There is nothing quite like sitting around on a lazy afternoon, drinking bourbon and smoking cheese with a really good friend. Wait. That doesn't sound quite right. We didn't actually light up any cheese, we simply put it into the smoker and watched it like hawks whilst sipping some excellent Kentucky distilled spirits. That's better.
My dear friend Marti, from Maryland, had attempted smoking cheese many years ago and ended up with loads of melted cheese. Keep in mind, she and Mike gave cheese smoking a whirl in the 70's...long before smokers became more sophisticated and home-smoker-friendly...they were so ahead of their time!
Marti and I discussed plans, fine tuned them, adjusted them mid-smoking and actually accomplished our mission. Lovely, smoky, NON-melted sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese eventually emerged from the MasterBuilt...well, with just a bit of fiddling around to maintain a low enough temp to avoid a cheesy meltdown.
|Finished Product ready to be wrapped and aged for a few weeks...if we can wait that long!|
Having a win under our belts with our smoky mission, we wrapped our treasures securely and waited a couple of weeks for proper aging. Okay, except for a few weak moments of "quality control testing."
Besides adorning crackers with our home smoked cheese or arranging it among salume and pickled veggies on a charcuterie board, what else? Mozzarella and lasagna were MADE for one another, right? Right. But wouldn't a red sauce overwhelm delicate, smoky sweet mozzarella? White lasagna it would be. I really wanted the smokiness to shine, so I went with a bechamel based lasagna instead of a ricotta base to emphasize the mozzarella. So far, so good.
If smoky lasagna is good, wouldn't a double smoked pasta dish be even better? Thus the smoker was fired up once again with BIG portobello mushrooms luxuriating in the smoky interior.
|Portobellos fresh from the smoker.|
Then to assemble the dish and invite a few friends over to sample the result. (What a shame Marti was long ago back in Maryland and couldn't join Jenn, Michael and me.) And? Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna turned out to be...sublimely, richly, decadently so...a pasta dish to be reckoned with. And repeated for the most discerning of guests.
Here is my recipe for the lasagna. Buy smoked mozzarella if you don't want to smoke it yourself or don't have access to a smoker. The same goes for the portobellos. If you don't have access to a smoker, cook them along with the rest of the mushrooms. It will still be an excellent lasagna!
Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna
(Gluten Free Version Included)
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T butter
- 4 LARGE whole smoked portobello mushrooms, sliced - (if you don't smoke them, slice and saute with the rest of the mushrooms)
- 10 oz baby bellos or other brown mushrooms, sliced
- 8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves black fermented garlic (I get mine at Trader Joe's), smashed with the flat of a knife and pressed to a paste
- 1/2 C dry white wine
- 1 C chicken broth
- 1 1/2 C whole milk
- 1 1/2 C heavy cream (nobody said this was a diet dish!)
- 8 T butter (ditto the above comment)
- 1/2 C flour (gluten free flour to make this GF)
- 1 C freshly grated parmesan - the GOOD stuff!
- nutmeg, a little of a freshly grated whole nutmeg or a smidge of the jarred stuff
- 1/2 lb smoked mozzarella, shredded
- a box of lasagna noodles (gluten free to make this GF)
Heat olive oil and 1 T butter in a large skillet. Add the baby bellas and shitake mushrooms along with black garlic. Stir and let the black garlic paste incorporate into the mushrooms and liquid in the pan. Once the mushrooms are cooked down and the liquid begins to disappear (NOT dry out), add the sliced smoked portobellos and stir well. Then add the wine and let the mixture simmer until the mushrooms are still moist, but the liquid is nearly gone. All the buttery, wine-y, garlicky goodness will be absorbed by those gorgeous mushrooms! Set aside.
|This is how the sauteed and wine-d mushrooms will look when they're done.|
In a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium, heat. Stir in flour and continue stirring until completely incorporated and smooth. Cook another minute or two, then slowly add milk - stirring constantly. Next add the cream, again stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, then add nutmeg and stir well. This is your bechamel; set aside.
Toss the shredded mozzarella and grated parm together in medium bowl. Set aside.
While you're doing all the above, cook the lasagna noodles in a big pot of well salted boiling water until al dente. When done, drain in a colander and separate the noodles. You're ready to assemble.
In a lasagna pan, ladle a little bechamel in a thin layer on the bottom. Add a layer of noodles, a third of the bechamel, half the mushrooms, a third of the cheese mixture; repeat this layer. For the last layer, just do a layer of noodles, the last of the bechamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.
Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350; uncover and bake another 20 minutes until browned and bubbly. Let stand 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving. (It will hold together nicely that way instead of sliding apart.)