Vegetable Chartreuse, Modern Style!

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Vegetable Chartreuse, courtesy of Hye Thyme Cafe (hyethymecafe.blogspot.com)

Have you ever looked at those 1960’s and 1970’s cookbooks?  You know, the ones with everything under aspic, and things like avocado creme?  A friend sent me a link a few years ago to one of the books that had been digitalized, and when I say “Ewwww..!” I wholeheartedly mean it.  Everything had this yellowish hue, but the real kicker was all this supremely labor intensive stuff that came out perfect looking, even if it was a bit technicolor to the eyes!  I recommend looking carefully at the picture above.  Look a the precision you had to have to make that!  My hat is off to them!  I am nowhere as precise as that, and am incapable of being so.  I also found this blog in my wanderings.  They have totally retro recipes, it’s totally worth a browse!  “Hey, my Granny used to make that!”

I saw the below recipe in the New York Times Food section, where I find a lot of my ideas, and the name intrigued me, which led to the search for the dish called a chartreuse.  Normally it’s a “country surprise” dish, meaning it looks decidedly vegetably externally, but hiding a game breast (partridge or woodcock or capon) with foie gras and all kinds of pork and bacon on the inside.  My version is a completely vegetarian version, with butter and a cup of Parmesan but otherwise all vegetable.

The recipe is simple, but the work is quite labor intensive, and should take the better part of a day to make and cook.

Chartreuse of Vegetables:

  • 1 head savoy cabbage, about 2 pounds
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt, separated,plus more for blanching
  • 6 large celery stalks, finely julienned, save the leaves
  • 6 large celery stalks, finely diced
  • 9 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • ¼ cup finely diced white onion (I had shallots so I used them, leaks will work as well)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped sage, rosemary and thyme, combined
  • 10 – 12 cups finely diced mushrooms — any combination white-button,
    cremini, wild (six 8oz packages)
  • ¼ cup good dry white wine (NOT chardonnay)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves celery leaves
  • 2 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream)
  • 2 pounds or 4 large bunches spinach
  • 1 large grate of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sherry (or red wine)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

* One 6 or 7 inch springform pan

To begin, slice the end off your cabbage and discard.  separate all the leaves, and select the best, prettiest and most intact 13 or 14 of them, set them aside.  Trim them so there isn’t much of the touch white core.  Put a large pot of water on to boil, and while waiting, finely shred the remaining cabbage and place it in a bowl.  When the water comes to a boil add a pinch of salt and blanch your cabbage leaves for 30  to 60 seconds.  They should be bright green, not dull green.  Plunge them into an icewater bath to stop them cooking, and lay them on paper towels or kitchen towels to dry.  Once you’ve worked through the whole batch wrap them up in a package and place in the fridge until you need them.

While the cabbage leaves are cooling, in the bowl you have the shredded cabbage, add 1 & 1/2 cups julienned celery and leaves.  Sprinkle over them 1 teaspoon of the salt, and mix well.  I like to use my hands and fingers to really work the salt in well.  Let this stand at room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add 3 tablespoons of butter and one of oil, and heat until the butter stops foaming.  Then add the chopped onion, garlic, remaining celery and combined sage, rosemary and thyme, and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until onion is just translucent. If it starts to brown or stick, add a few drops of water. Add all diced mushrooms, and stir occasionally, cooking 15-25 minutes until the mushrooms’ liquid has all emerged and evaporated. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Mix through, add white wine and cook for another minute. Turn off heat. Add parsley/celery leaves and crème fraîche, and mix through. Remove to a bowl, and refrigerate.

Rinse spinach in a large colander. Put a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook spinach in batches with only the water clinging to the leaves until they are completely wilted. Remove to a colander to cool. Put the spinach in a strong clean kitchen cloth, and squeeze well, until completely dry. Put leaves through a food processor until very well chopped (or chop finely by hand). In a small pan, heat 5 tablespoons butter in 1 tablespoon olive oil until butter has just begun to brown. Add chopped spinach and nutmeg. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt, then sherry. Cook a few moments, until sherry is absorbed. Take the pan off the heat and add Parmesan, mix well.

Now it’s time for assembly.  Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 6- or 7-inch springform pan. Make sure the cabbage leaves are very dry. Put the prettiest cabbage leaf in the bottom of the pan, spreading it into a single layer. Trim any stem/central vein that overhangs. Use 5-7 more leaves to line the sides, pressing some of each leaf carefully into the bottom of the pan and the rest up the pan’s side. There should be some leaf remaining overhanging the top. Continue, lightly overlapping the leaves, until sides are covered.

Best leaves

Put a third of the mushroom mixture into the food processor, and blend to semi-smooth. Mix back into the rest of the mushrooms. Spread half the mushroom mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan, over the cabbage. Cover with an even layer of half the spinach. Drain the cabbage-celery slaw very well, pressing all the liquid. Spread the very dry slaw over the cabbage. Repeat with the remaining spinach, and then the remaining mushrooms. Cover the mushrooms with 1-3 more cabbage leaves, in a very thin layer, trimming to fit if necessary. Fold overhanging leaves to cover the bottom. Dot with remaining butter, divided. Put into the middle of the oven. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let sit to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Dotted with butter

When it is cool enough to handle, turn it out onto a serving plate or platter.

Pretty result

It’s so pretty!  Reminded me of the tree of life.  Don’t forget this is all about the layers of flavor.

the layers

Eventhough it’s fairly labor intensive, it was so pretty, and very tasty!  Enjoy this one.

 

 

Cooking French Food for Your Vegetarian

pixabella-Red-Stylised-Heart-with-Smaller-HeartsHappy February!  It’s soon to be Valentines Day, and I usually go all out and make a really romantic meal for the Hubby.  I’d love to hear how you, my dear readers celebrate your significant others, or even celebrate yourselves for a special day!

You all know, I have a vegetarian husband, for whom I will try to cook anything vegetarian style.  I have however never really been successful with the full blooded classic French dishes.  Mainly, I am half successful in creating something that has the meat replaced by something processed to be like meat, or by substituting something else for the meat.  He always says he likes it, and I am sure he does, but it always feel like I am cheating!  Flash forward to today.  I was trolling around the usual cooking sites I look at for food inspiration, and I came upon this gem, Mushroom Bourguignon (yes all those ‘g’s” are supposed to be there.)

The recipe carries all the French classical steps, braising, reduction of liquids, the mirepoix*, but it is simple, and really delicious.  For the past several years, I have raffled off a meal at work, for our internal fundraising campaign, and Beef Bourguignon is always on offer.  Perhaps I’ll change it this year and offer this dish too!

Mushroom Bourguignon

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1lb Portobello mushrooms, stems cut off and discarded, mushrooms cut into 2 in cubes
  • 2lbs white or brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, cut on a diagonal
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or water if you don’t have any)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 cups pearl onions, peeled (these are optional)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp cold water

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium.  I used my cast iron Dutch oven, even heat makes a huge diference.  Add both types of mushrooms, sauté until lightly browned.  They may give off some liquid, but at this point that’s good.  Add celery, carrot, onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until you begin to smell the garlic.  The aim here is to cook but not to brown the vegetables.  Add thyme, red wine, tomato paste and stock and stir gently, until the tomato paste has dissolved into the liquid. Put the lid on the pan and allow this to cook at a low heat for 20 minutes.  After that time, take the lid off and raise the heat up to high and cook until liquid has reduced, about 15 minutes.  It should be reduced by half, and taken on a more syrupy or rich consistency.  Add the optional pearl onions and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until they’re starting to turn translucent and softer.

Here we use a classic sauce thickening technique.  Mix the cornstarch and cold water together in a small dish until all the cornstarch is dissolved.  Cornstarch will make the sauce thicker and glossier than flour would, it’s more gravy like than stew like, if that makes sense.  Bring the pan to a boil, and add the cornstarch mixture to it.  Once again, the alchemy of cooking shows itself, you’ll see the sauce thicken and darken slightly.  At this point, you’re finished.

Generally I would serve this dish on egg noodles, but you can serve it with boiled or mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, whatever you love.

And remember to love the vegetarian you’re serving this to!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* Mirepoix is a classical French flavor base of minced onion, carrot and celery.  You can not duplicate the taste of celery, and I urge you to add just a stalk, even if you don’t like it!  If not, try a pinch of celery seed, trust me you won’t be disappointed with the result.

I am back! “When Life Gives You Lemons….”

Did you miss me?  I know there have been times where I haven’t posted for a while, and had some legitimate excuses, but folks, this time, we have had some kind of several months.  The day after I published my last real blog post (this one about places in Downtown Detroit) in early July, I was admitted to the hospital for a very unexpected appendectomy.  While in the throes of recovering from that, we had the unexpected death of my father in law’s partner, in the midst of a visit from “the Hungarians”.  Shortly after, in Michigan, and several other states, we had some of the most catastrophic and destructive flooding ever seen.  Since we had moved to a new home, you would think we were immune, but we weren’t.  It wouldn’t have been so bad except that the recovery from that revealed a severe mold issue in the house we were renting.  Flash forward a few weeks and we were moving, to get away from the mold.  And that leaves me where we are now.  In a beautiful house that we plan to call home for a long, long time. (Note here to the Hubby, if I have to pack and unpack this kitchen again in anything less than 3 years, I am throwing it all out and starting over!)

So, you see, when life hands you lemons, sometime there is a gorgeous pitcher of fresh, tasty, icy cold, bright yellow lemonade right around the corner!  I can’t say this past several months were easy, but we are both happier and healthier than we have been in a while!  So, take that life!

I just got the gas line installed for the stove, so there has been sporadic cooking in the last week or so, mostly to keep my father in law from starving, so no cooked posts, but I felt that this past few months might warrant a nice blog post that focuses on some food related things we don’t often think are easy to do.  We’re at the time of year where we start to bundle up and prep for winter, not to mention Thanksgiving, and “our birthday” as my niece likes to call it.  So, I want to talk and post a little about the reason I started this blog.

As the years pass and this blog gets older and older, I have come to realize that I really do have a passion for food, and other people not only appreciate it, but also take inspiration from it. I never could understand why people would look at me and say “Wow, you make your own pasta/pie crust/cheese?  I could never do that, it’s just too hard/time consuming/scary.”  I want to scream at the top of my lungs: It isn’t hard!  There are so many methods it’s used when you cook,  but most of them not are not difficult.  If they were, they would never have survived over the years to still be in use today!  What I mean is, it’s not just the act of providing nutrition for you and your loved ones, it’s an art that anyone with a little bit of time and patience can easily master.  Seriously, as scattered as I am most of the time, I can whip up a batch of just about anything with the right ingredients and enough time (I stop being so benevolent at tripe… I just can not make myself do that.)

For example, think about pickling.  Not the vinegar and heat based kind, which is delicious in and of itself, but the lacto-fermentation kind.  You know, those tantalizingly sour Kosher pickles that you only see in the very best deli’s?  Or in “Crossing Delancey”, for those of you old enough to remember “The Pickle Guy”. Honestly, it only takes a handful of ingredients and some careful sanitation and prep and once it’s done (which takes mere moments) you put it aside and let nature take it’s course.  That’s it!  No more paying $8 for a jar of “Bubbies” pickles (Elizabeth, really?), you can do it too and it’s so simple!  This is why I started and continue this blog!  I want everyone to be as passionate about this stuff as I am, because you CAN do it!

Look at this beautiful jar of deliciousness!  Don’t you want to reach out and take crisp, sour bite?

my mouth is watering just looking at them!
my mouth is watering just looking at them!

I am going to give you the simple rules for making these easy pickles, and I swear, you’ll be a convert in no time!  All you need to remember is that everything must be clean and sterilized…. but having said that, your dishwasher will do that for you.

A few notes before I dive in.  These are the sour “kosher” type pickles, not the vinegar based Vlasic type.  So, once you do all the prep, you simply wait a few weeks, typically three, and you’ll have full soured pickles.  If you want half soured, you go only a week and a half.

How you flavor these is entirely up to your taste.  I added garlic, mustard and coriander seed, along with whole black peppercorns.  If you want to use traditional pickling spice, do that.  The one thing you have to be sure of when doing this, and I can’t stress it enough, is keep everything as clean and dry as possible before it goes into the jar.

After doing this several times, I have come to develop the method below.  These instructions are tried and tested, and I would encourage you not to skimp on them, until you’ve made your own a few times, then you can experiment.

Homemade Lacto-fermented Pickles

  • 5 tablespoons of pickling salt (you can find it in any good supermarket or an Ace/Aco Hardware store)
  • 2 quarts of distilled water (important note below)
  • 8 – 12 pickling cucumbers (Persian or small thin skinned are best)
  • 6 – 8 cloves of garlic peeled and cracked (not minced or sliced)
  • large head of fresh dill, or tablespoon of dried
  • chili flakes, mustard seeds, black pepper corns, cloves or 3 tablespoons commercially produced pickling spice
  • 4 Mason jars, with lid inserts
  • small bowls or flat rock to weigh things down
  • 6 – 8 oak/grape/horseradish leaves (optional)

In a large pourable container, combine the water and salt.  Stir well and allow the salt to dissolve, and set aside.  The reason the water can’t be tap water is that it contains chlorine, along with other additives.  Chlorine is a deterrent to the fermentation process, and so while tap water will work, your results will take at least 4 times longer, and will be less pleasing in its quality.  You may end up with hollow pickles, or pickles that are too soft.  A note about the oak/grape leaves, these are to help the pickles be crunchy and hold their shape, but again, it’s optional, so don’t sweat that detail.

Prepare your jars and lids.  Be sure to remove any stem or end bits from the cucumbers, and be sure they’re bruise and cut free.  Place as many cucumbers in the jars as will fit, allowing a small amount of water to flow between them.  Pop in the garlic cloves and sprinkle in the pickling spice or spices you choose, evenly amongst the jars.  Make sure you have a dark area out in the kitchen that the jars can be stored for a few weeks.  Once the jars are prepped and full of veggies and spices, pour over enough salt water to completely cover them.  They may start to float, but we will fix that shortly.   Once everything is covered, take the grape leaves (1 – 2 per jar) and cover the contents of the jars, tucking in the sides to cover everything.  Over that, place a/several small rocks, or the small bowls with the bowl side up, over the grape leaves, this is to weigh everything down and keep them covered in water, which is critical.  Place the lids and inserts over the jar and tighten well, so the rocks/bowls are pushing it all down into the brine.  Set the jars in a cool dark area of your kitchen or pantry, away from light, and where the temperature is consistent.  Start the wait.

Everything has to be under the liquid so no air is introduced in to the fermentation process, so that is critical.  Keep an eye on the jars, and after 3 days, burp them (open the lids to let any gas out) and check to see that everything is still covered with water.  You can add a little more salt water if they’re not covered but you shouldn’t have to. Going forward check and burp them each day.  As the days go by, you may notice the liquid in the jar bubbling, and the cucumbers changing in color from bright green to a more drab olive.  You can skim off any light mold that might form on the top of the liquid, but if the odor is bad, or there is slime along the top of the jars, discard them and sterilize the jars. you should see a slight foam, or nothing at all on the top.

After 2 weeks, open the jars and take a good smell.  If they smell sour to you, and good, try a small piece to check the fermentation.  At this point, it’s up to you how sour you want them.  If you like them here, remove the bowls/rocks from the jars, tighten them well and put in the fridge.  If not, let them keep going, and check periodically.  Once they reach the peak of your taste, remove the weights and put them in the fridge and eat at your leisure.  A note about pickled garlic, YUM!  It’s amazing what the flavor is like.

Now, once you feel you have mastered this, you can pretty much pickle any veggie with this method.  I find that asparagus is just wonderful, as is cauliflower, peppers and pearl onions, even mushrooms.  And, as mentioned before, you can make these spicy with chile flakes, or play around with the spices, cumin, cinnamon for a more Persian feel.  These also have some great health benefits.  They’re full of beneficial gut bacteria, and are a super way to get some liquid into your diet that isn’t water.

Oh, the possibilities!  Enjoy, and leave your comments below!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Ok, vegetarians, come on back to the fold!  This post is one I planned to write a while ago, and so the photos are of the old kitchen. But that doesn’t make it any less wonderful!  I wrote a favorite things post a while back, and mentioned one of my go-to’s for easy every night cooking is a mushroom soup base that is vegetarian.  The product is called Better Than Bouillon. It comes in Vegetable Base, No Chicken and No Beef flavors as well, so there are lots of options flavor wise, but to do this stroganoff well, you need a really deep tasting broth.  Just as an aside, they also do kicking Ham, Beef, Clam, Fish and a Lobster Bases that are amazingly good.  And, as an aside, I am not endorsing this product for any other reason than I love it.

So, yes, this recipe is vegetarian, but I wouldn’t recommend it be vegan.  Having said that though, if you can find a vegan sour cream style product, go for it!   For the meat lovers out there, yes, this is the same recipe as beef stroganoff, just with no beef.  If you want to do beef, add browned beef cubes to this, and you’ll be away with yourself!  I often make this for myself, because I love mushrooms, and I don’t add meat, but I sometimes add fake beef strips, to up the level of protein.

I use an array of mushrooms in this, but honestly the lowly button mushroom is also great here.  For mine I used oyster, Shitake and mini portobello mushrooms.  I would stay away from enoki, they really don’t have any flavor.  I also sometimes use dried porcini or morels if I have them handy.

 

Mushroom Stroganoff

3 medium packages of mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic minced finely, or crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup red wine, sherry or marsala (optional)

2 cups good broth (mushroom or vegetable, just make sure it tastes good)

16 oz container of sour cream (low fat, regal, no fat, makes no difference)

1 container/bag beef substitute (I used Gardein Beefless Tips)

1 bag of egg noodles, or rice or couscous, your preference

In a heavy bottomed pan that is cold, place the garlic and oil and turn on the heat to a medium flame.  Once you can smell the garlic, toss in all the mushrooms, and quickly stir to coat them in oil.  The mushrooms will absorb all the oil, but if you sprinkle the salt and pepper over them, stir and clamp a lid on them, they will start to cook and release their juices.  Once this starts to happen, take the lid off the pan and sauté the mushrooms so they are looking limp and cooked.

At this point, I add the wine of you’re using it, and raise the heat up so it bubbles down, all the while stirring.  If you’re not doing that, add the 2 cups of stock, keep the lid off the pan and stir well, then turn up the heat to a low boil, and keep an eye on it, stirring as you go.

IMG_1227

You may want to taste it at this point, for seasoning.  Adjust as you feel is necessary.  After about 10 minutes of high heat, the liquids should be reduced enough that when you stir with your spoon, you should briefly see the bottom of the pan.  Add the fake meat if you’re adding it and stir well.  This will lower the heat in the pan, so cover it and allow it to cook and heat through.  Once you get to that point, take the pot off the heat, and add the sour cream, stirring well to combine.  It may look as though it’s curdling, but it’s not, it’s just a bit shocked.  As you stir, it will all mix and turn a lovely buff color.

IMG_1230.jpg

At this point, I would set this aside, on a very low flame, and cook the starch you’re eating with it.  If it’s noodles, once they’re cooked and well drained, add them to the mushroom mixture and stir well.  If you’re using another grain or starch, pile it up on a plate and spoon the mushroom over it.

Yummy!  Enjoy it!

Mushroomy goodness!

That’s our new couch.  Isn’t it beautiful?  I love everything about it, the style, the way it fits perfectly into the space that the previous sofa lived in only better.  I even love the color, a silvery, mushroom brown.  It’s a cross between the color of the gills inside a lovely fresh mushroom and good quality cocoa powder.  (Those of you that know me will know the tug of war we have had over painting and in particular my Beloved’s love of all things beige/brown.)  Tim and I have decided that if we are staying in our house, we are going to make it a place we love.  And so, new couch and plans for painting!!  More on the paint later, but now back to the mushrooms! 
Years ago, when I lived in New York, I was a culinary fiend; I bought cooking magazines like mad and cooked from them often, I had all kinds of quality pans and cooking utensils all packed into a tiny kitchen.  My only problem was I rarely had anyone to try the food out on, which made it a bit boring.  There’s nothing quite like carefully preparing food and then having someone else love it!  Even then, when I cooked meat all the time, I fell in love with mushrooms.  I cooked them a hundred different ways, and they were always wonderful.  My specialty became sautéed mushrooms with polenta.  I still make it today and it’s heavenly, even if I make it vegan.  Imagine my surprise way back then when I came across (I believe in Bon Appetite) a recipe for a mushroom lasagna.  It had no tomato, which immediately intrigued me, and it also didn’t have the tiresome chore of typical lasagna, boiling the noodles and draining them, etc.  I was delighted with it, and immediately started planning!  I made several versions of this, and the recipe below is the easiest, I developed a few tweaks to make it work on a weeknight, so you can eat before midnight!  
My most loved version is below and although it’s slightly more detailed than the recipes I usually share, I wholeheartedly encourage you to make it.  It’s simple and lovely, rich and delicious, but truthfully, I can’t eat more than a small piece at a sitting, it’s that rich.  My recommendation is to make the mushroom sauté in advance and then assemble the entire thing just before you bake it.  Allowing the mushroom mixture to mature overnight does intensify the flavors.  One note here, the recipe here calls for Jarlsberg, but to create this authentically to this recipe, you can use any nutty, semi-soft cheese.  Gruyere comes to mind as a fine substitute.  But, the beauty of this is that you can use any cheese: goat’s, mozzarella, even good-quality cheddar would work.  It’s all up to how it pairs with mushroom.  My one must is that you can’t make the béchamel with skim or lowfat milk without compromising the texture of the lasagna.  That being said though, you can lighten this up by using half skim/low fat and half full fat.  Good luck and Happy Cooking!
E’s Mushroom Lasagna
Mushroom sauté
3 tablespoons of olive oil
6 fat cloves of garlic chopped fine
4 small baskets of mushrooms (can be all white button, or a combinations of several different types)
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, removed from the stems or ½ teaspoon of dried
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup red wine (use something you would also drink, no box wine)
Béchamel sauce
½ cup all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
½ teaspoon nutmeg (or several gratings of fresh)
3 ½ cups whole milk, plus an additional  ½ cup to thin if necessary
3 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese mixed with ½ cup freshly grated parmesan
1 box no-cook lasagna, or about 1 lb. of fresh lasagna sheets
(optional: ½ cup of breadcrumbs mixed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter)
For the mushroom sauté, roughly chop all your mushrooms, until you have pieces resembling the size of peas, set aside.  In a large non-stick sauté pan, heat the olive oil on a medium high flame and add the chopped garlic.  Sauté until you can smell the garlic and then sprinkle lightly with a scant pinch of salt, this will help the garlic to release some of it’s juice and prevent it from burning.  Continue to cook carefully, making sure it doesn’t burn, for about a minute.  Add in your chopped mushrooms and turn them in the oil until all are coated with it, stir in the thyme.  At this point cover the pan and lower the flame to low, but keep an eye on the mushrooms and stir occasionally so they don’t burn.  Cook covered for about 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are dark brown and releasing their juices.  Add in the wine and turn up the flame to medium, allow the wine to start to boil and stir until it looks as though all juices and the wine are well combined.  Cover the pan again and allow to cook for about 7 – 8 minutes.  When you lift the lid to check, there will be a great deal of liquid, and that’s perfect.  Now, raise the heat to high and with the lid off, stir and cook until most of the liquids are reabsorbed by the mushrooms and you start to see the bottom of the pan clearly when you are stirring.  Once the mixture has dried up a bit, set the pan aside and let the mixture rest.  Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to your taste.  At this point, you can put the mushroom mixture in the fridge overnight, or just set aside to cool while you prepare the béchamel.
For the bechamel, heat the 3 1/2 cups of milk in a saucepan, just until you see bubbles forming at the sides and it is heated through and set aside off the heat.  In another non-stick deep bottomed saucepan, melt the unsalted butter, don’t let it burn.  Once all the butter is melted, take off the heat and whisk in the flour, then put the pan back on a low flame.  Congratulations, you have now created a roux!  Let the roux cook for a few minutes, to allow it to lose that floury flavor.  It will take on a pale almond color, don’t allow it to color any more than that.  Take the roux off the heat and carefully whisk in a cup of the heated milk.  With your whisk, make sure there are no lumps of flour, then whisk in the second cup of milk, and return the pan to a medium flame.  It will immediately start to thicken, and as you continually whisk, and in the remaining third and a half cups of milk.   One you start to feel resistance with your whisk, and the mixture is the consistency of hummus, you can take it off the heat and add in the nutmeg.  Taste it to adjust seasoning, I usually like some black or white pepper and let it cool a bit.
To assemble the lasagna, use any Pyrex baking dish, or any pan you normally would use for lasagna.  The first thing you layer is a thin coating of the béchamel.  If it has cooled to the point that it’s hard to spread, use the 1/2 cup of milk you reserved to thin it a bit. Then a layer of the lasagna noodles.  Cover that layer with another thin layer of béchamel, a layer of cheese and a layer of mushroom, then béchamel again.  Keep layering until you are at the top of the pan, and have the final layer be béchamel and then cheese.  You can top this with the breadcrumb mixture, but it’s only if you want a bit of crunch on the top of your lasagna.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes.  You’ll know it’s done when the breadcrumbs, or cheese are lightly toasted and you can see the béchamel bubbling up at the sides of the pan.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least 15 minutes.
Enjoy, and let me know what variations you try! 

Beef Wellington, without the beef….

Really that should say Veggie Wellington.  I made it for Tim and we loved it so much, and had so many vegetables left over, I made it again the following day.

When I was a kid, watching Julia Child, she made beef Wellington and put a mushroom duxelle on top.  I was so fascinated by the process that I started making the duxelles by hand all on my own.  A duxelle is very finely hand chopped mushrooms slow sauteed in butter, until you almost have what looks like browned chopped meat.  It adds so much flavor and moistness to the package that I just loved the idea.  Perhaps I should also explain, Beef Wellington is a puff pastry package of a hunk of beef (usually seared prime rib or tenderloin) with diced sauteed vegetables on it and a type of Bordeaux gravy or sauce all wrapped in the pastry.  It’s delicious and surprisingly easy to do.  But, as you know, Tim is a vegetarian, so the beef part is out.  I constructed a vegetarian version of this that is really delicious, although a little bit time consuming.  It makes a nice presentation when cut (my poor iPhone photo is above) and you can easily adapt this with any vegetable, green or cheese. 


Vegetarian Wellington

1 thinly sliced beet
1 sliced turnip
thinly sliced carrot
green beans
swiss chard (or spinach or kale)
thinly sliced zucchini
sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic sliced
3 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 package (2 sheets) of puff pastry
Jarlsberg cheese (2 cups) shredded

Equipment needed:
covered large non-stick skillet
large ceramic baking dish
several cookie sheets for cooling vegetables
long strips of parchment paper

Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in skillet, heat up 1/2 of the garlic and add in the sliced carrots in batches.  Cook them until they are softened, but still hold their shape.  Do the same to all the sliced vegetables, leaving the beets for last and adding garlic and olive oil in as needed.  As each batch of vegetables is finished, put them to the side on the cookie sheets to cool.  Season each batch with salt and pepper as you cook, it should all be flavorful as you go.  Once all the vegetables are cooked and cooled, take more olive oil and oil the inside of the baking dish.  I also sometimes take strips of parchement and after I oil the baking dish, I place the strips of parchement down and hang them over the sides so you can easily remove the whole package once the top is on.  Take the puff pastry out of the  fridge and line the baking dish with one sheet of puff pastry.  Layer all the cooled vegetables one at a time in over the puff pastry alternating with layers of cheese.  When all the layers are done, take the last sheet of puff pastry and cut a circle that will cover the top of the layers.  Take the puff pastry from the original layer, seal it over the circle that you covered the layers with.  Use a fork to seal the edges and refrigerate the whole thing for 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes, invert the whole thing over a baking sheet, use the strips of parchment to pull the whole thing out easily.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  It will be golden brown all over, and you may see some moisture from the vegetables and cheese.  Let it cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Once again, you can substitute any vegetables. The second one I made was yellow squash, onion, potato, turnip, celery root, kale.  You can really use anything.