat, add garlic, salt and red pepper flakes until it sizzles then add the can of crushed tomatoes. This will take about 3 minutes to heat through. Add about 3/4 to the meat mixture,  leaving enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish the top layer of noodles.
Commence to layering:
spread some sauce over the bottom of the dish, lay down the first layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the meat, 1/3 of the mushrooms, then cheese layer. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. After I layed down the top layer of noodles I spread the last of the sauce over the top then added more shredded parmesan and grated mozzarella on top. I sprayed a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray covered it and refrigerated.
The next day I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees and baked the covered lasagne for 30 minutes. Decreased the oven temperture to 350 degrees, removed the cover and baked for 30 minutes more.
Make sure there's a baking sheet on the rack below, because this will surely bubble over.
This tasted pretty amazing. The first bites elicited the hint of anise from the tarragon. Loved that...but my favorite thing was the intermittent tiny crunches and heavenly flavor of bacon.
I will happily be eating this for lunch this week.

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