Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna (Gluten Free Version Included)

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.) 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna

Time for a quickie. Of course, this is only a quick one IF you happen to have leftover barbacoa and roasted butternut squash on hand...and I did. 

Looking for something to do with next week's turkey? Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna might be just the recipe you need. Leftover fajita fixings? Or taco meat? Yup. This is for you!

Instead of lasagna noodles, I used flour tortillas. In my case, gluten free wraps performed the duties of flour tortillas to perfection. No difference whatsoever! 

Layer up tortillas, smoky salsa, sweet roasted butternut squash, earthy spinach, salty queso fresco and savory, beefy, barbocoa (or leftover protein of your choice), bake, and there's one easy, colorful, and delicious dinner on the table in a snap. 

(Don't have a barbacoa recipe? Here's mine from a little while back. You're welcome! Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies For Tacos, Frito Pie And Especially For Chris)

Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna

  • 6-8 appox. 8" diameter flour tortillas - I used Toufayan Gluten Free Wraps to make this GF
  • 1 C smoky, chunky salsa - I used Jardine's Campfire Salsa
  • 2 C roasted butternut squash
  • 10 oz package o frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz queso fresco, crumbled - feta makes a perfectly wonderful substitution!
  • 1 1/2 C leftover barbacoa - if you use leftover turkey or another unseasoned meat, mix in a half packet of taco seasoning for some oomph!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread a little salsa in the bottom of a shallow gratin dish - I used maybe a 9"-10" X 6"-7" oval casserole dish...yep, the Corning Ware French White large dish we all have tucked away somewhere. 

From here we're making layers of ingredients - like a lasagna. The tortillas won't fit, so tear them as you go to fit in a single layer. Next slather on 1/3 of the salsa, scatter  1/2 the barbacoa, then 1/3 of the squash, 1/3 of the spinach, 1/3 of the queso fresco, then repeat the same layers. The last layer doesn't use barcacoa, but otherwise is the same.

This is how it looks before going into the oven. Colorful!

Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes then cut into squares and serve!  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding With Spiced Streusel

Waste not, want not it is said. When it comes to an ingredient that's fairly (to me) expensive, waste is not an option! Silly me, I thought an available-everywhere-this-time-of-year sugar pumpkin would be a reasonably priced ingredient. Not so. Am I the only one that thinks $12 for a small pumpkin is over the top? The good thing is that once purchased (yes, of course I bought one!), I had a lot of it to work with. 

You may remember the Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo I shared with you about a month ago. Since I'd only used half of the roasted pumpkin flesh in the soup, I first made this recipe with part of what was left and froze the rest of the pumpkin. My frugal pumpkin bread pudding hit the spot and I filed the recipe away to use the rest of the pumpkin another day.

You know how sometimes an idea seems to percolate behind the scenes in your brain (is that only me?) until it seems to pop into the forefront of your mind fully formed? That's what happened. Apparently my subconscious was working in the background on pumpkin bread pudding possibilities. It must have gone something like this, "If roasted pumpkin in a bread pudding is completely wonderful, wouldn't toasted pecans make it even better?  Wouldn't streusel send it completely over the top?" I listened to that inner recipe voice and then totally gilded THAT lily with ice cream nestled cheek to cheek with the bread pudding. Nirvana.

If you want to make it really easy, feel free to use butternut squash in place of pumpkin and roast would be less expensive than a fresh pumpkin, for sure. Or maybe you'd prefer it with roasted apples or pears. Those would work beautifully, too.

Looking for a homey Thanksgiving dessert? You may just have found it right here. 

Roasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding 
With Spiced Streusel

  • 2-3 C roasted pumpkin cubes, cooled (spray pumpkin cubes with coconut oil and roast on a baking sheet at 425 degrees until the pumpkin is caramelized and soft)
  • 5-6 C stale bread, cubed (I use the crust and all) - challah or a sturdy bread work nicely (I use Whole Foods Gluten Free Light White bread to make this GF)
  • 2/3 C toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 3/4 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1/4 C demerara sugar (or light brown sugar if you can't find the demerara - Giant Eagle carries it)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 t pumpkin spice
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3 T dark rum

  • 1/3 C toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 1/3 C dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 C flour (I used gluten free flour to make this GF)
  • 1/4 C oats (I used certified gluten free oats to make this GF)
  • 1 t pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 3 T melted butter
Mix all the streusel ingredients together until all is wet and crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes and melted butter. Fold in roasted pumpkin and pecans and gently combine.

In a separate bowl, beat well the cream, buttermilk, eggs, sugar, salt, rum, pumpkin spice and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread mixture and gently combine.

Pour the mixture into an UNGREASED 9" X 5" loaf pan or 8" X 8" square pan - both with high sides. Sprinkle the streusel over the top evenly.

I used a loaf pan and baked mine for an hour and 15 minutes. If you use a square pan, the time may be less. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or wooden pick into the center and when it comes out clean, that's it!

Serve with ice cream. YUM!

Hot from the oven!