Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dinner Party

Since I don't read comments (or personal email) at work, I decided that the first few folks who noted that lasagna was fine were right and went about executing that plan. So, dragging myself from work, I stopped to pick up groceries. While I wished I made a list (and did, in fact, have to stop again for cheese), it was actually a very simple and friendly dinner.

I started with a salad, tossed in a pretty green bowl. I melted candied ginger into the raspberry vinigrette and let the dressing cool before pouring it atop baby spinach, sliced strawberries, toasted pecans and a sprinkling of blue cheese.

For the lasagna, I browned the meat the night before, ending up with about a pound of ground beef and italian sausage for each pan. The sausage made the house smell wonderful - spicy and warm - as I sleepily browned the meat near midnight. After it was cooked and drained, I added marinara sauce (2 jars - one with basil and another with special olive oil or something) and let the mixture simmer for a bit.

While that was working, I warmed a half cup of chicken stock in another pot and then added a brick of cream cheese. After poking it with a fork and growing increasingly irritated, I reached for a whisk and a smooth mixture resulted. I regarded it suspiciously, but remembered that when Mom made this lasagna, it was beyond fantastic. So I yawned and grabbed my box of no-boil noodles and a glass baking dish.

Layering sauce-noodle-cream sauce 2.5 times (I didn't completely cover the top with noodles - I was running out of sauces) and using small coffee cups since I threw away my ladle (it was rusty, I think), I swore when I realized I'd forgotten cheese. Regardless, I covered the dishes (I did make two) with foil and tossed them in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour. Then I let them cool before making room for them in the refrigerator.

The next day, I bought cheese and sprinkled it on top and baked it for another half hour. Five of us ate all of the first pan and half of the second. It was really, really good. Plus, the presentation was simple - salad and lasagna went on the same plate and both serving dishes stayed on the table with a basket of bread and bottle of wine. One of the guys did dip his sleeve in the sauce, but it was several hours of friendly chatter and food.

Plus, since I'd prepped and cleaned the night before, doing only the salad immediately before everyone arrived, it was fairly simple to toss everything in the dishwasher after we had chocolate cream pie and everyone headed home.

So thank you for the support/suggestions. Now I have things to try when I next gather energy to invite people over.

Lasagna Recipe (Adapted from The Best Lasagna)
Half pound ground beef
Half pound of Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used your garlic salt)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
26 to 28 ounces (about 3 cups) pasta sauce
2 tbls. red wine (optional)

1 cup chicken stock
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tbls. white wine (optional )

1 cups mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan (there's some left in your frig)

6-8 no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups cooked, well-drained broccoli, spinach, peans or other vegetables (optional)

Heat oven to 350.

Thoroughly cook the meat, (garlic, & herbs) in a large skillet breaking up the meat.
Stir in pasta sauce, (season to taste and add red wine if using).
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add cream cheese, turn heat to low and whisk until smooth, about 6 minutes. (Add white wine.)
Spoon a layer of the meat sauce into the pan as evenly as possible.
Top with 3 lasagna noodles - there will be spaces between them but they grow when they cook.
If using vegetables, toss them evenly over the noodles.
Pour half of cream cheese sauce over the noodles
Add more meat sauce.
More noodles, then cheese sauce, then meat sauce.
Then I did a third layer with only 2 noodles because I had a bit more meat sauce.
Spoon remaining meat mixture over the noodles as evenly as possible.
Top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese and grated Parmesan. (The recipe actually calls for shredded cheese throughout the layers. I think it would be too rich so I stick with cream cheese between layers and mozzarella/Parmesan on top.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
Let cool for 10-15 min or it will be too gloppy to cut well.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Could you post your recipe? It sounds really good and not too difficult...

Anonymous said...

yay for a good dinner party!

Anonymous said...

Tried this last night and it was delicious. I was a bit dubious about the cream cheese sauce, but it worked out very well.

(Yes, I know this is a very old post, but I've had this bookmarked with my other recipes for a long time...)

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