Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Bonne Femme, Chef Davide, and French Lasagna?

Continuing my exploration of The Bonne Femme Cookbook, by Wini Moranville, I was intrigued by her recipe for "French Lasagna Mardi Soir." Wait? What? French lasagna? That reminded me of an article I read recently, by a mysterious Chef Davide, in which he wrote, "The 16th century Italians did indeed teach the French all about eating well - but it was the French who created a uniform kitchen application which then spread through out the world, thus rightfully creating the grandness of the French cuisine. The Italian masters failed to take advantage of their skill in where such masters eventually had to give way to the virtue of great French cookery applications and uniformity." Wow, what would Batali say? So, okay, French lasagna it is.

According to Wini, a "great lasagna isn't simply about piling on cheese, cheese, and more cheese. The true path to lusciousness" is a creamy bechamel sauce and "a truly amazing cheese. In Italy, that would be Parmigiano-Reggiano; in France, it's often Comte or Emmental." Mardi soir, meaning Tuesday night, implies that this recipe is simple and quick enough to pull together, even on a weekday night. So what did I think? I thought the combination of herbes de Provence and Comte cheese produced a more genteel and lighter version of traditional Italian lasagna, which I really liked! In addition, it was quick and extremely easy! I will definitely make it again! To make it a true French meal, I recommend starting with a small bowl of soup, serving the lasagna with a simple salad and baguette, and finish with a classic French dessert! (Don't forget to check back for the dessert!!!) What to drink? Wine, of course!


French Lasagna Mardi Soir

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the bechamel
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups 2% or whole milk

For the meat sauce
1/2 pound loose mild Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1, 14.5 can peeled tomatoes, undrained, pureed in a blender or food processor
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

For the lasagna
6 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups shredded Comte or Emmental cheese, or a combination (about 6 ounces) (I used Comte, exclusively)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

For the bechamel:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, a few gratings of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to make a smooth paste. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Do not allow the flour mixture to brown. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the meat sauce:
Cook the meat and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain off all of the fat from the pan. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence, and the red pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the white wine. Bring to a boil and boil until nearly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook at an active simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Finishing the dish: 
Spread 1/2 cup of the meat sauce in the bottom of a 8" square baking dish-you won't cover the entire surface, but that's okay. Top with 2 sheets of lasagna noodles, side by side. Top with 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce (spreading to cover the noodles as best you can) and then 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Top with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat the layers (starting with the noodles) twice.

Bake, uncovered, until the lasagna is bubbly and the top is golden brown, 25-30 minutes, covering loosely with foil during the last 10 minutes if the top browns too much. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting into four pieces to serve.

Recipe adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook, by Wini Moranville.

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