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Cremini Mushroom & Swiss Chard Lasagne

February 15, 2011

Last Tuesday night, a very tasty Winter Vegetable Hash with Pancetta pulled us out of a serious food slump. And I was determined that Wednesday night would be just as good. I was able to leave work at a reasonable time—while it was still light out—and walk to our neighborhood store to get some fresh ingredients for dinner. I could just feel spring, and its longer, brighter evenings, coming…

Red swiss chard. Cremini mushrooms. Lasagne noodles. And some fresh, mixed greens. Simple. But it makes a rich, hearty lasagne to help you make it through mid-week, bringing you one day closer to the weekend.

Of course, as soon as I got home from the store, had unpacked the groceries, and was about to start cooking this lasagne, work came a-knocking (via my email inbox). Not cool.

I was about to give up. Order take-out and make this lasagne some other night, so that I could focus on getting my work done. But then, I thought, no—I’m not letting work pull me back into that food slump. So did all my prep as quickly as possible, assembled the lasagne, and threw it in the oven. And while it baked away, I was able to get my work done (well, most of it, at least), so that we could sit down and enjoy another delicious weeknight dinner.

As you can probably tell by my lack of posting, work and life have continued to be pretty busy since I made this. But starting tonight, I’m back in action. And I have some pretty yummy meals planned for the next few days, so I’ll be back with more posts soon. In the meantime, I hope that everyone had a very lovely Valentine’s Day!

CREMINI MUSHROOM & SWISS CHARD LASAGNE

I used dried lasagne noodles here, because that’s all the store had on hand. And while the resulting lasagne was quite delicious, I personally prefer fresh lasagne sheets, so I would recommend using fresh rather than dried, if you have a choice.

Adapted, in a number of ways, from Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 as a main

3/4 lb. dried lasagne noodles
1 low-fat quart milk (I used 1% milk)
1 stick + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 lbs. cremini mushrooms
1 bunch swiss chard (I used red chard)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (plus more for garnish)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Meanwhile, clean and prep your vegetables. Clean the mushrooms by gently brushing off any dirt with a damp cloth. Trim off the stems (and discard), then slice the caps 1/4 inch thick and set aside. Rinse the chard, remove the thick ends of the stems, and set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the lasagne noodles, and cook (according to package instructions) until al dente. Remove the noodles from the pan (using tongs) when done, and drain. But don’t drain the whole pan of the boiling water, as you’re going to parboil the chard in this pan—this will save you from having to use two pots/pans, and from having to wait for water to boil twice. Toss the lasagne noodles with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Set aside until you’re ready to assemble the lasagne.

Next, parboil the chard leaves in the boiling water for one minute. Drain and rinse with cold water (to arrest the cooking process). Let the chard drain on a kitchen towel (or some paper towels) for a few minutes, so that there’s no excess water on the leaves. Coarsely chop the chard, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and a couple splashes of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat (I used the same pan that I cooked the noodles and chard in). Add the mushrooms—along with some salt and pepper, to taste—and cook until they release their liquid, about 3-5 minutes. Add the thyme and 2 garlic cloves (minced), and cook (stirring occasionally), until the garlic is fragrant, and the liquid is evaporated. Add the chard to the pan, mix everything together, and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the béchamel. Heat the milk and 1 garlic clove (minced) in a saucepan. Meanwhile, melt 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter in a large pan—to make the clean-up on this dinner easier, I used the same pan that I cooked everything else in. Add the flour to the pan with the butter, and cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk (this will keep it from getting lumpy).  Add the warm milk—a little at a time—whisking constantly to incorporate. At this point, you’ll also want to add 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste (I added 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper). Cook over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, whisking frequently, until the béchamel thickens. Set aside.

Now you’re ready to assemble the lasagne. Spread some béchamel on the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with a layer of lasagne noodles, more béchamel, a little parmesan, and 1/3 of the mushrooms and chard. Repeat twice, then top with a final layer of noodles and the last of the béchamel and parmesan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Garnish each piece of lasagne with some fresh thyme leaves. And enjoy, along with a simple side salad.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. beejay permalink
    July 7, 2011 11:22 am

    Sorry to be so late in my comments, but I just found your blog. It’s great, really, creative cooking at its best.
    So, here’s a little twist you might like to try for creamy, heavy pasta or polenta* dishes like this…it’s Italian, don’t know if it’s used all over Italy or it’s regional. I learned it many years ago as a way to cook cannelloni and have forgotten the details.
    Anyway, try putting a layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish instead of the bech – just plain, uncooked tomato sauce, maybe throw on some herbs of your choice. I always use summer savory for it’s slightly peppery bite. Then assemble as before.
    When you cut through those layers of pasta and creamy-sauced fillings, that dab of tomato at the bottom adds a little piquancy, a sharp contrast to the rest of the dish. And, somehow, it just works. 😉
    Also, my lasagnes tend to have excess moisture at the end. When I was moaning about this to an old friend, who was herself an outstanding cook and the daughter of a Cordon Bleu trained chef, she said, “Just don’t cook the pasta.” Huh? So, I tried it. Works. I thought of this because you were emphasizing getting out the excess liquids. So, another trick that makes life easier – it’s cooking the pasta that stops me from making lasagne when I’m tired, just one too many steps. I still drain everything appropriately, but I haven’t cooked my (dried) lasagne sheets in years. They’re nicely al dente when it’s done, yet the dish is neither dry nor swimming in juices.
    * Gotta love those spell checkers. It didn’t like “polenta” and suggested that just maybe I might coulda possible been meaning “tadpole”? ;))))

    • July 11, 2011 10:13 am

      Thanks so much – so glad that you like the blog!! Love your idea for putting a layer of tomato sauce at the bottom. I will definitely give that a try. Oh, and agreed on not cooking the pasta noddles. I never cook fresh pasta noodles in a lasagne. But sometime my local grocery store doesn’t have fresh pasta sheets… and I end up with the dried ones. Never tried not cooking the dried noodles though – interesting! One of these days I need to just buy a pasta maker so that I can just make my own. 🙂

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