Monday, January 10, 2011

The Great "Lasagna" Experiment

Today I decided to make a lasagna.  Now I'm pretty adept in making lasagna and have in the past made a white lasagna, using chicken and a bechemel sauce.  And I thought that was the direction I was headed but I got a wild hair and decided, after reading about a zillion recipes on allrecipes.com for chicken lasagnas, to try something different.

First, I had a huge package of chicken breasts in the refrigerator that HAD to be used, so I decided to poach them (which means I have chicken in the fridge waiting to be made into chicken salad for the husbands lunch this week).  While getting that set up, I realized that I had some fresh thyme so I threw that in the water with the chicken breasts.When the chicken was done (and it didn't take too long...maybe 30 minutes once it came to a simmer)  I removed the chicken breasts from the poaching liquid and strained it into another pot and added a big tablespoon of chicken base (Tones) to the liquid.  I used that liquid to blanch my broccoli (which I decided to throw in last minute...since it wasn't a large head and it, too, needed to be used).  After reading all the different recipes for the bechemel sauce,  here is where I deviated.

So, in making the sauce, I took about 1/2 cup butter and sauteed a diced onion,  a tablespoon of minced garlic, some matchstick carrot pieces (again, the last of the bag) and the remainder of a package of mushrooms, also in need of using (see...this should be named the "in need of using" lasagna) until all the veggies were soft.  I added about 3 tablespoons of flour and cooked it until the flour absorbed the fat and the flour taste was cooked out.  I added about 1 1/2 cups of pinot grigio (altogether...also in need of using).  I destemmed another 4 thyme stems and let that cook until it started to thicken.  I added the broth from the blanched broccoli.  I also added about 4 tablespoons of cream cheese (low fat) and let that thicken.  It still wasn't as thick as I wanted so I mixed more flour with the wine that was left in the bottle and added it through a strainer (so as to avoid lumps)  In retrospect, I probably had too much broth/stock, but I went with it. 

At first I was going to boil my lasagna noodles, even though I NEVER boil them when I make a red lasagna (if you don't know that trick, then you are missing out.  Use LOTS of sauce, cover the lasagna, or put in the the fridge overnight and the noodles absorb the liquid AND when you cut it the pieces come out PERFECT...not sloppy at all), I was concerned that the same technique wouldn't work but decided I'd give it a try anyhow.  I put some sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan, put the hard noodles on top, more sauce, shredded chicken, broccoli, and a layer of mozzarella cheese, noodles, more sauce, chicken, broccoli, cheese, noodles and more sauce.  I covered the lasagna and let it sit for about 2 hours  then into a 375 oven for about an hour.

While it was cooking I grated a zucchini on a small grater and mixed it with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  I learned this trick from Lisa F. who does this to top her stuffed peppers and I LOVE it.  I added the cheese for the last 15 minutes then after 15 minutes I turned the oven to broil to brown the top.

The finished result?  You decide:
I was a little concerned when I cut it that it would be sloppy, and it was.  A little.  I think if you let it sit for a while it firms up.  This was after about 5 minutes, before it firmed up too much.  It still came out clean:
The husband ranked it a strong six/weak seven on a scale of 10.  The boy wasn't impressed and gave it a 4.5.  I believe that the presence of "green" did it for him.  4.5 to him means he would not be upset if I didn't make it again.  I gave it a strong 7.  It was good.  Because it lacked the ricotta (which I purposefully left out because the kids don't care for ricotta, even though I had some that yes, is in need of using), it didn't feel like a lasagna.  And the wine added a different flavor, one that I think was a little unexpected, but good.  I might try it again without the wine, using all chicken stock/broth and see if there is a big difference.

So, I'm going to pat myself on the back for this one.  This was COMPLETELY off the cuff.  Part of my goal in going this route was to see if I could do this without using the amount of cream/milk I would have used with a bechemel sauce.  So, the only fat that is in it is that from the butter (granted, a lot but needed to bind to the flour to thicken), the low fat cream cheese and the mozzarella.  I took ideas from other recipes but made this one mine.  I'm going to say this...if you think flavors will blend nicely, give'er a whirl.  Thus completes the great lasagna experiment.

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