That’s our new couch. Isn’t it beautiful? I love everything about it, the style, the way it fits perfectly into the space that the previous sofa lived in only better. I even love the color, a silvery, mushroom brown. It’s a cross between the color of the gills inside a lovely fresh mushroom and good quality cocoa powder. (Those of you that know me will know the tug of war we have had over painting and in particular my Beloved’s love of all things beige/brown.) Tim and I have decided that if we are staying in our house, we are going to make it a place we love. And so, new couch and plans for painting!! More on the paint later, but now back to the mushrooms!
Years ago, when I lived in New York, I was a culinary fiend; I bought cooking magazines like mad and cooked from them often, I had all kinds of quality pans and cooking utensils all packed into a tiny kitchen. My only problem was I rarely had anyone to try the food out on, which made it a bit boring. There’s nothing quite like carefully preparing food and then having someone else love it! Even then, when I cooked meat all the time, I fell in love with mushrooms. I cooked them a hundred different ways, and they were always wonderful. My specialty became sautéed mushrooms with polenta. I still make it today and it’s heavenly, even if I make it vegan. Imagine my surprise way back then when I came across (I believe in Bon Appetite) a recipe for a mushroom lasagna. It had no tomato, which immediately intrigued me, and it also didn’t have the tiresome chore of typical lasagna, boiling the noodles and draining them, etc. I was delighted with it, and immediately started planning! I made several versions of this, and the recipe below is the easiest, I developed a few tweaks to make it work on a weeknight, so you can eat before midnight!
My most loved version is below and although it’s slightly more detailed than the recipes I usually share, I wholeheartedly encourage you to make it. It’s simple and lovely, rich and delicious, but truthfully, I can’t eat more than a small piece at a sitting, it’s that rich. My recommendation is to make the mushroom sauté in advance and then assemble the entire thing just before you bake it. Allowing the mushroom mixture to mature overnight does intensify the flavors. One note here, the recipe here calls for Jarlsberg, but to create this authentically to this recipe, you can use any nutty, semi-soft cheese. Gruyere comes to mind as a fine substitute. But, the beauty of this is that you can use any cheese: goat’s, mozzarella, even good-quality cheddar would work. It’s all up to how it pairs with mushroom. My one must is that you can’t make the béchamel with skim or lowfat milk without compromising the texture of the lasagna. That being said though, you can lighten this up by using half skim/low fat and half full fat. Good luck and Happy Cooking!
E’s Mushroom Lasagna
3 tablespoons of olive oil
6 fat cloves of garlic chopped fine
4 small baskets of mushrooms (can be all white button, or a combinations of several different types)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, removed from the stems or ½ teaspoon of dried
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup red wine (use something you would also drink, no box wine)
½ cup all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
½ teaspoon nutmeg (or several gratings of fresh)
3 ½ cups whole milk, plus an additional ½ cup to thin if necessary
3 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese mixed with ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
1 box no-cook lasagna, or about 1 lb. of fresh lasagna sheets
(optional: ½ cup of breadcrumbs mixed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter)
For the mushroom sauté, roughly chop all your mushrooms, until you have pieces resembling the size of peas, set aside. In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat the olive oil on a medium high flame and add the chopped garlic. Sauté until you can smell the garlic and then sprinkle lightly with a scant pinch of salt, this will help the garlic to release some of it’s juice and prevent it from burning. Continue to cook carefully, making sure it doesn’t burn, for about a minute. Add in your chopped mushrooms and turn them in the oil until all are coated with it, stir in the thyme. At this point cover the pan and lower the flame to low, but keep an eye on the mushrooms and stir occasionally so they don’t burn. Cook covered for about 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are dark brown and releasing their juices. Add in the wine and turn up the flame to medium, allow the wine to start to boil and stir until it looks as though all juices and the wine are well combined. Cover the pan again and allow to cook for about 7 – 8 minutes. When you lift the lid to check, there will be a great deal of liquid, and that’s perfect. Now, raise the heat to high and with the lid off, stir and cook until most of the liquids are reabsorbed by the mushrooms and you start to see the bottom of the pan clearly when you are stirring. Once the mixture has dried up a bit, set the pan aside and let the mixture rest. Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to your taste. At this point, you can put the mushroom mixture in the fridge overnight, or just set aside to cool while you prepare the béchamel.
For the bechamel, heat the 3 1/2 cups of milk in a saucepan, just until you see bubbles forming at the sides and it is heated through and set aside off the heat. In another non-stick deep bottomed saucepan, melt the unsalted butter, don’t let it burn. Once all the butter is melted, take off the heat and whisk in the flour, then put the pan back on a low flame. Congratulations, you have now created a roux! Let the roux cook for a few minutes, to allow it to lose that floury flavor. It will take on a pale almond color, don’t allow it to color any more than that. Take the roux off the heat and carefully whisk in a cup of the heated milk. With your whisk, make sure there are no lumps of flour, then whisk in the second cup of milk, and return the pan to a medium flame. It will immediately start to thicken, and as you continually whisk, and in the remaining third and a half cups of milk. One you start to feel resistance with your whisk, and the mixture is the consistency of hummus, you can take it off the heat and add in the nutmeg. Taste it to adjust seasoning, I usually like some black or white pepper and let it cool a bit.
To assemble the lasagna, use any Pyrex baking dish, or any pan you normally would use for lasagna. The first thing you layer is a thin coating of the béchamel. If it has cooled to the point that it’s hard to spread, use the 1/2 cup of milk you reserved to thin it a bit. Then a layer of the lasagna noodles. Cover that layer with another thin layer of béchamel, a layer of cheese and a layer of mushroom, then béchamel again. Keep layering until you are at the top of the pan, and have the final layer be béchamel and then cheese. You can top this with the breadcrumb mixture, but it’s only if you want a bit of crunch on the top of your lasagna.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the breadcrumbs, or cheese are lightly toasted and you can see the béchamel bubbling up at the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least 15 minutes.
Enjoy, and let me know what variations you try!