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Porcini Mushroom Lasagna or Treasure in My Mother’s Pantry

I did not grow up liking
mushrooms. They seemed like slimy little creatures and they were brown. They
came in cans and one had to always pick them off of pizza or out of spaghetti
sauce. I DO NOT LIKE THEM said SAM, I AM. Until I had a gorgeous hunk of a
boyfriend. He was very tall and blonde and even my parents liked him. He played
basketball and had great biceps and drove a forest green beetle when he came to
see me. HE liked mushrooms AND they weren’t out of a can. He cooked me
dinner one night. I remember a steak. And I remember butter and mushrooms and
him in his tight little ribbed white t shirt sautéing them at the stove. I
couldn’t not eat them. And so I did. And from then on I had mushroom fever.

I didn’t know mushrooms
came fresh and from then on I think my mother started to serve them many ways. She
sliced them and put them in salads. She grilled them. She sautéed  and stuffed them. But every now and then those
canned mushrooms still made an appearance. As they still do, especially in my
mother’s pantry. It was while visiting this last holiday that I decided I
couldn’t take it any more. It was getting tougher and tougher to find the See’s
candy and the Heath bars and all the varieties of mixed nuts and specialty
popcorns and caramel corns that have been bestowed upon my father as gifts over
the years. Yet somehow my mother managed to hide this treasure in her vast
closet called a pantry.
It was after she sent us
on an errand to find crackers on Christmas Day that I decided I should lend a
hand. They were needed for an hors doeurve that I can’t recall. And so it is I
found myself at Walgreen’s on Christmas Day buying crackers. Only to return and
find at least 6 unopened boxes of crackers that may or may not have had expired
dates from before I was  born. (OK – I’m exxagerating on the dates, but not
the number of boxes.) Now mind you these were the unopened boxes; the others
have now died and gone to cracker heaven. And soon I caught myself rearranging.
I couldn’t help myself.
I put dried soups and
canned soups on the same shelf. I lost track of how many of those there were. But
let it suffice to say that if there is an apocalypse, as long as there is water,
there is enough dried soup to see my parents clear through to kingdom come. It
is good to know they are prepared. I then got to the crackers and shortly
thereafter I hit pasta. My rearranging was causing me to think that there weren’t
enough shelves in this pantry. I didn’t want to be impolite and throw a lot
away but I’m thinking I should have.
I then entered the canned
arena where I found tomato sauce and tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and
whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes. And sundried tomatoes both in the package
and the jar. And then I hit the beans, well I won’t bore you further. But it
was at that point I discovered the mushrooms. Lots and lots of little cans of
tinned mushrooms. Costco is very happy to have my mother as a card holder, I
assure you.
It was at this point while
zeroing in on the shelves I hadn’t yet gotten too that I discovered the real
thing. The giant, at least 454g, of dried Italian porcini mushrooms. They
looked lost sitting next to the flour and the sugar and THE CANDY. So I helped
them out. Out of the pantry that is. They deserved a spot of beauty for they
were uncared for and forgotten. They were starting to crumble and turn to dust.
They needed a home where they were appreciated. It was at that point I asked my
mother where she got these dried, forgotten, specimens of mushrooms. To which
she said with forlorn eyes, “ When we were last in Italy.” And when was that dearest
mother?  “I can’t remember, she replied,
but it was a long time ago.” Well, one thing led to another and I was able to
come home with a zip locked bag of dried porcini mushrooms from Italia.
To which I say to all of you.
Just because they are dried does not mean they last forever. Porcini dust is
not what you want to pay for. You want big, beautiful slices of gorgeous
porcinis to fill your bag. And you get what you pay for. Heavenly, intoxicating
aromas will greet you like an old friend if you buy them correctly. And they
are expensive so you must treat them with dignity and love. Use them, don’t
wait. And if you have friends going to Italy plead with them in that special
Italian way to bring some back for you. And then reward them with this lasagna.
They will be happy and so will you!
And as a footnote. I never
got to discover the rest of my mother’s pantry. I have no doubt that by now it
has returned to its natural state. Which leaves me starting on the shelves I didn’t
get too whenever I return. I’m dreading all the little dried up bags of brown
sugar that are yet to come. And luckily, the spices are not kept in the pantry…

A very decadent dish!
Porcini Mushroom
Lasagna (
Serves
8-10 or 6 hungry people)
1 box of
no boil lasagna noodles
1 stick
unsalted butter
6 T all
purpose flour
3 c milk
heated with 1 bay leaf (I
do this in a 4c measuring cup in the micro. Heat for about two minutes or until
it feels hot to the touch but hasn’t yet boiled.)
Freshly
ground nutmeg
Salt and
fresh round pepper
2 c dried
porcini mushrooms
1 c
chicken broth
1 lb baby
bella mushrooms sliced
6
shallots, peeled and diced
2T extra
virgin olive oil
4 cloves
of garlic minced
1 c white
wine
1 c
gruyere shredded
1 c
fontina shredded
1 ball of
smoked mozzarella shredded
2 T of
truffle oil (That’s
another story, but try to use the good stuff or leave it out.)
¼ c flat
leaf Italian parsley minced
2 t fresh
thyme
1 c
grated parmesan cheese (only
for the top)
Preheat
oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 13 x 9 pan.
Soak your
dried porcinis in 2 cups of hot chicken stock. (I use Better than Bouillion and it comes in a jar.) After they have softened chop them
up and drain them well.
Bechamel Sauce
In a
medium, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and
cook, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk that has
been heated with the bay leaf but remember to remove the bay leaf. Whisk until
smooth. Simmer very slowly for about 10 minutes or until  bit thickened. Season with salt, pepper and
nutmeg. (You need to
trust that fresh nutmeg gives it a little extra pizzaz. I didn’t used to like
it but I think it was because most people insist on using the ground variety.) Reserve 1 ½ c sauce .
Mushrooms
In a
large sauté pan heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic and
shallots until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook
until done. Add the parsley and thyme and use the wine to deglaze your pan. You
can do this again if you want to use up your porcini/stock liquid too. More
flavor there if you like. Season with salt and pepper.
Now stir
these mushrooms and the porcinis into the larger portion of your béchamel. Also
stir in ¼ c of the fontina, gruyere and mozzarella. Add the truffle oil if you
are using it.
Assembly
Run each sheet of no boil lasagna under hot water. It doesn’t say
to do this but I think they cook better. Make sure they are dry.
Pour 1 c of béchamel on the bottom of the pan. Now a layer of
pasta. Now some of the mushrooms/béchamel sauce. Add a little of the cheeses. Now
more pasta, more sauce, more cheese. Do this until you’ re out of mushrooms. I
got three layers. Finish with a layer of pasta and cover with the remaining béchamel.
Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden
brown.
DO NOT EVEN THINK OF
USING CANNED MUSHROOMS!

Mangia!



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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Kitchen Riffs
    February 21, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Seriously – I had forgotten canned mushrooms existed until you wrote about them! But when I was growing up, that was the only mushroom I ever saw. I didn't hate them, but they weren't my favorite. Funny story about your mother's pantry. And great recipe! I make a tomato-based mushroom lasagna that always includes fresh mushrooms and often dried porcini. I like your bechamel version – sounds delish. Good stuff – thanks.

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 21, 2013 at 4:21 am

    I still ask at pizza places whether the mushrooms are fresh! It is a good recipe and yours sounds good, too! My mother's pantry saga-I'm sure will continue!

  • Reply
    Meirav
    February 21, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Ori loves lasagna, but I think she doesn't like mushrooms (Although I use only fresh mushrooms). The bechamel sauce with the bay leaf is a great idea, I will try it next time.

  • Reply
    Angie's Recipes
    February 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I am too a fan of mushrooms. The lasagna must be very tasty!

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    If you like mushrooms you will like this! Guaranteed!

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    The bay leaf steeping in the milk is a good idea. It infuses a little bit of extra flavor! Glad you are back, Meirav!

  • Reply
    Meirav
    February 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    O.k. I made lasgnia today (Ori asked me to make some a few days ago. Are you a mind reader?). I made the bashmal with the bay leaf – she ate 9 servings! (good for her, she is so thin). Thanks Abbe.

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    That's funny Meirav. I hope she doesn't get sick!

  • Reply
    ChgoJohn
    February 21, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    This is a fantastic lasagna! Like you, if I use no-boil pasta, I'll run it under hot water, too. I don't care what the package directions say. They work better this way! The last can of mushrooms I bought was tossed for being beyond the "use by" date. I wonder how long it was on that shelf? 🙂

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Coming from you John, that is a real compliment. And I check the expiration. I found a box of crackers that were from 2009! Guess I better clean my pantry, too!

  • Reply
    Natalie G
    February 22, 2013 at 3:27 am

    I love mushrooms like you wouldn't believe! This is MY kind of lasagna, must try it out ASAP 🙂

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 22, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Then try this! My husband eats steak and I eat this! Thanks for staying in touch!

  • Reply
    Quay Po Cooks
    February 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I love mushroom and mushroom lasagna for me anytime.

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    That's great! You will love it!

  • Reply
    Susan
    February 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    For a very long time, I'm talking up until last year (and I'm 31) and I wouldn't touch a mushroom. My mom even cooked with fresh ones, and I still wouldn't eat them. Don't know what happens, but it's one thing I like about growing older, your palate changes and suddenly things you didn't like suddenly aren't so horrible any more. Kinda like this wonderful lasagna!

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    February 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    So true, Susan. Do you think my palate will ever change when it comes to oysters? Anyway, porcinis have a very unique, rich taste. I think you will love this!

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