Monday, March 30, 2009

Daring Bakers: Lasagna of Emilia-Romana

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

In the introduction to the recipe, Kasper writes, "
Mere films of b├ęchamel sauce and meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta.... The results are splendid."

Maybe in her world. I followed the pasta portion of the recipe faithfully, letting the dough rest for as long as possible - anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours is recommended. I waited the full three hours before starting to roll it out, in order to give the gluten maximum opportunity to develop, and still, my sheets were anything but sheer. It seemed impossible: before I'd stretched it even as thin as boxed dry lasagna, holes were popping up everywhere. This was an exercise in frustration, as you can see.


I found the dough stretched a little better if I sprinkled a few drops of water on the surface. Following Daring Baker Audax's recommendation, I also allowed the stretched sheets to stick to the counter for several minutes; if you pick them up right away, they will shrink and become thick again. Still, my lasagne was nowhere near thin enough "to see color through," as the recipe calls for. Only the last few sheets even approached that level of thinness, and that was after I picked them up from where they had been resting on the counter and found they stretched very thin and long in my hands. Unfortunately, by this point, I had already boiled the rest of my (too-thick) lasagne. If I were to try this again (let's face it: not anytime soon!), I would let the pasta rest much longer - probably five hours - before I started rolling it.


Here are my (leathery-looking) lasagne, my ragu, and my bechamel sauce. Or rather, Dan's bechamel sauce - he made it! Rolling the lasagne was taking so long that I began to get frustrated and worried that I wouldn't have this mess done in time for dinner, so I enlisted his help.

Our deal is I do the cooking, he does the dishes. This works for us: I like to cook, and he actually enjoys washing dishes. To me, that is as foreign as saying "I enjoy drinking toilet water," but hey, I'm not going to argue. We 've had this arrangement for years and rarely deviate from it. Sometimes I'll fill the sink with soapy water for him or he'll put water on to boil for me, but that's about it. But yesterday, I was desperate, and he could tell, and he cheerfully agreed to help me out. So while I called out directions from my lasagne-rolling spot, Dan made the bechamel (and did a great job of it, too!).


The recipe includes instructions for a country-style ragu, and while it sounded amazing, it called for veal, pork loin, skirt steak, pancetta, prosciutto, and red wine - a definite budget-buster. So, having already spent more on groceries than I wanted to this month, I made up my own turkey ragu, using ground turkey, hot Italian turkey sausage, and turkey pepperoni that I had on hand. The turkey ragu was the saving grace of this experience for me; I rarely make meat sauce for pasta, but this ragu was so delicious that I will definitely have to make it again, and I probably wouldn't have come up with it if not for this challenge.


So here it is: the labor-intensive lasagne that ate my Sunday (completely with big, ugly hunk of ragu - yeah, at this point, I didn't really care about getting a pretty picture). Sadly, after all of that work, it wasn't even that good. It wasn't bad, certainly, but it was nothing special. Maybe if I had been able to get the whisper-thin, ethereal lasagne that Kasper writes about, I would feel differently. At least I got an awesome ragu sauce out of the deal, and Dan learned how to make bechamel. (What should I teach him next - bearnaise? Beurre blanc? Why do all white sauces start with b?)

This post has gone on long enough, so I'll post my turkey ragu sauce in a separate post tomorrow. Hope you all had a nice weekend!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

3 comments:

A_and_N said...

Hey you made the effort and that's all that counts, really!

Teachart2 said...

Your pasta may not have turned out the way you wanted but i really enjoyed your description of the process. I was laughing out loud.

Chickiedoodle said...

Sorry you were disappointed, but it still looks divine! Isn't that ragu delicious?