Lasagna – Kosher Connection LinkUp

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Hey person, remember when I was a functioning member of the blogging world?? Yeah, neither do I…harrumph, either way, me thinks it’s time to get back on track, so enough chit-chat, let’s go make some lasagna.

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For this month’s kosher connection linkup, the theme is “The one food you would want if stranded on an island.” Considering my gluttonous ways, I’d probably be ok, with just about anything. As long as I can shovel it into my mouth we’d be good, but I’ve been meaning to write a post on lasagna, so (Russian accent:) “two birds, one stone!” Onward comrade!

Lasagna, like ogres, is all about layers. You got your cheese, your sauce, and your noodles. The easiest layer is the lasagna layer (that is until one of you very grateful and generous and lucky people would love to sponsor a pasta maker lz”n a loved one). Now, I used to scoff at the idea at using no-boil noodles, but after doing some research, it’s actually a lot easier, and better in my opinion (which is all you’ll get here! Mwahahaha …yeah, so…didn’t you miss this weird blog???). so putting the noodles aside, let’s talk about the cheese and sauce.

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I like to really cheese it up, because I’m just that type of guy. First thing first – a cheese sauce; aka – mornay sauce. Mornay sauce = béchamel + cheese. Béchamel = roux + milk. Roux = fat + flour. So really Mornay= Cheese + (milk + [fat+ flour]). It’s actually pretty simple math. So let’s start by melting some butter, and toasting the flour. As with most rouxs, we go until it turns light blonde, and it’s smelling a little nutty, not very much unlike you (aw snap…). In this case, I also added some shallots to sautee in the butter.

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Just so we’re clear on what we’re doing, the whole idea of a roux is to add a starch to a liquid so it thickens it, but we’re also toasting it, which adds additional flavor. Technically, the more you cook the starch, the less it can thicken a given liquid, but that’s really only a concern, when you make a dark red type of roux, which is common in such dishes like gumbo…but I digress. After adding the milk, you need to cook it until the starch is “activated” and thickens the milk, and once that’s done, you now have your bechamel sauce. In order to complete the mornay experience, we add cheese.

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About the cheese, which I guess is really part 2a of this little layer party. Here’s the thing about cheese, its so diverse and multifaceted, that I don’t even know what to say about it. First thing first, I get it that shredded cheese is convenient and hassle free. I get it..in fact I use it from time to time. But here’s the thing – first of all so much of what makes cheese awesome is its moisture. Except for Parmesan, you want your cheese to be runny and gooey right? And that’s all thanks to moisture content, and by preshredding it, you’re basically removing a lot of the moisture (the second reason why preshredded cheeses are inferior is because they add starches to the cheese to prevent it from clumping [take a look at the ingredients next time], now technically speaking, that’s not as big a deal in this case because it will help thicken the sauce, but it does prevent from achieving maximum gooeyness, which is always a bad call).

So now that you remembered exactly how crazy I am, let’s add some grrrrated cheese to the bechamel. Take your shredded cheese, and add it to the hot bechamel, but off the flame and mix until its all melted and uniform. Now we can set that aside and focus on our sauce.
Tomato sauce is another one of those things where sure you can open a can of marinara sauce and kerplop it down, and that’s what I do many a time, however this isn’t a blog post about how to open a can of marinara sauce! Nay, this is a blog post how to open a can of whoop-ass on some lasagna, and show all of ‘Mrrrrrca what freedom tastes like!

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Oookkk, you still there? Well, for starters, I always keep a few cans of whole peeled tomatoes in the cupboard, because the easiest sauce you can make is to take a few tomatoes, drain the excess sauce, and grind up those tomatoes to the consistency you like, with whatever added spices you want. If you wanted to step it up a notch, sure you can sautee shallots in butter, add some anchovies and cook the tomatoes until reduced and thick, but come on! I know you, you’re still upset that I told you to shred your own gosh darn cheese, dagnabbit. (Maybe well do a post about tomato sauce in the future? Maybe…no promises..)
All right, so now that we have the cheese and sauce, let’s go crazy.

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I like to first put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, so the noodles have something to stick to.

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On top of the noodles goes cheese sauce and tomato sauce, and guess what Mayor McCheese?? More cheese! Huzzah! Obviously you can use whatever cheese you deem fit. Mozzarella, gouda, colby, and jack are all good options.

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Then its just a matter of repeating layers. I always top the whole shebang with more grated cheese, and Parmesan on top.

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Now to cook it, I like to cook it covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and then crank the oven up to 450 for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, so the top gets nice and crispitty crunchitty. (A nice little trick is to spray the side of aluminum that’s against the lasagna with some Pam so it doesn’t stick)
And that my friend is how you win the war on terrorism.

As always, click on the funny looking thing below to see what people who actually know what they’re doing are doing.

Chicken Crepes

Howdy! Yowzers it’s been a while. Well I’m not gonna lie here, a lot has been going on here at The Kosher Gastronome HQ, where to start.

Well first of all – my wife and I were blessed with our own li’l bundle of poop!

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Her name is Daniella Noa Fogel, and isn’t she amazing? How are you going to say no to such a rhetorical question like that??

So needless to say, we’ve been pretty busy; it’s not easy training a 2 week old to cook, but she’s getting the hang of it.

Also – I found out that I got into the Maryland residency for next year (the AEGD in the University of MD), which is where I was hoping to get into, so lots of good news all around, praise the lawd!!

All right, let’s get down to business. The last we left off, we were discussing chicken stock, and I had mentioned that if you use pieces of chicken to make stock (in addition to the bones) that you can make chicken crepes with the meat scraps…well guess what? This here post is about that! I know, how fortuitous right?

So these chicken crepes are on my top 10 list of favorite foods. Not even a question. Bold statement right there, but it’s true. I don’t even know if this is a widely acceptable form of crepe filler, but chicken crepes have been a Yom Tov staple in the Fogel household for as long as I can remember, and there has yet to be a Yom Tov that I didn’t go back into the kitchen, when no one was looking, and sneak a third (this was already after I had eaten seconds).

This is usually where I would describe how they taste and what their texture is like right? Well no! I won’t, because I don’t even want you to live vicariously through me, you are just going to have to make these for yourself, and find out just how amazing they really are.

The chicken filling part is really simple. Shred the flesh off of the chicken, and chop it up semi chunky.

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Set that aside, and sautee onions, celery, carrots (“Mishpachat Mirepoix”) and some garlic, until softened, and then add in some chicken stock, the chopped chicken, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for a few minutes.

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And that’s it for the filling.

Now onto the crepe part.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been quoting Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio a lot lately, and this is no different. I got the crepe “recipe” from his book. His ratio is 1 part egg, 1 part liquid (could be any liquid, but I used stock), 1/2 part flour, and some salt. All of these are by weight by the way.

I can’t remember what the exact measurements were, but I started with 2 eggs, and figured it out from there. So if lets say 1 egg weighs 2 ounces, then you’d use 2 ounces liquid, and 1 ounce flour. Simple enough, right?

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A lot of people are afraid of making crepes. It’s one of those things, that just take practice.

To make a good crepe, you want a good pan, that holds it’s heat very well, and doesn’t have high sides which will make it hard to flip the crepe. You also want to use a non-stick pan, and apply the smallest amount of oil you can imagine. What I do is turn the oil bottle upside down with a paper towel on top (like you would with a bottle of rubbing alcohol), and use that oil to wipe a tiny layer on the pan.

The next thing is you want the pan hot, but not too hot, somewhere in the medium range, and you want to pour only enough batter that it just coats the bottom, and that’s it. Also as the batter is coating the bottom, you’re going to want to rotate the pan so the batter fills the areas without batter. This would be a lot easier to explain if you just came by and I showed you. I’m telling you, it’s not that hard once you get the hang of it.

To flip, I usually use my hands. Just slide the crepe to the edge of the pan, and pick it up, and flip it. It really shouldn’t be that hot.

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I would take a video of myself doing this, but I have no idea how to edit videos, so I dunno about that.

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Ok that was confusing, but the hard part is over.

Now just plop some of that chicken mixture on the crepe, and roll it up like you’re swaddling it (ie like a burrito), and set aside.

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When you’re ready, put some oil in a pan, and pan fry the crepes on both sides to crisp it up a little; about 3-4 minutes ish per side over medium heat.

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Traditionally in our household, these were always served with mushroom sauce. The way I made the sauce was I made a roux by melting 3 tablespoons margarine, and adding 3 tablespoons flour, and cooking the flour until it smelled nutty, and then added about 3 cups of stock stock, along with whatever seasoning you want (ie like salt, pepper, garlic, or whatever you think), to make a gravy.

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While that was thickening up, I sauteed mushrooms, and then added the gravy to the mushrooms and let it cook together.

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You don’t want it too thick, it should pour be the consistency of gravy, and then serve crepes with mushroom sauce over top of it.

Just make it, I promise you will not regret it.

Since Pesach is coming (Quick, wanna hear a joke? Why is it called Pesach?? Because you “Pay a sach”!! Get it?…I know Batsheva’s laughing, and that’s all that matters)..so since Pesach is coming, obviously you can, and should, and will make this amazing delicacy, but there’s more to this little crepe story. If you stay tuned, I hope to have time to post on a little something we call “Polochintah” (wow, I totally butchered that one), or “bletlach”…either way, for those that don’t eat “gibrokts” you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those who don’t, well you’re just going to have to wait and find out.

Until then, I’m going to teach Daniella how to make crepes.

Chicken Crepes

Ingredients:

  • Shredded chicken from stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Reserved chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Crepes:

  • 1 part eggs
  • 1 part liquid – ie stock
  • 1/2 part flour
  • Pinch of salt

(sorry I just don’t know the exact amounts, but get yourself a scale…you can’t expect me to do all of the work!)

For the mushroom sauce:

  • 1 package of mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons margarine, or any oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. To make the chicken filling: Sautee onion, carrot, celery, and garlic over medium heat, until soft; about 7 minutes. Add about 1/4 – 1/3 cup stock and the shredded chicken, and season with salt and pepper. You really don’t want it soupy at all.
  2. To make the crepes: combine eggs, stock, flour, and salt.
  3. Heat a crepe pan over medium-low heat, and brush a tiny amount of oil on the pan.
  4. Take the pan off the fire, and with the other hand, ladle just enough batter onto the pan to just coat the bottom, twirling the pan to ensure it coats it evenly.
  5. Let the crepe cook on one side without moving it, for 2-3 minutes, and then flip. I find the easiest way to flip is with my fingers, but you might need to tuck a spatula under the crepe to be able to gain leverage.
  6. To cook the mushroom sauce: Make a roux, by melting the margarine, and then cooking the flour in it, until the flour starts to smell nutty.
  7. Add the stock all at once, and stir vigorously, and allow it to thicken up. Season as needed.
  8. Sautee the mushrooms until softened
  9. Combine gravy and mushrooms and cook until it is the right consistency of gravy.
  10. To assemble: Put about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture into the center of the crepe, and fold up like a burrito.
  11. To finish off crepe: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet, and cook each side of the crepe for about 3-4 minutes per side, being careful not to burn it.
  12. To serve, top crepes with mushroom sauce, and serve warm