Thursday, January 14, 2010

TFL#6 The Staff Meal - Lasagna

Never having worked in a restaurant, all I know about the Staff Meal or Family Meal as it's sometimes called is that it is prepared for the crew and shared together before service begins. The idea is to make use of any excess ingredients in a creative and hopefully delicious way. To be honest, this is what American households used to do..before convenience foods and rows upon rows of prepared,  prepackaged items. But the difference I would guess is that instead of perhaps one finicky teenager, the person preparing Staff Meal has a room full of co-workers knowledgeable and discerning about food. Yikes! Scary.  As an aside, I'd like to comment that 99.9% of the people who work in the hospitality industry, especially in restaurants, and closest to my heart, especially cooks, are not compensated anywhere NEAR the level that they contribute. Most of them do this out of passion for food, they work very long hours, and devote more creative energy to their jobs in one year than I will in a lifetime. SO, three big cheers to those who feed us! Special shout outs to my gaming friends Nerubius, Lydmius, Gullah and Corneliu as well as Tomas Lee a local chef to whom I have loosely related familial ties.

Seeing as the spirit of this recipe is about using up what you have, I have taken a liberty in this one by adding mushrooms that are not called for in TFL. I had crimini mushrooms from the Yabba Dabba Do that got replaced with some nice looking oyster mushrooms when someone (who shall remain nameless) got cilantro instead of italian parsley and I had to go to the store.

First the sauce:

It's the dead of winter so while the recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, I had to use canned, which actually, these days, the good brands are almost as good as fresh for cooking. We also have tomato paste, minced garlic, diced onion and olive oil.

Sautee the onions and garlic in the olive oil about 3-4 minutes, then add tomato paste, stirring to incorporate. The oil will turn a vivid orange.

Let that simmer about 10 minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes (or canned in my case). And then let that cook for 2 hours, stirring every ten minutes or so. I must have had the heat too low because mine took way longer than that. You want to end up with a thick, chunky sauce about a quart in quantity. Once cooked down, let it cool to room temperature and added chopped oregano. I also added salt and pepper to taste.
This can be done either in the oven for 3-4 hours or on the stovetop for 1-2. The stove top requires stirring to prevent scorching, the oven method requires you to use high school math and visual engineering skills to make a parchment lid for your pot.  Needless to say, I chose the stovetop. Stirring is easier than math any day.

For the filling:


 3 eggs, chopped parsley, whole milk ricotta, salt and pepper, grated fresh mozzarella and lasagna noodles. (This was another Sallyism, TFL calls for the boilable kind, we had the nonboilable kind on hand). And as you can see, my sauteed mushrooms are there as well. Mix the eggs, ricotta, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. Season the grated mozzarella with salt and pepper to taste

You know the drill, sauce, noodles, ricotta, repeat until the top where you add the mozzarella. I added the mushrooms somewhere in the middle. It was a nice addition I thought, giving some meaty texture. This was so much easier than some other lasagna recipes I've tried. Once I tried Tyler Florence's Ultimate Lasagna which I saw on his Food Network show. The ingredients and prep were all great, it was the assembly that was so vexing. He actually had me believing that I could make wet noodles stand up on the sides of the dish. I tried for at least 40 minutes and finally gave up. Wet noodles stand? Must take a stylist with magical sexy powers....

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so until the top is bubbly and the edges golden brown.  I am calling in the neighbors on this one, we will barely make a dent.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy Birthday to you-know-who on Friday! I love you very much and wish I could make you a Birthday Dinner...remember when Mom did that for us? I always chose breakfast with real butter on toast... not much has changed in 40 years.

I'll be posting some home "Staff Meals" with the leftovers from our Yabba-Dabba-Do !

See you soon.


  1. Well,
    We are some of the lucky neighbors who received this amazing lasagna. After a very long workweek, it was so incredible to pop it into the oven to reheat and sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. Absolutely delicious! The addition of the crimini mushrooms was genius! The flavors were wonderful, and now after seeing all the prep and tender care it took, I can understand why. Many, many thanks to Sally! May the journey continue. :)

  2. lasagna without meat no thanks lol jk.