How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Almost-Favorite Lasagna/e

A Christmas tradition in our house is Pam's preparation of Everyone's Favorite Lasagne, entry #122 in our well-worn 365 Ways to Cook Pasta (see all of our entries from this book). Browsing last weekend as we planned the week's menu, I noticed that we already had several of the ingredients required for entry #121, Chicken and Broccoli Lasagne in Parmesan Custard. (I notice that the word can end in e or a -- this book prefers "lasagne," though I have always used "lasagna," which seems to be a slightly more common spelling.)

Lasagna is always dish-intensive, and this is perhaps more so: it requires a sauce pan, a mixing bowl, a cutting board (two boards or one that is washed during the preparation), a skillet, a stock pot, and a casserole -- plus half the utensils in the kitchen. The result is a blonde lasagna -- no tomatoes were harmed in this production -- that is sweet and savory.

Preparation begins with a custard of egg, milk, flour, butter, and Parmesan cheese, which is eventually poured under, within, and over the final dish -- becoming almost a matrix for the chicken, vegetables, and cheese that are layered between the noodles. The custard includes a pinch of nutmeg, which gave the final dish a mild sweetness. The recipe calls for ground red pepper; having only crushed red pepper, I substituted a pinch of cayenne. In retrospect, I was too cautious, and should have used a bit more to compete with the nutmeg.

We of course used real lasagna noodles. The existence of fake, no-boil noodles takes away our whining rights about the dishes, but I really cannot imagine doing all 80 percent of the work of a lasagna but leaving the noodles to chance.

Our filling was mostly organic -- chicken and carrots from the grocery store and broccoli and green beans frozen last summer from our Cochester CSA. The recipe calls for more than a pound of broccoli, of which we only had about half a pound. Cooking it together with some green beans worked out well. We were a bit short on mozzarella cheese -- about 2/3 of the called-for pound, but the end result was still quite delicious!

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