Recipe: porcini mushroom lasagne
We have somehow worm-holed into autumn this week because the weather turned cool, windy, and stormy in the mountains. I rather like it. I mean, I LOVE IT! But I know summer will return this weekend just in time for the Labor Day holiday. I suppose that is a good thing. Actually, it has all been very good. Rains this late in summer mean that our wildflowers at the highest elevations continue to crank out their colors. Combined with good sun exposure, it also brings the huckleberries! Erin and I discovered the MOTHERLODE on a hike and picked beautiful, fat, dark purple, ripe huckleberries for hours through rain, sun, more rain, and more sun. The mountain streams look healthy and full (as opposed to dangerously full or sadly low) and the risk for wildfires reduces with all of this lovely moisture. Most of all, we get some beautiful moments from the volatile weather.
sunrise double rainbow from my deck!
bull moose chillaxing in the willows (he’s lying down – he’s huge when standing up!)
two of my favorite hiking buddies: erin and banjo
my favoritest hiking pal: jeremy (and stormy weather on the divide)
star gentian in full bloom streamside
In addition to all of this mountain goodness, we recently found porcini. Typically I would expect them to be wormed out and mushy this late in the season, but porcini like the rain. Actually, they like a combination of different things: rain, humidity, the right soil, sun… Given a choice, I choose huckleberries over porcini. But if the porcini (porcino means piglet in Italian) are recently flushed and solid, the worms are less likely to have begun their buffet and the stipes will be solid and crisp like a raw potato. In my mind, those are perfect little piggy gems.
many perfect piggy gems
I absolutely love finding porcini. It is such a thrill and a rush akin to an adult Easter egg hunt – but way the hell better! Yet I am not unlike the way Kaweah was with squirrels. Once she caught one (she caught plenty in her youth) she didn’t know what to do with it. For me, the hunt is the best part. I don’t particularly love cleaning them, which is why I always seem to give some away. But this time I only gave a few away. The rest I kept for making some new recipes to share. I always thought a porcini lasagne would be a lovely dish to try. This pretty much works with any mushroom you can get at the store, but the porcini are especially meaty with a beautifully delicate earthy flavor.
lasagne noodles, parsley, sage, thyme, prosciutto, parmesan, asiago, olive oil, flour, onion, garlic, white pepper, salt, butter, black pepper, milk, porcini (not pictured: nutmeg)
clean the porcini with a mushroom brush or damp paper towel – don’t wash them in water!
slice about 3/8-inch thick
To prepare porcini, it’s best to use a mushroom brush or damp paper towel to remove any dirt and debris from the surfaces. I don’t like to wash mushrooms of any kind in water because they absorb the water, get slimy, and don’t cook properly. For the love of all things good and natural, please don’t wash porcini. If you’re lucky, the mushrooms will be free of the little white worms (freeloaders). If you managed to bring dinner guests home with you, just cut them out with a knife or leave them in for extra protein. I prefer to cut them out.
everything chopped, minced, sliced, diced, or otherwise prepared
The worst thing you could do when preparing a dish with porcini is to pair them with other ingredients that overpower or mask the delicate flavor. I feel this way because it is a lot of work to hike up in the mountains and spend hours (days?!) searching for these precious piglets only to carry them home (they get heavy when you find a lot) and cook them in a recipe where you can’t taste that they are there. Dried porcini are another beast as they have such a strong concentrated flavor. So I gravitated toward this white lasagne because I knew it would highlight rather than drown out the mushrooms.
make the béchamel: stir flour into melted butter
whisk in warm milk
add the parsley, garlic, white pepper, salt, nutmeg
stir in the prosciutto (optional, but hella good)
The original recipe starts with a nice béchamel sauce, but in my research I found another porcini lasagne that had prosciutto in the sauce. That stuck with me, because I love prosciutto and I think porcini and prosciutto are good friends. It adds a nice punch of salty and delicious funk that goes hand in hand with the mushrooms. Leave it out if you want a vegetarian version. The filling showcases the mushrooms with a few supporting actors: herbs, seasonings, onions.
make the filling: sauté onions in olive oil
sauté the porcini
stir the onions, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper into the mushrooms
mix the asiago and parmesan together
Now the fun part – assembly! I love assembling because it feels a little like an engineering project. The noodles I used were an odd dimension that didn’t really jive with my 9×13-inch baking pan. Essentially, the noodles didn’t cover the entire dish such that the gaps were filled with the béchamel sauce. It was fine, but if I ever make this again I will use different noodles or a different pan to ensure a good fit. Construction of the lasagne follows the standard noodle-sauce-filling-cheese stratification. Also, I par-cooked my lasagne noodles allowing for more cooking time in the oven. Some folks don’t cook theirs at all and others cook them all the way through. Mine boiled for 4 minutes so they were pliable, but not too soft.
mushroom filling, par-cooked noodles, cheese, béchamel
layer mushrooms over the sauce
sprinkle some cheese
When you are done layering, top it all off with a last layer of lasagne noodles. Pour the remaining béchamel over the lasagne. If your pan is quite full, don’t overfill it with the sauce or just make sure there is foil or a baking sheet under the pan in the oven to catch drips. It does bubble up when baking. Spread the rest of the cheese over the whole enchilada – er… lasagne. It’s ready for the oven!
ladling the rest of the béchamel over the lasagne
use up the rest of the cheese
bake until golden
The smell of the house as this lasagne baked was pure torture. It was gorgeous, golden, and bubbling as I took it out of the oven. Jeremy hovered about it with anticipation after a long day at work. I sliced the porcini rather thick because I wanted that substantial meaty bite of mushroom in my lasagne, and I got it. The creamy sauce and cheeses were a perfect accompaniment to the porcini. Garnished with some fresh sage fried in butter and a little slice of bouchon browned in butter and we were good to go!
from mountain to table
Porcini Mushroom Lasagne
from Fat of the Land
12 lasagne noodles, boiled and drained
4 cups milk
8 tbsps butter
6 tbsps flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper, ground
1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
3 oz. prosciutto, finely chopped (optional, but good!)
3 tbsps olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 lbs. fresh porcini (or other) mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Make the béchamel sauce: Bring the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan, remove from heat and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it is incorporated. Continue to whisk until the mixture darkens slightly. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the flour mixture. It will bubble at first, but it will settle down. Whisk over medium heat until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the garlic, parsley, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and prosciutto (optional). Cover the béchamel sauce and set it aside. The sauce can be made a day ahead of time.
Make the filling: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent. Remove the onions to a bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until they are golden and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked onions, thyme, and sage and let cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Assemble and bake the lasagne: Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the Parmesan and Asiago cheeses in a bowl. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spoon about 3 tablepoons of the béchamel sauce into the baking dish. Place one layer of lasagne noodles in the baking pan to cover as much of the pan area as possible. Ladle 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce over the noodles. Layer a third of the mushroom filling over the sauce and top the mushrooms with 1/3 cup of the grated cheese mixture. Repeat the process twice more starting with the noodle layer. Finish the lasagne with one last layer of noodles. Top the noodles with the remaining béchamel sauce and then sprinkle the rest of the cheeses over the sauce. Bake 45 minutes until the lasagne is lightly browned around the edges. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.
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