I spent Sunday morning rifling through my new schoolbooks and found a recipe for Lasagna al Forno that looked really good. For one, it was lasagna without ricotta. I approve that message. For two, it involved a lot of steps, which I figured would be a fun way to spend the afternoon. God only knows how much I love an involved cooking project, and I have so much TIME on my hands since I can’t do any exercise this week (save the quick runs I have to sneak past Chris while he’s at work so he can’t tell me to “take it easy”). You see, there’s this rule that says in the week leading up to a marathon you aren’t supposed to do anything physically strenuous, and you’re supposed to eat a high-carb diet.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “OMG, YES!!!” I mean, it sounds really seductive to just sit around eating candy. Hell, I’m pretty much tempted to do that every day. But the rub is that after eating a pretty balanced and healthy diet that emphasizes veggies and proteins and lessens carb intake (not too much, though), exercising twice a day every day, and consistently making abdominal progress (I swear, they were thisclose to coming out from behind their cloud for the first time ever), I am now actively regaining the weight, feel all puffy from the change in diet, and have less energy. So it sucks a little. Plus, with all the puffiness and weight gain, I will have to run in a baggy shirt, and that’s lame-o (what SHOULD have been Rachel’s slogan).
Solution? I am now running for a cause, and I’m required to wear their jersey thingy. It’s more forgiving than a sports bra or tight shirt, and I get to be condescending to the regular runners. AND, to top it off, when I cross the finish line limping like a wounded dog, onlookers will assume that it’s because I’m suffering from the disease that I’m pimping, and will congratulate me for my courage. I’ll look at them, smile weakly, and tell them “I’ve just got to stay strong.”
How the crap did I end up running for a cause? I got accosted by a survivor at the run-a-tab event. He came up and asked me, “are you running the marathon?” I puffed up my chest and told him I was, still feeling enormously proud of my stupidity. He then asked, “are you running for a cause?” Uh…I assessed his body language and (rightly) assumed that he wouldn’t be satisfied if I just said, “my thighs,” even though that would have at least been TRUE. I told him I didn’t have a cause, and he gave me one. Ladies and gentleman, I am now Running For Bone Marrow. Or bone marrow research, or something like that. It doesn’t really matter, because I’ve elected to slightly alter the phrasing so that I’m Running For Osso Bucco. Same-o! (every episode of Rachel’s show. Ever.)
So back to the lasagna: My mother doesn’t understand my love of molecular gastronomy. I’m sure she’ll be happy when I give it up and return back to my traditional roots. Only very soon, my traditional roots will be replaced with a smidgen of classical French training and a paper hat. And then where will we be? So I’ve decided to present last night’s actual dinner (which took a full 5 hours on Sunday to prepare) to see if the “classical French” style goes over better than the chemicals and awesomeness style. They’re both equally time consuming. I used to be able to cook so much faster…
Lasagna al Forno requires that you make
-homemade spinach pasta
-a well-formed whole out of the above parts
That’s a lot of shit. And I mise en placed it as best as I could, just for practice.
This here’s a basic white roux. Butter and flour. Less delicious than cookies made of the same ilk, but also with better thickening power than a batch of cookies.
Next, the bechamel, which is a basic white sauce made with minced onions, milk, white roux, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and more butter. I used one of my school-issued chef knives for the very first time. Oh.My.Gosh. SO sharp, it was like slicing through butter. I let Chris test it out, and he got really excited, too. Turns out my college knives had dulled from the hundreds of times they’ve been through the dishwasher. Lesson learned by both of us, I think.
On to the Bolognese. This was actually kind of weird, since it didn’t call for anything tomato-related except for an ounce of tomato paste-not nearly enough to make it anything like the Bolognese I’m used to making. I’ll admit I was concerned when I first put it together, but it came together after a couple of hours simmering and a dose of cream. It’s got pork, beef, diced prosciutto, mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, and onions), seasonings, white wine, and chicken stock.
That last shot makes it look more tomato-ey than it looked in real life. Also, the whole time it cooked it smelled like McDonald’s hamburger. Gross, yes. But it tasted nothing like them.
On to the tomato sauce, which actually WAS tomato-ey, but required that I peel and mince two WHOLE BULBS of garlic. I loathe fresh garlic prep. It’s sticky and finicky, and I hate it. All the same, I love garlic to pieces, and sometimes only fresh will do. My mincer is a piece of communist crap, so that complicated things. Did you know tomato is one of the French mother sauces? I did not. I thought it was Italian. See how much we’re learning together?
The pasta, ah, the pasta. How many times have I made ass-noodles because I can’t figure out how to get it through my POS rollers and keep an even consistency and keep from sticking together? How many? LOTS. But this time, I just rolled it out, and came up with my own genius lasagna sheet-cutting technique that required zero extra effort, and prevented sticking. They’re green because they have a touch of spinach puree in them. Enough for color, not enough for flavor. I cheated, and used my Kitchenaid for kneading to protect my weak girly-arms.
Assembly line–bolognese, noodle, bechamel, cheese, noodle, repeat.
The final product was al dente, ooey-gooey, cheesy, flavorful bliss. I served it with a quickly thrown together focaccia and some balsamic-herb dipping oil. We gorged, and there’s still a ton left.
I’m using the leftover tomato sauce to make pizzas tonight. Maybe this carbo-loading isn’t so bad after all. Now, for your amusement, this is how we now have to weigh our beast of a puppy. Almost 8 months old, and still growing, he’s now almost dwarfing my 6′ tall fiance. Forgive the sweaty disarray. This was immediately following our Sunday run.