Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

This is a food blog, not a political blog, but let me just say: What a horrific, sad, depressing, and frightening week it's been. Would that I could cook our way out of the world being awful. I'm going to do other things to try to effect some change, but in the meantime we still have to eat. So comfort food it has been (and a lot of chocolate too, not going to lie).

This week Chris is working outside the house so I made a couple of things that are good for days of leftovers and also fill our bellies and hearts with warmth. Lasagna is always a good choice: layers of carbs, cheese, veggies, and a little meat for rib-stickiness. My recipe is based on an old Kraft foods one (my adaptation below), and each time I assemble it I chant the layers in my head so I don't screw it up: sauce, noodles, cheese; sauce, noodles, cheese; noodles, sauce, cheese. It came out looking huge and gorgeous, and I am happy to report that it tastes even better.

The second thing I made is a Bon Appetit recipe with a very silly name, that I am simply referring to as chicken and leek pot pie. Because that's what it is. And oh, is it good. This is my second one in three weeks, it's that good. The first time I slacked off and bought frozen pastry, but had too much filling and had to MacGyver a small batch of homemade to use up the rest, and mine was so much better than the store-bought stuff that this time I went full scratch and holy cow, yes PLEASE. I subbed golden raisins for the prunes, added a hefty glug of whisky to the sauce, and omitted the butter in which they would have you cook the bacon because it is superfluous and also there's a lot of butter in the crust already. Otherwise I did it as written. You should too. Soon.

We'll work through this together, my friends, but an army marches on its stomach. Remember to feed yourselves kindly and lovingly. I wish I could send you all a lasagna or a pie this week.

Turkey, mushroom, and spinach lasagna (serves 8 generously)

9 lasagna noodles
1 500-gram container cottage cheese
1 block frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano (I use the latter)
2 cups grated mozzarella
1 egg
2 dozen button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
500 grams ground turkey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
one huge clove garlic, minced
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 tiny can tomato paste

Make the sauce: Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic 3 minutes until softened. Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add the mushrooms and dried herbs and cook until mushrooms shrink and give off their liquid. Add the tomato paste and stir well to combine. Pour in the crushed tomatoes; stir, and bring to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes; taste and add sugar or salt as needed to balance the acidity.

While sauce is simmering, combine the cottage cheese, 2/3 of the grated cheeses, spinach and egg; mix well and set aside. Reserve the remaining grated cheeses in a bowl together.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and cool slightly. Preheat your oven to 375.

To build the lasagna: Spread a thick layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9"x13" lasagna pan (mine is Pyrex). Place three noodles parallel to one another to cover the sauce, then spread half of the spinach mixture evenly over the noodles (you might need to use your fingers). Repeat with a second layer of sauce, noodles, and spinach-cheese mix. Over the spinach, add a final layer of noodles, then cover completely with sauce (you may have some left over) and sprinkle the top with the reserved grated cheeses.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until cheese is browned and edges are bubbling. If your pan is very full, place a metal sheet pan underneath it in the oven to catch drips. Allow to rest 30 minutes before cutting (trust me). Breathe deep and dive in.

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