I am so over winter. Especially in Chicago. Like enough is enough with the cold, and the frost, and snow dusting the ground every morning. I know it is March and that March can be a bitch, but it is cold basically all the time.
But I am down for one more good winter meal. And this is a pretty f’ing good one. I love mushrooms, pretty much I haven’t found a way I don’t like them. And with pasta is a great way to use them. I love pasta tossed with mushrooms, some wine and cream and a little chicken and a ton of Parmesan cheese, it is simple and delicious and even the kids will eat it (though they pick out the mushrooms and give them to me).
So I took this simple dish and complicated the hell out of it and turned it into lasagna. The results though? Worth it. Company worthy, Sunday dinner worthy, large scale for a party worthy – I have made this in a large catering pan for a baby shower on several occasions.
I recommend using all different kinds of mushrooms, they all add something to the flavor…like, different levels of earthiness. Blended with butter, sherry, thyme and some chicken, and then layered with a white béchamel and tons of Parmesan cheese, this will be a memorable dish for sure. Not something you’d make on a random Wednesday, but on a Sunday when it is cold or rainy and everyone is around for dinner, this is the way to go.
Chicken and mushroom lasagna
six tablespoons of butter
six tablespoons of flour
half gallon of whole milk
tiny bit of grated nutmeg
salt to taste
in one saucepan heat the milk slowly and gently with the bay leaf and grated nutmeg. Listen to me, if you turn the heat up too high you will scorch the milk and it will be ruined and also you will spend far too much time scraping and scrubbing the burned milk off the bottom of this pan, trust me, go low and slow with this.
In a separate, slightly larger sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. When melted add the flour and whisk, cooking for about five minutes, it will start to smell less like flour and more nutty (?) – you will know what I am talking about after a few mins and it will darken a bit in color.
Add the hot milk to the flour mixture (it is called a roux) whisking constantly and do this part slow too, béchamel is supposed to be smooth and velvety and you get that by going slow and whisking. Season with salt to taste and bring this to boil and remove from heat. Let the béchamel cool while preparing the rest.
mixture of mushrooms of all kinds equal to about eight cups of mushrooms (this may sound absurd but mushrooms are like onions and cook down to like ⅛ of what they started out being) Also note I used, baby bellas, white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, enoki mushroom and a few fresh porcini mushrooms I can across – use whatever you can find
four tablespoons of butter and a bit of olive oil for the pan
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
half a shallot finely chopped
a tiny splash of red wine vinegar (use at the end)
pulled chicken from a grocery store rotisserie or cook your own if you’re ambitious)
Melt the butter with the olive oil in the pan. Add the mushroom, shallots and salt and cook down for till the mushrooms and onions reduce a bit and soften. Then add the garlic the thyme (I used a fair amount of fresh, if you are using dry use less) and cook a few mins more. Turn the heat up to high and add the half cup of sherry. Cook this on high until almost completely evaporated. Turn to low and add the splash of vinegar and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the chicken.
To assemble the lasagna lightly rub the bottom of a deep dish pan (like the one in the picture) with olive oil. Start with a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles and top with the a layer of béchamel, followed by a layer of the mushroom and chicken ragu, then a hefty amount of grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat until the pan is full and end with béchamel covered in grated cheese. Bake in a 400 degree oven until bubbly and the cheese is golden and crispy - around 45 minutes. Let sit for about 20 minutes before cutting.
At-home tip: You can prep and cool all elements and assemble up to two days prior,. Keep assembled lasagna in the fridge. Bake cold in a 400 degree oven for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Keep lasagna covered with foil for the first half hour of baking (to ensure you don't burn the cheese on top).