pork



baked-lasagne 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.

Ever since I got my pasta machine for my birthday, I have been wanting to make lasagne. And look… here it is as a Daring Baker’s challenge!  I was very excited.  Now, TB doesn’t much care for lasagne.  Mainly because he isn’t a lover of ricotta cheese or cream sauces for the most part.  What appealed to me with this recipe is the spinach pasta!  I have only ever made plain pasta, and have been waiting to venture into the flavoured variety.   And the efforts have paid off… he said, and I quote “this is the best lasagne I have ever had.”

While the recipe below is extensive and a little daunting, don’t despair, you can make it over a few different days.    I made the ragu sauce the evening before, the bechemel sauce and pasta the morning of the day I baked the lasange…and then it was just to throw it together.  Yum!  Imagine the rich, sweet, tangy flavours all melding together.

I have a few pieces of feedback for this recipe:

1. I felt the ragu sauce needed a little more of a tomato kick, so I added about half a can of tomato sauce.

2. The pasta needed more moisture, I ended up using large eggs, not jumbo, so I used three of those and about a quarter cup of water.

3. The Bechamel sauce was fabulous.  Probably one of the best I have made…

…all in all…perfect for a rainy wet Spring night!  And here it is…before it went into the oven:

lasagne-not-baked

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)

(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu  and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if  it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

All recipes below from The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rossetto Kasper (published by William Morrow and Company Inc., 1992).

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For the last two weeks we have been sick, sick sick. We have had no interest in doing anything, food was one of the last things we cared about. Neither of us are a hundred percent, but slowly I have been getting back into the kitchen. Though I wasn’t in the mood to cook, didn’t mean that I wasn’t thinking about food. In an effort to not go stir crazy in the house I decided to get all my old food magazine’s in order. Over the years I pick up a magazine now and then and flag recipes I want to make. Not that I have any shortages of recipes given this wonderful world wide web and all those foodies out there, but I still like to flip through a magazine once in a while.

A colleague of mine showed me what she did with the random recipes she has. She basically glues them into a notebook and creates a table of contents from the back of the book on. I liked this idea… scrapbooking for food. You can write your own notes around it, and just have one place to keep everything…AND it means I cleared out over 20 magazines!

As I was “scrapbooking” I came across recipes I had forgotten about…this was one of them. And as it turns out, our Valentine’s day dinner. We’ll go out for a nice dinner out, just the two of us when we go on our ski trip in a few weeks, that way we miss all the mayhem of trying to “celebrate love” on the night when everyone else is doing it too!

These were good. Simple and good (as long as you like pork chops ;)). I served them with a simple spinach salad and garlic mashed potatoes...purple garlic mashed potatoes...not very appetizing to look at, but tasty non the less.

pork-chip

Ingredients:
4 pork chops, bone in
salt and pepper

1 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 green onions
4 garlic cloves
1-2 hot peppers, I used Serranos
2 TB coarsley chopped ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp all spice
1/2 TB dried thyme
2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 cut into wedges

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broiler on,  place a rack at the top placement
  2. Place a roasting rack or cookie rack on a pan with rims (to catch all the juices)
  3. Season each chop with salt and pepper
  4. In a food processors combine: oil, green onions, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, thyme, all spice, hot peppers and lime juice.  Puree.
  5. Coat each chop on all sides with the jerk rub.
  6. Place on rack under broiler.  Broil 7 minutes on each side, should reach internal temp of about 145F – should be lightly browned.

    You could also BBQ these…I think that is what we would do next time.


Pete eats out for lunch a lot. Once in a while he hits up a little specialty sandwich deli in Gastown, Social at Le Magasin (the Butershop side). The sandwiches are meals. Fresh crusty breads, delicious meats and cheeses, home made chips while you wait for your personal sandwich to be made. These sandwiches aren’t dainty either. They are substantial. Often leftovers from lunch come home with him to be snacks in the evenings.

One Friday i had off, I met him for lunch and we went there. The choices were numerous. I settled on a spicy capicolla sandwich, small, which I still didn’t eat the whole thing. Can’t remember what Pete had, but as we waited for our food to be ready, he was running down the list of sandwiches he likes off their menu. The schnitzel sandwich caught my eye. And thus inspired this post. The only thing I would change might be the bread. I just used what we had on hand. But a crusty French or even a ciabatta would really compliment this I think.

pork-schnitzel-sandwich

Ingredients:

5 oz pork loin
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
salt
pepper
2 cloves garlic
Italian seasoning
3 tbsp olive oil
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices bread
1 tomato, sliced
10 slices cucumbers
4 leaves lettuce
2 tbsp chopped hot canned peppers
spicy bold mustard

Directions:

  1. Divide the pork into 2 equal size medallions, cut away all visible fat
  2. Pound out the pork to a 1/4 cm thick (window pane test)
  3. Combine flour, a pinch of salt and pepper, Italian seasoning and diced up garlic.
  4. Crack egg into shallow bowl, whisk.
  5. Heat up olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet.
  6. Take each pork piece, dip in egg wash, then into the flour, coat.
  7. Add to hot oil, allow to cook on each side for about 4 minutes. Check for browned crispy outer case. Check for doneness by cutting into meat.
  8. Compile sandwich however you like with remaining ingredients. Enjoy!

Makes 2 sandwiches


We are on a bit of a pork kick this week because I bought a pork loin that was far too big for two people, so four different pork meals I am sure are in the works

Tonight’s dinner was not only a breeze, but timing was cinch. I love when everything comes together at the right time, easily. Spicy green beans, wild rice and this pork loin. Simple and tasty. I was a little hesitant about BBQ’ing the pork. I was worried about drying it out. But just using the meat thermometer it was easy to pull once the pork reached the 180 degrees, and it was so moist!

pork-loin-2

Ingredients:

20 oz lean centre pork loin
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup honey
juice from one lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp grated ginger root
4 garlic cloves, mined
1/2 can dry apple cider
1tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tbsp AP flour
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cut pork into two 10 oz steaks.
  2. In a ziploc bag combine the honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, apple cider, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Massage together.
  3. Add pork to baggie. Massage marinade into pork. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Come back and massage again, and rotate. Leave fo another 20 minutes.
  4. Heat BBQ to about 250 degrees (low). Remove pork from baggie and place on grill. Reserve marinade.
  5. Grill meat for approximately 30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes or so.
  6. Allow to rest for 5-7 minutes.
  7. While meat is resting, heat up remaining marinade in a small saucepan. Let come to a low simmer, because the liquid is partially carbonated, you may want to whisk out the carbonation.
  8. Whisk together flour and water. Add to simmering marinade. Allow to thicken. Remove from heat and place aside.
  9. Slice rested meet, and serve with a scoop of the sauce atop.

3 slices per serving, serves 4-5