October 13, 2014

Mushroom and Leek Lasagna

Mushrooms and Leeks


"Wild is the music of autumnal winds
Amongst the faded woods."
~William Wordsworth


Mushrooms and leeks are essential, but often overlooked, fall flavors. There is something about mushrooms, with their woodsy, earthiness that just seems to taste like fall. To be clear, I’m not talking about the bright, cheerful aspect of fall in all of its orange and gold flamboyancy. For me, mushrooms make me think of something more dark, mysterious and wild, like a fall day in a dark forest.

They are most plentiful at end of the harvest season, in the space between the delight of Indian summer, and the merriment of the winter holidays. In my mind, mushrooms conjure an image of days long ago – thatched cottages and chimney smoke, homemade mead and bonfires to ward off the darkness of the long nights ahead.

Although, many wild mushrooms are plentiful in the fall (with the exception of morels), I am not one of those fearless souls who is able to forage for their own wild mushrooms. I was originally trained as a biologist, but my skills are dearly lacking in the mushroom identification department, so for now, I stick to store-bought mushrooms.

In this recipe I used regular cultivated baby bellas that I got on sale for $.99 for an 8-ounce package. I’ve seen many great sales on mushrooms lately, so it should be easy right now to pick them up for a good price. Use any kind of mushrooms you like – baby bellas, white button, creminis, shiitakes, or even a mix would be lovely. In this lasagna recipe, I’ve paired the mushrooms with the sweet, mild flavors of leeks and a little bit of deeply-aromatic thyme.

Mushroom and Leek Lasagna


Recipe
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter, divided
24 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and sliced*
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of nutmeg
8 ounces mozzarella (or other mild cheese), shredded
12 lasagna noodles, boiled but slightly undercooked
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes, or until they start to cook down release some of their juices. Add the chopped leeks and garlic, and sauté for another 5 minutes. You want to allow the liquid from the mushrooms and leeks to reduce down until there is about 1 tablespoon left in the pan. Season with the thyme and a big pinch of salt and pepper.

3. In a bowl or big measuring cup, whisk the flour into the milk to form a slurry. Make sure to whisk thoroughly to remove any clumps of flour.

4. Melt remaining butter to the pan of mushrooms and leeks, and then slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring to a boil while stirring, until the sauce is thickened. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of nutmeg, some ground black or white pepper, and a generous amount of salt. You will need to add at least 2 teaspoons of salt, or the lasagna will turn out bland (I used 1 tablespoon of kosher salt). Taste the sauce and make it a little more salty than you think it should be, because the noodles will tone down a lot of the saltiness.

5. Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and spread a small amount of the sauce over the bottom. Lay 3 noodles in the bottom of the dish, then ladle ¼ of the remaining sauce on top of the noodles. Spread the sauce over the noodles, then sprinkle with ¼ of the shredded cheese. Do this 3 more times, creating a total of 4 layers of noodles, sauce and cheese.

6. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving

*Thrifty Tip: Save and freeze your unused mushrooms stems for flavoring soups and stocks. 

Shared at Buns in My Oven - What's Cooking Wednesday

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