The leaves disappear from the trees;
The time of the singing of the birds is done;
And the sizzling of sauteed mushrooms can be heard across the land.
There’s a sadness that comes to me in late autumn, as the days shorten and nature’s color palette moves from brilliant yellow, orange and red into the muted browns. But then I think of the mushroom, and my spirits begin to lift. Add in pasta, Parmesan cheese and a bechamel sauce, and let’s just say I’m ready to stop the season’s clock right here and now and live in November forever.
No, I did not make this week’s NY Times recipe for Gooey Wild-Mushroom lasagna – Although it looks delicious, there’s too much cheese in that dish for both my taste and my waistline. I wanted a simpler recipe that would let the mushroom’s flavors dominate and fit a bit better into a healthy lifestyle. The recipe I ended up using began with Ina Garten (How much do I love her?…), got tweaked a bit at the Smitten Kitchen (Check out those pics…) and then of course, I had to tweak it some more myself to make it less calories and add a few more flavors. What resulted was honestly one of the best things I have ever made or eaten. We served it for Sunday dinner with broccoli on the side, then the next night as a side with broiled steak (OMG…) , and again tonite as a smaller side along with roast cauliflower and a steak salad. Each time I ate a little less, and enjoyed it a little more. (Meaning it reheats well.)
I’d like to experiment a bit more with this recipe – adding in some shallots, using a bit less flour, perhaps upping the proportion of broth to milk in the bechamel, or replacing it altogether with this olive oil bechamel from Martha Rose Shulman. Turns out Martha Rose has already made a mushroom lasagna with olive oil bechamel. (Great minds think alike.) It looks incredible. I think I’ll make that one next time. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
For the pasta
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
For the bechamel
3 3/4 cups skim milk
1/4 cup mushroom broth (from the cooking mushrooms or made with dried mushrooms – instructions below)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
3 small stems of fresh thyme leaves
For the lasagna
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Paprika (for the top)
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch lasagna pan with olive oil or butter. (I use a le Crueset pan and highly recommend it.) Bring a large pot of water to boil with salt and a oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Slice mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium in the bottom of the large skillet or saute pan. Cook the mushrooms with a 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper to taste and the thyme for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender and release some of their juices. (You may need to do this in two batches if you don’t have a really large saute pan). Now here’s what I did that I think is kinda’ clever – you know how the mushrooms give off so darned much liquid, and then by the time you’ve cooked it off you’ve got a small dry mushroom? Well, I got tired waiting for it to cook off and wanted my mushrooms plump, so I drained off about a 1/4 cup of that rich brown broth and added it to my bechamel. If you don’t want to do that, you can soak some dried mushrooms in boiling water and make a little mushroom broth instead and add that to the bechamel. In the last few minutes, add the garlic so it does not burn.
3. Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove and set aside. Melt 1 stick butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour, then cook over a moderate heat constantly stirring until it turns a rich nutty brown (about 4 minutes – don’t leave it and keep stirring). Pour in the hot milk, a little at a time at first and then the rest quickly, whisking to combine. Add the broth, still stirring. Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until it is thick (about 5 minutes). Set aside.
4. Spread some of the sauce in the bottom of a lasagna pan (8×12 or 9 x 13 baking dish). Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce (about 1/4 of what remains), 1/3 of the mushrooms and 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Repeat two more times then top with a final layer of noodles, your remaning sauce and last 1/4 cup of parmesan. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika. Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
More mushroom recipes from TBTAM