Aw Jeez

Man, is it cold. After a freakishly balmy first half of the month, starting last night we were visited by a howling horror of an Arctic chill that sucks your will to live right out of the soles of your inadequate boots and makes you question the moral and philosophical foundations upon which your entire life has been laboriously, diligently, and attentively built.

That’s right, Sarah Palin was in town. She and I had a thing a while back, as you may remember, and she just can’t stay mad at me, goshdarnit.

Also, we made lasagna, also.

Or, as Milo loves to call it, Za-zagna! And much merriment ensues. (Those of you without kids can just go on drinking and rolling your eyes.) We were out and about, going to the doctor for Milo’s appointment- sad, yet funny quote of the day, spoken through tears: “They shouldn’t use needles on skin! Stupid grown-ups!” We also stopped in at Fleisher’s- even though they’re ostensibly closed Wednesdays, I can usually roust someone to hook me up- and I grabbed some of their wonderful pasture-raised ground veal. On the way home, I dashed into a store to grab a couple of other essentials and we were in business.

And thus did tonight’s dinner take form, and encompass both the antithesis of last night’s dinner and the synthesis of a larger dialectic. Seriously, what goes better with lasagna than some Hegel? After yesterday’s bombastic tirade on the Zen Of Cooking: True Amateur Confessions, a nice bubbly baking dish of meaty, cheesy goodness got our Chi all sorted out and back to where it belongs- somewhere in the middle (that would be the Synthesis, for those of you taking notes.) The sad reality is that super-clean cooking like yesterday doesn’t have the balls for this climate. Sometimes a body needs of the bubbly cheese.

So: the veal, cooked down with tomato paste, onion, garlic, herbs, and wine became a first-rate sugo. For the besciamella, I made a roux of butter and flour, but left out the milk; the leftover dashi from last night was an incredible complement to the veal, adding a gentle smokiness and enfolding it in a gorgeous embrace. Layered with organic lasagna noodles (no time to make pasta from scratch) and local mozzarella, it went in the oven to get all snuggly and melty-like.

While this hot meat-on-carb-on-dairy action was taking place, I braised some finely sliced fennel bulb in white wine- a dish I “invented” way back in grad school in Chicago, though at the time I preferred a sweet muscat for the braise. And I made the simplest of salads with some arugula. The fennel had time to get all silky while the lasagna cooked, and everything hit the table at roughly the same time, which, you know, you look for in a dinnner.

Seriously? Dashi béchamel? With veal? Unbelievable. Absolutely perfect. And the rest? Well, it hit spots that we enjoy hitting. Another added dimension to the Hegelian wonderland that was our meal this evening was a 1997 Soletta Cannonau Riserva. I’ve been a fan of this property for quite a while, and this bottle slumbered unnoticed in Vermont until my last inventory. It’s gorgeous; while it may not be transcendental, there is not one single thing wrong with this wine. And it cost around $30. Frankly, I’ve never had a Cannonau that I didn’t like, and most of them made me rush out and find more. Sardinia makes wines of extraordinary value. Go buy some.

11 comments to Aw Jeez

  • cookiecrumb

    Cool! Dashi velouté.

    Sending you some warm California cyberhugs.

  • Heather

    The brown bubbly on that lasagna is something else. Something with which I want to curl up, perhaps enjoy a nice story, share some laughs. Then a long sigh.

  • peter

    CC: Thanks, and good catch. “Dashi gravy” just didn’t sound classy.

    Poubelle Blanche: I always like to broil these for a couple of minutes at the end, and have learned the hard way to camp out at the oven door while that’s happening.

  • Zoomie

    What CC said.

  • Pam

    I just stumbled upon your blog. You are a terrific writer and that lasagna looks amazing!

    I love what Milo said about the needles…my kids say a similar statement every time they have to get shots. I have to agree with them – I am not a fan of the needle either.

  • peter

    Zoomie: Thanks.

    Pam: Welcome, and thanks. Mercifully, he’s done with his shots for a good while now.

  • The Spiteful Chef

    What the hell is Dashi? You put it in everything. Fine. I’ll Google it.

    How come you never sent me your soy sauce recipe OR what you were going to send me via email? I keep checking, and so far I’ve gotten dick-fifty.

  • We Are Never Full

    damn. DAY-UHM! dashi friggin bechamel. unreal.

  • bb

    How did you know those of us without child were rolling our eyes? But I will admit your lasagna desriptors got them rolling right back into focus. There is nothing quite so soul warming as cheesy deliciousness out of the oven on a cold night. And as I understand the younger, childlike set, they dig cheesy-noodly things!

  • peter

    Kristie: You won’t be able to make Tosa soy sauce without it, so get googling. Aren’t you in cooking school, for crying out loud?

    Amy: Yep, unreal. Though, as CC pointed out, without milk it’s not a béchamel. It is, however, awesome.

    BB: Those of us with kids used to be people without kids.

  • Brittany

    (drinking and rolling my eyes, but secretly thinking thats pretty fucking adorable)…

    I want to peel the cheesy layer off the top of that lasagne (“Zazagna! HAHAHA”…fucking precious. Seriously) and eat it in one giant chomp.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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