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Posts tagged ‘entertaining’

White Lasagna

I started making this recipe in Kansas about seven years ago. It’s kind of a pain to prepare, but it is high on the favorites list for almost everyone who has ever eaten at our house. Even my children have come around. At first they were offended by the presence of spinach, and red bell peppers and artichoke parts, but even our toughest critic, Si, has begun to turn in clean plates.

It was back by popular demand last Tuesday night for the college students, and happened to coincide with a happy surprise visit from my cousin Corinn and her two amazing kiddos. That’s about 25 people who eat hearty portions, so the regular recipe had to be quadrupled. (Keep that in mind as you look at the photos.)

Here’s the recipe for one 9×13 pan full of this creamy goodness.

Sauce Layer
1 jar of Alfredo sauce 
1/3 cup of milk
Noodle Layer
Lasagna Noodles – You’ll need about 8
Spinach Layer
Fresh baby spinach – one small bag from the grocery with stems pulled off
Chicken and Veggies Layer
3 cups chopped cooked chicken – I love rotisserie chicken for this
1 can of artichoke hearts – preferably not in oil marinade 
1 or 2 chopped and seeded Roma tomatoes
½ -1 cup finely chopped onion – any kind will do or as I did on this occasion, use a mixture
1 TBSP minced garlic
½ of a red bell pepper finely chopped (optional)
Cheese Layer
12 oz Mozzarella
6 oz crumbled Feta


The first step is to start chopping. No particular order.

Here’s what you have to do when you go to the grocery store late in the evening and the rotisserie chicken case is empty. The house sure smelled good while I was roasting my own though!

I can’t stand chicken gunk under my nails, thus the gloves.

On to the artichokes…


Next up: the tomatoes. They need to be seeded so that they don’t spew their juice into the mixture. And then they need to be chopped.


Scrape seeds out with a knife after cutting them into halves.

Rinse that cutting board one more time and go for the onions.



Those are shallots and green onions by the way. No “real” onions in these pictures.

Now, doesn’t that look nice!


Pull the stems off of the spinach leaves so that you don’t have spinach floss going on at your dinner gathering.

Mix the Alfredo sauce with the milk. I usually pour the sauce out into a bowl and put the milk into the empty jar, reseal it, and shake it to get the last of the Alfredo out of the jar. This is the first step in the process of prepping for the recycle bin.

Now it’s time to start layering. Start by spreading a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan and laying down the first layer of pasta.


Noodle Note: I used “no-boil” pasta straight out of the box once in this recipe and it was terrible. This time, I followed some advice from America’s Test Kitchen (more about that in a future post) and soaked the no-boil noodles for 5 minutes in water before using them. I also had to use some regular “boil ’em first noodles” because we were making an awful lot of lasagna and I’m cleaning out cabinets these days to get ready for our upcoming move.

Next: half of the spinach.


Then: half of the vegetable and chicken mixture


Followed by: half the cheese…


…and half of the remaining sauce spread evenly around on the cheese layer.


, because repetition is the theme of lasagna, here we go again…

Noodles…


Spinach…


Vegetables…


Cheese….


And finally, Sauce again. Spread it around.


Whew!

A big thank you to my cousin Corinn for her help with food and photos!

Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. The first 45 minutes covered in foil, then for another 15 minutes uncovered. When it comes out of the oven give it a few minutes to get its layers coagulated before you try to cut it.

Stay tuned for the post on the Strawberry Pretzel dessert we had the same night which will explain why we had to use foil pans for the lasagna.

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Salt Crusted Prime Rib

From cookies to carne! (My first non-cookie post.) – originally posted 3/14/2011

This weekend, we were CELEBRATING! Ric finished his Ph.D. in Nuclear (Radiological) Chemistry! Instead of commemorative pocket protectors we went with Prime Rib. My Aunt Angela, Uncle Pete, Cousin Melissa and all the kids were in the kitchen at some point.


Just after we took the photo we realized we needed to re-platter.

The first time I tried roasting prime rib was after watching one of our students, (who is determined not to be a chef, except when he’s in the kitchen), pull it off for a crowd at a Christmas party. It was delicious. I came home and studied my Julia Child cookbook for a few days, and finally plunged in on Christmas day 2009 for my family, mom, dad and grandma. The results were spectacular with twice-baked potatoes, steamed artichokes and luscious white rolls.

Here’s the basic recipe:


Details are lacking, but it jogs my memory.

Directions:

About six hours before you want to eat, Start the Sauce with Veggies and Broth – Coarsely chop two onions, a few stocks of celery and several carrots. Toss them into a sauté pan with olive oil and garlic. When the vegetables are soft, and just beginning to brown at the edges, pour a cup or so of red wine into the pan to “deglaze”. Then dump it all into the bottom of a large stock pot and pour a couple of quarts of beef broth over the top. Add a bay leaf, thyme, rosemary and black pepper to taste. Let it steam on low while the vegetables give up their essence and the sauce reduces.


The sauce, off to a good start.

Decide on Go Time for the Meat: Divide the weight of the prime rib by 3 to figure out approximately how many hours to allow – for example: 12lbs needs about 4 hours. Just before you need to start, preheat the oven to 400, and prepare the salt crust for the meat. Mix the salt, oil, peppers and mustard in a small dish until you get a coarse paste. Rub it all over the outside of the roast.


The salt-crust paste.

Place the salt encrusted meat on a roasting rack and put in the oven at 400 degrees for the first 30 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees for the duration. It takes 15-20 minutes per pound to get the meat to an internal temperature of 135 degrees – medium rare in the center and a little more done at the edges.


A coat to wear in the oven.

About 1.5 hours before the meal: Chop the Portobello – The earthy flavor of the final sauce comes from these flavorful mushrooms. Chop 3-4 of them – coarsely if you want children to be able to pick them out at the end, or more finely if you want a sophisticated looking version with tiny bits of mushroom. They will shrink a lot in the broth so there’s no need to mince at the start.


I actually don’t care for mushrooms, but these are so good!


Gutting mushrooms.


Cutting mushrooms.

Once you have the mushrooms chopped: Ditch the Veggies – About an hour before you want to serve the meat, it’s time to remove the vegetable carcasses – their flavor is gone and they have nothing left to offer except making what would otherwise be a beautifully smooth sauce full of slimy chunks. Pour the contents of the stock pot through a strainer into another pot. Press the final juices from the vegetables in the strainer and discard them. Oops…I wasn’t going to use text-bookish words like “discard” so, how about – “plop ’em in the trash”.


The vegetables are spent. It’s time to dump them.

Once the veggies are out: Dump in the mushrooms and let them do their work.


There’s broth under there somewhere…the mushrooms will shrink.

Watch the Temperature. It’s really important to have a thermometer in the meat in order to keep from wasting a very expensive cut by over or under cooking. The Javin says 130, but that’s pretty rare for the home environment where it won’t continue to warm in a chafing dish. I think that waiting until it hits 135 works a little better.

When the temperature reaches 135: Take it out! Admire it. Then put it under a loose blankie of foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.


Right out of the oven.

Shhh…while the meat is resting…thicken the Sauce. Quietly, dissolve 1-2 TBSP of cornstarch in ½ cup of cold water and pour it into the fortified broth mixture. This will help thicken the sauce slightly.


Sauce almost ready – the mushrooms did shrink!

When everything is ready, uncover the roast. Carve. Cover in sauce. Eat.

A Sprinkle of Reality: That part about quietness while the meat rests…that was a joke! All of the above would be simple and calm if we ate prime rib without any sides. But, in those gaps between steps, you have to fit the potatoes, any veggies that don’t get dumped, bread, salad and perhaps even plans for dessert. On this particular occasion we kept it pretty simple with a green salad, mashed potatoes, Uncle Pete’s homemade rolls and apple crisp with freshly whipped cream for dessert.


Uncle Pete forming rolls.


Ready to eat.


Liam working on Apple Crisp Crust.  Isn’t he cute!!