Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It ate my weekend, then I ate it.

Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge: Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna
Recipe from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper

This was a difficult month for my relationship with the Daring Bakers. With the two most recent challenges essentially busts (Tuilles and Flourless Chocolate Cake – don’t believe the optimism in the posts – they were busts) I needed this month’s challenge to bring my baking spirits up again. I love lasagna, so I thought this would be perfect.

First, the five meat ragu. Since I couldn’t buy the meats in small enough quantities, I decided to double the recipe. Why not have leftovers? Well, that was mistake number one.

It took me several hours at multiple grocery stores to collect all of the ingredients, and several more hours to assemble and cook and the sauce. It was a full day affair. The recipe called for whole meats but then instructed us to grind them in a food processor. Having never done this before, I over-processed and my beautiful (and expensive) cuts of meat ended up as a meat paste. This mixture balled up when I started to fry it, despite my frantic efforts to break up the chunks. Not great. Later, when I added the milk, it immediately curdled and coated my already-not-ideal meat chunks in white residue. Again, fantastic. I probably would have given up here if I hadn’t already spent so much money and time on it. I stuck it in the fridge, swore that I would quit the daring bakers, and went to sleep.

The next morning I read on the Daring Bakers forum that not only did someone else’s ragu look like dog food (I believe she called it Alpo) someone else’s milk had curdled. The most encouraging part was that they still thought it tasted good. Slightly encouraged (but not enough to taste it myself), I started on the noodles.

Unfortunately, this was just as difficult as the ragu. My dough would not come together. I think it would have been much easier to use steamed spinach, but I was using raw, as the recipe recommended, and the mixture was hopelessly dry. For some reason, I decided to add more eggs instead of water. This was probably a bad call. The dough did come together but it was very eggy, almost yellow tinted behind the green, and very heavy/sticky.

I rolled it out as thin as I could without a pasta maker, hung it to dry, and then boiled it. It reminded me, both in look and touch, of alien tongue.

The b├ęchamel sauce was the only saving grace of this entire production. It was easy and tasty and made me feel good about myself again.

I assembled the components trying to make my layers as thin and delicate as my chunky, milk-curdled ragu and thick, alien-tongue noodles would permit. I think I managed about 8 layers before I ran out of b├ęchamel and just about ran out of room. So I popped it in the oven and thanked god that the couple I had invited over for dinner had canceled.

Now, the surprising part of this whole story – and really, I mean shocking – is that it actually turned out okay. It tasted different from a traditional American lasagne (which I must admit I prefer) but it still tasted good. Good enough to eat and want seconds. Good enough to save the leftovers. It was a miracle.

I also tried to eat the leftover noodles with a regular tomato sauce, but that didn’t work as well. Apparently the baking step was very important for these guys. They were too firm/spongy to eat just boiled.

So, I will hesitantly remain a Daring Baker. We’ll see what next month brings.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

1 comment:

  1. That last photo actually makes me feel sick. hahahahahhahahaha