Cast Iron Lasagna

Told you I was gonna do it.

Cast Iron Lasagna

Can of Tomatoes (14oz)
1/2 Onion
Tomato Paste
1lb Ground Beef+
Lasagna Noodles
Parmesan Cheese
Mozzarella (shredded)

Let's start with the WHY?

Why use cast iron for this sorta thing when virtually any other pan all do? Well . . . two insanely important reasons. First, this particular pan was a christmas gift and I have vowed to make it as central part of my kitchen as my chef knife. Two, a lot of people think that cast iron is good because it heats evenly, but they're like stupid and wrong. What actually makes cast iron good is the heat radiation. See a normal pan (or pyrex dish) heats what it is directly in contact with. Think of it like layers (lasagna anyone?) The dish heats the first layer, the first layer heats the second and so on. That' why you get an over cooked bottom and an undercooked top.

Cast iron, however, radiates heat a good inch or two above the surface, cooking the middle and top along with the bottom. Perfect for, oh I don't know, everything.

Alright then:

The Meat:
Lots of recipes call for sausage. Yeah that's good too. Can't go wrong there. But I prefer simple ground beef because it doesn't override the flavor of a simple sauce. I put ground beef+ because you will probably want to add some other meat source for depth (In this dish my wife added some chopped salami, but just a dash, you can also add some ham or turkey or chicken leftovers, no tuna). Fry up the meat, chopping it into little bits, drain the fat and set aside (Pro Tip: Do not drain the fat down any sink, that's death. Instead make a small little bowl out of some tin foil, pour the fat oil into the bowl, wait for it to solidify and toss in the trash. Or set it outside for the bob cats.)

The Sauce:
There are millions of ways to make the sauce. (The simpler the better, just saying). Canned tomatoes work best. If you don't have my mother-in-law (who makes her own every summer), then you'll have to go to the store and get one. DO NOT EVER purchase pre-made sauce. It's nasty and so full of sugar you'll wonder why Starbucks hasn't made it a flavor yet. I know it seems weird to get picky about health in a recipe with so much cheese, but this isn't Nam. There are rules.

Anyway, chop the onion into little bits, chop the carrot into little bits, open the tomato can and throw everything into a blender (or food processor if you're the kind of person who gets greeted by her first name at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) Blend until smoothish. Now, you don't have to blend it all up, especially if you, like me, like 'em a bit chunky, but my son won't eat anything if he thinks it's touched an onion (cause he's effing crazy), so my wife just blends it all up and he is none the wiser. Blend and then heat in a sauce pan over medium low for at least 45 minutes, or until its gets thick.

If it's not getting thick, add a few spoonfuls tomato paste, but you don't gotta.

Add the meat to the sauce and simmer while you cook the noodles.

The Noodles:
You can make your own. It's not hard. But it's time consuming. And it's hard. Store bought is just fine. You can pick up the flat ones, or the ones with little ruffles. I like my dishes to look like a prom date, so ruffles it is. Don't go all Whole Foody and buy some wheat/soy concoction. If you have friends that require any kind of gluten free meals, you have the obligation to stop being their friend. Cause how else are they gonna learn? Now you're gonna read the package and the package is going to tell you that the noodles do not need to be precooked. This is a lie. Actually, it's not a lie, the moisture from the sauce is more than capable of cooking the noodles while it's in the oven, but there are two problems. One, noodles swell. Not a lot, but enough that A) it could push you finely crafted cheese over the edge and onto the bottom of your oven, and B) Enough that it makes the dish all about the noodle and not about the cheese. It should be all about the cheese.

But but but, you like the crunchy bits on the ends and corners. Of course you do, everyone does. That'll happen, but instead of being undercooked, the edgy bits will over cook, ooh boy, yum.

So for this recipe, break the noodles in half and boil them until they're soft-ish.

Shred a bunch of cheese until your wife looks over your shoulder and says that's way too much. Shred a little more out of spite.

Preheat your oven to 385.

The Assembly:
Okay . . .  gather your stuff and surround your pan. I like the cheese on the left, the sauce in the back and the noodles on the right. Ladle a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle parmesan, and add a layer of noodles. Then sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, noodles . . . sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, noodles . . . sauce, parmesan, mozzarella and you're good to go.

The last layer of cheese can be slices rather than shredded, gives it that authentic look. Doesn't matter, it all goes in and out of the same set of holes anyway.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for twenty minutes. Or until the cheese on top looks all golden brown.

Remove pan from oven with two oven mitts and a friend. It's hot and it's heavy. Awe yeah.

Let sit on counter for another ten minutes to cool.

Place in the center of the table and hand everyone a glass of wine and a fork.

If you like your sauce chunky, sauté the onions and carrots until they sweat then add the canned tomatoes and munch it up with a spatula. My favorite addition here is chopped bell pepper, but only a little, like a quarter of one, so good, but not everyone likes pepper. You can try fresh mozzarella if you like, but I find that to be all wet and tasteless rather than stringy and salty. I feel the same way about ricotta, but hey, if you want your lasagna bland and damp, feel free to go nuts. And just about any red-meat combination will do. You can even try some crumbled bacon bits, but caution, you should want your meals to be tasty and not necessarily orgasmic.

It's a lot of dish, so accompany it with a light salad, and something bready to scrub the plate clean of sauce.

Eat what you can and then stash the left-overs quickly before your guest hints that they might want to take some home. You're not running an Olive Garden.

Serves 4 (with leftovers)
Calories: Don't even ask
APGAR Score: 7
Immunization Records: On file.

No comments:

Post a Comment