Monday, May 12, 2008

White lasagna with chicken, spinach and mushrooms

What the heck was I thinking making a lasagna? What the heck was Gourmet doing publishing it in April anyway? For my part, it seemed to make some sense in the overly chilled confines of my workplace and supermarket and after I bought all the ingredients it was no time for second thoughts.

The original recipe is just noodles and sauce but I wanted something substantially more substantial. First off, I traded out the no-boil lasagna sheets for pre-boil-requiring whole wheat. That was a gamble; There's a lot of variation in the flavors and textures you get in whole wheat pasta and in how it reacts in different applications. In this particular case I ended up fairly happy with the flavor and not actively unhappy with the texture. However, in a normal lasagna the pasta absorbs some of the sauce and expands physically holding the dish together and keeping it from getting waterlogged. The whole wheat pasta didn't do such a good job there. Maybe it would have worked better if I hadn't pre-boiled them, but the risk of undercooked whole wheat pasta was a gamble too far.

I also added a pound of ground chicken. I ground my own using 3/4 lb. of chicken breasts and a 1/4 lb. of gizzards to add a bit of extra flavor. I also sautéed some sliced cremini mushrooms and wilted a couple handfuls of baby spinach.

The sauce is a pretty standard bechamel, just a whole heck of a lot of it.

So it was a layer of bechamel sauce, a layer of noodles and a layer of chicken.

A layer of sauce, a layer of noodles and a layer of spinach.

A layer of sauce, a layer of noodles and another layer of chicken.

And finally a layer of sauce, a layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce and a half cup of Parmesan and Romano.

And after an hour in the oven it looked like this.

And after cutting into it it looks substantially less lovely. Bechamel, theoretically, hardens like foam insulation and bonds the whole dish together. At least that's how it works with pastitio in my experience. I think my oven got too hot and my bechamel curdled. Or maybe I just didn't wait long enough after it came out of the oven to cut it open (although I'm pretty sure that's just pieces of meat that reabsorb their juices). Anyway, the flavors are quite nice with nutmeg as the primary spice working better than I expected. If I eat it in a bowl I can pretend it's just a sloppy thick sauce on sheets of pasta and enjoy it for what it is instead of what it might have been.

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