I've been thinking a lot recently about the 'shortcuts' that real life requires (or demands) you take. "Real life" in this usage means my everyday reality where I have a job and not the reality where I am a world famous food blogger read by millions (dozens even) of people hanging on my every word culinary bon mot.
Is it our human nature to look for shortcuts wherever we can find them? Is the desire for shortcuts some sort of evolutionary imperative that has allowed us to thrive as a species?
If so it isn't a universal desire. Just as some pick up the fork with the left hand, I know of some people who will do anything to avoid them . They feel others will look on them as 'lazy', or feel they will 'lose out on the experience of accomplishment'. Blah blah blah! Others think it is just a demonstration of intelligence to discover short cuts.
I seem to simmer in the middle on this non controversy.
A short cut pragmatist. That's me. Sometimes they are a valuable coping mechanism and sometimes they just deprive me of opportunity and experience. But when to take?
Aimlessly wandering tonight through the supermarket I came face-to-face with that damned roasted chicken display. Holy culinary dilemma Batman! These salty birds are cheap, tasty, and they do get the job done but I used to take them home way too often. Nowadays I know that they can't hold a candle to the home roasted variety but I still buy one in a pinch. (It is just a little bit better than scrambling up some eggs or a basque potato tortilla
To mitigate my guilt I now try to think of this ready-roasted chicken as more as an 'ingredient' than as the main course itself. Think Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad and Roasted Chicken Tacos, etc. You get the idea.
This lasagna however takes the roasted chicken as ingredient to an different level free from guilt. These store-bought roasted chickens with their spices brined in actually work well here . You can go ahead and roast your own chicken for this dish but frankly, it won’t be as good. And calling for a package of pre-sliced mushrooms and no-cook lasagna noodles this recipe is a shortcut takers nirvana.
The recipe inpsiration comes compliments of my Wicked Stepmother. I took a picture of her magazine clipping with my phone but now I can't properly attribute beyond her recipe file.
She served it to me a few months ago and when I asked her if she had made any changes to the recipe as printed she coyly revealed that indeed she had. She "doubled the cheese, the chicken, the noodles, the mushrooms, and the wine and put it in a larger dish." Got that?
I on the other hand, used the original proportions and laid out the lasagna into two smaller baking dishes so I could freeze one for later. The ultimate shortcut.
Cheesy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagna
- 1 10 oz package of white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 T olive oil
- 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 dry white wine
- 1 or 1/2 roast chicken, depending on size. (You will need at least 2 cups of meat.)
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup all- purpose flour
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 3/4 grated parmigiana-reggiano cheese
- 12 no boil egg lasagna noodles
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
2) Pour yourself a glass of wine and cook mushrooms, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 4 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are softened. Add wine and simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in the chicken.
3) Bring milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in another medium saucepan. Add flour and cook roux by whisking constantly for three minutes to cook out floury taste. Add the hot milk in a quick stream while continuing to whisk. Add in thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, whisking until mixture is thickened. (5-6 minutes.) Remove from heat and reserve one cup sauce. Stir in Parmesan to remaining mixture, then stir mixture into mushroom and chicken filling.
4) Check your wine glass. Are you ok? Then, spread half of reserved plain sauce in 8 inch square baking pan. Add 3 lasagna sheets overlapping slightly. Add 1/3 of mushroom filling, spreading evenly across the pan. Then sprinkle 1/4 of Gruyere over the top. Repeat 2 times then spread the plain sauce over the last layer and then finish with the last grated Gruyere.
5) Cover with foil being careful to tent the foil so it does not make contact with the top of the lasagna. Bake for 30 minutes. Have a glass of wine with your spouse. Ask him to set the table if he has not already done so. After 30 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or more until top is golden. Have another glass of wine while you let the lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with wine.