Port Wine and Mushroom Lasagna

Christmas dinner worthy!  Rightfully referred to as a labor of love, this recipe is time-consuming.  Its also unforgettable in this house.  So even though it takes the better part of a day, I eagerly make it a few times a year.

The mushroom sauce in this lasagna is so intense and so yummy.  Every time I make this lasagna though, I wonder about leaving off the bechamel.  Maybe one day I will.  I guess it probably adds to the layering of flavors….but I almost wonder if it, in addition to the ricotta custard, is too much dairy and takes away from the flavor of the mushroom sauce.

This is from the Fields of Greens Cookbook by Annie Somerville.  It’s a vegetarian cook book, and even if you aren’t vegetarian you should own it.  The root vegetable pot pie is also really good.  I picked the book up while in San Fransisco with my now husband.  We went out to dinner at Greens, a strictly vegetarian restaurant owned by the author of the book.  I remember Shane commenting as we left that he never thought he would spend that much money on a dinner consisting of only vegetables, or that he would have enjoyed it as much as he did.  Like the book, this recipe will make believers of even the most die hard carnivore.

If you ever get this recipe finished, you will be glad you went through the effort.  It really is a gem.

MUSHROOM SAUCE

  • Mushroom Stock
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Ficklin or good domestic port
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unbleached white flour

Make the stock and boil it over high heat until it is reduced to 3 cups.  Keep it warm over low heat.

Strain the soaked porcini through a fine-mesh strainer, saving the soaking liquid and discarding any sand bits.  FInely chop, toss any hard or gritty bits.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the onion, salt and a few pinches of pepper.  Saute over medium heat until they start to sweat, 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and the porcini.  Saute until the onion is soft, 2-3 minutes, then add the port and porcini liquid.  Simmer 1-2 minutes, until the pan is nearly dry.  Transfer to a bowl.

In the same pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Cook the roux over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of mushroom stock to make a paste, then another 1/2 cup to thin it.  Gradually add the remaining stock, then add back in the onion and pan juices.  Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until slightly thickened.  It should taste like heaven.

MUSHROOM AND LEEK LAYER

  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white parts only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced, and washed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Ficklin or other good domestic port
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: thyme, marjoram, and parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet.  Add the leeks, 1/2 teaspoon salt, few pinches of pepper and the thyme.  Saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, add half the garlic, cover he pan and steam the leeks until tender, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, set aside.

Sear the mushrooms in 2 batches over high heat using 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper for each batch.  As the mushrooms cook they will release their juices, the juices will evaporate and the mushrooms will start to stick as they sear.  Cook until they are golden, stir once and sear 1-2 more minutes.  Add half the remaining garlic, stir again, then add 1/8 cup port to deglaze.  Add the mushrooms to the leeks.  Repeat.

Reserve 1 tablespoon herbs to sprinkle on top of lasagna after baking, add the remaining chopped herbs to the mushrooms and leeks and stir to combine.

RICOTTA CUSTARD

  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ounce parmesan, grated
  • 3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix ricotta and eggs, then add remaining ingredients.

HERB BECHAMEL

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • bouquet garni – several sprigs and leaves of fresh herbs bundled together (parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Scald the milk, keep warm.  Melt the better in a separate pan, add the flour.  Cooke the roux over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk to the roux a little at a time.  Add the bouquet garni, salt and pepper.  Cook over low heat for 10 minutes.  Remove the herbs just before assembling.

LASAGNA

  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 pound Gruyère, grated
  • 1 pound fresh pasta sheets
  • Mushroom Sauce
  • Mushroom and Leeks
  • Ricotta Custard
  • Herb Bechamel
  • Reserved chopped fresh herbs (from mushroom and leek recipe)

Set aside 1/3 cup parmesan to sprinkle on top of the lasagna during baking, toss the rest of the cheese together.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Layer the lasagna, as follows, in a 9×13

  1. 1 cup mushroom sauce
  2. Layer of pasta
  3. 1 cup of mushroom sauce
  4. All the leeks and mushrooms
  5. Half the cheese mixture
  6. Layer of pasta
  7. All the ricotta custard
  8. Layer of pasta
  9. Remaining mushroom sauce, should be a cup
  10. Remaining cheese
  11. Layer of pasta
  12. Bechamel, spread evenly over the top

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover, sprinkle with reserved parm.  Bake uncovered until the bechamel has set, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with reserved herbs.

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