March 29, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

A Daring Bakers March Challenge

It has been an exciting weekend for us. Our daughter had her 10th birthday yesterday and we took her to the American Girl Store and Cafe in New York City. She had a fabulous time picking out a doll that looked like her and getting her doll's ears pierced. Next came the photography studio for a celebration picture. Last we headed up stairs to the Cafe and had a fabulous gluten free lunch followed by a beautiful flourless chocolate cake.

I hope you enjoy this month's Daring Baker Challenge. It is a rich and creamy version of lasagne that had my husband begging me to make it again.

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.

Lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders and is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations and each region has its own lasagne tradition. But, as Lynne explains in her introduction to the recipe – and Enza, as our Italian expert for this dish, also agrees - the dish should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce and meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, and no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavours. The results are splendid.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 – 50 minutes cooking time

1 recipe Gluten Free Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)

#11 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)

#21 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)

#31 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

MethodWorking Ahead:

The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:

Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, the grated cheese and the pasta at hand.

Assembling the Lasagne:

Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:

Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Gluten Free Egg Pasta (Courtesy of Mary of Beans & Caviar)

The choice of the first flour is personal. I used corn flour because the subtle taste blended well with the dish. However, this is a matter of personal taste – please feel free to substitute a different flour for the corn flour but don't subsititute a starch.

75 gr corn flour or masa in North America - yellow with a slightly gritty feel (NOT a starch)

50 gr corn starch50 gr tapioca starch

75 gr of arrowroot starch

50 gr of sweet rice (glutinous rice) flour

6 gr chia seed meal
5 gr of salt

3 extra large eggs

1/4 cup of water

25 mL of extra virgin olive oil

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

Whisk together 3 eggs, the water and the oil. Pour into the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix with a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually drawing more of the flour mix into the wet ingredients. Add each egg as needed. The dough will be crumbly at the beginning but will gradually come together as you add the eggs. You will need to use your hands to squeeze and mix the dough.
The dough will be firm and stick together when ready. It will not have the elasticity of gluten dough therefore it will crack when kneaded and pushed. Form it into a smooth ball, oil it lightly, and cover securely with plastic wrap. Let it rest for an hour in the refrigerator.

Put a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. This is very important as the dough will not hold together very well when lifted. Have flour ready for dusting (corn flour) and dust the parchment paper lightly.

Roll the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc with your hands and place it in the center of the parchment paper. Put another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. Use a rolling pin and gently push the dough down and out ward from the centre. Gluten free dough does not stretch like wheat dough therefore it needs gentle flattening and pushing. If it breaks, pat it back together. If it is too dry, dab a little water with your finger. Roll out to a thickness of 1/8 to ¼ inch.

The gluten free dough will be thicker than wheat dough and you will not be able see your hand through the dough. Once it is flattened, cut into strips or squares that will fit your pan. Stack the sheets when dry and wrap securely.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Freezing will make the dough crumbly and difficult to work with – so freeze only as a last resort!
This dough does not need to be precooked before being assembled into the lasagne.

#2 Gluten Free Béchamel - White Sauce

1 cup of chicken broth

1/3 cup non dairy creamer (I used Mimic Cream)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons corn starch

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg (approximately 1/8 tsp)

Mix the corn starch with 1/3 cup of nondairy creamer. Heat the rest of the milk in a small sauce pan until steaming but do not boil. Add the nondairy creamer /cornstarch mixture to the steaming chicken broth. Stirring constantly, raise the heat and heat the mixture until thick. Once it is thick, remove it from the heat and add the butter/olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Have the béchamel warm or at room temperature ready to assemble the lasagne. Whisk the sauce occasionally if it becomes stiff or thick.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or ½ pound/225g dried pasta)

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce/30g pancetta, finely chopped

½ medium onion, minced

1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced

1 small carrot, minced

2 ounces/72g boneless veal shoulder or round

2 ounces/72g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)

4 ounces/125g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut

1/2 ounce/15g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma

1/3 cup (2.5 ounces/80ml) dry red wine

1 cup (9 ounces/312.5ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)

1/2 cup (4 ounces/125ml) nondairy creamer (i.e. Mimic Cream)

3 canned plum tomatoes, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:

The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:

Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering:

Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.


VeggieGirl said...

SCRUMPTIOUS lasagna for this month's DBC!!

Linda Sue said...

Being new to gluten free, I so appreciate your included tips regarding the way the pasta will roll out, etc! Looks and sounds so yummy! Thank you!
Is there a milk measurement missing in the Béchamel Sauce portion?

Anonymous said...

Looks just beautiful! I big hat's off to the GF bakers this time around.

Sea said...

Very nice! I enjoyed making the gluten-free spinach noodles myself... and made a vegan version of the sauces that was soooo yummy. I'll definitely be making this again!


Lauren said...

Mmm, this looks awesome!! Great job =D!

BC said...

But if your husband wants it again, he must roll up his sleeves to help!

Well done.

Lauren said...

pretty picture with the basil! great job ;)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I can only imagine how difficult it must be to make gluten-free pasta... But it certainly looks like it was worth the effort, yum!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your lasagne look wonderful and perfect! Very well done!



Audax said...

Bravo on your great effort on this challenge. Always love seeing vegan versions.

Cakelaw said...

Fantastic looking lasagne! Glad your daughter had a great time on her birthday.

Anonymous said...

Love that you put in on greens. :)

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