I started out this past Saturday morning with a cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger spiced latte and banana pancakes with bits of dark hazelnut chocolate. Oooohhh… your dramatic and curious self may be wondering….did you share this delicious goodness with someone….…or are you going to just make Variations on the Single Lady Pancake every weekend? My answer: No I did not share (although sharing is caring and I will happily share). I will most likely continue to make variations on Joy the Baker’s Single Lady Pancake every weekend…they are SO good!! And, just for the record, Patti Stanger’s “How to Become Your Own Matchmaker” book really isn’t working for me. Or maybe it is and I am just oblivious to the matter? Hmmm….I guess I’ll have to work on that. Should this change I will also adapt the Single Lady pancake for two. Now…onto the food.
Lasagna bolognese has been on my must try list. How can a rich and hearty lasagna be anything but tasty? Though I couldn’t fly back to Italy to figure the origins of lasagna bolognese, I could research the recipe while sipping my latte. Bobby Flay uses shanks of beef and pork. Rachael Ray uses beef stock. Cooks Illustrated helped me simplify everything and adapt this recipe. For starters I started with the size…umm…it does matter in this case. I did not need to make an entire 9X13 pan. I needed to make a smaller version. I needed something portable that I could take with me to heat and eat at school. It is musical mania week….I will need all the help I can get to get me through the next 7 days! Maybe a dose of this will help me remember my transpositions and not screw up the key signatures? I do not want to be deemed ‘that’ musician in the pit orchestra….you know the one who played wrong notes while reading out of the french horn book but had a trombone in her hands. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Disclaimer number 1: I improvised which probably made my simplified recipe a little less ‘authentic’. I know, I know…but I need to improvise sometimes. Because I can and because I need to break out of my comfort zone…to take some chances and all of that? I wanted to use up some ground beef/ hot sausage I had in the freezer. I added in some pancetta for the ragu sauce. The construction of the ragu sauce intrigued me. It all started out with the butter and pancetta getting hot and happy in the pan. I added in the mirepoix (It’s time for a fancy French term: carrots, onion and celery) and softened them. The meats were up next. I dumped them in and broke them up into smaller pieces with my fun flat wooden spoon. I love this spoon. Next up was milk. Wait a minute…I know! A little weird right? But what is even stranger is that the milk evaporates in 20 minutes and…then some dry white wine is added…and evaporates. Clearly this is to infuse the meats with the flavors and it tasted great! (I wonder if I could have used red wine? Anybody out there still reading this? Bueller? What would the final outcome taste like had I switched up from a dry white to a dry red…such as Debauchery my newest favorite red wine?) Tomato paste and crushed tomatoes were added in. At this point I also *improvised* and added in some allspice and a handful of pecorino romano for some more depth of flavor. I added San Marzano tomatoes because, in all seriousness, I would travel to the ends of the earth for these tomatoes if there aren’t any fresh tomatoes around. I love this brand of tomatoes.
At this point I cooled the ragu sauce and stuck it in the fridge. I walked on over to the ‘rents house and watched the Breeder’s Cup horse race. Did you see it??? I felt so sorry for poor Mike Smith and Zenyatta. Such a close race! I stayed for dinner: (my Mom insisted and who am I to refuse food and some quality family time?) fish chowder, warm rolls, and gingerbread for dessert. My Mom knows her way around a kitchen (and has taught me well too). It was so nice to hang out with the ‘rents, chat, eat, and drink. Happy memories filled my mind and followed me home as I walked up the dark, wooded path in the cold night bound for home.
Next up is the bechamel (or white) sauce. A knob of butter was melted (feeling a bit British at the moment…I blame Jamie Oliver) and flour was added in (roux if you will). I cooked this for about 2 minutes to get rid of the nutty flavor. 2 cups of milk were added in, brought to a boil, salted a bit and then cut the heat back and simmered for 10 minutes. Voila. Bechamel sauce is done. You could go into your kitchen right now and make a batch of this! Easy!
This lasagna came together nicely (it’s just a matter of layering folks) and will no doubt help me through the week ahead. It was creamy (helllooo bechamel) and I didn’t miss the gobs of mozzarella or ricotta/ egg layers. I have been reminding myself lately of the truly important things in life. At this moment it is imperative for me to stay grounded and connected…family is a stone’s throw away, friends are on speed dial, my students will keep me laughing each day, the gym will be my best friend, and maybe a little open mic if I can fit it in as well. (Not to brag or anything but I am getting pretty good at the egg shaker). It’s the little things such as this which are keeping me moving forward. At this point I could wax poetic on one thousand cliche phrases about life, death, family, friends, etc.
Instead I am choosing to quietly reflect on that.
Have a great week and thanks for reading.