Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lasagne Lovin' - Chicken Cauliflower & Fennel Lasagne

I have been very absent for the last few weeks.  Sorry about that, but I felt it was time that I concentrate on populating Corningware411 with as much information as possible so people have some sort of resource, whether collecting or questioning correct usage of pieces.  Heck I even republished an old Coffee Talk post about my Corningware Drip Coffee Maker on the site.

Be that as it may, I am back with a collaborative project between the two sites.  I was testing a piece from Corningware's Rangetopper line (bonded aluminum base) and made sauces to see how well it distributed heat without scorching.  As a result, I have a batch of Quick Tomato Sauce (as opposed to Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce) and a batch of Onion laced Bechamel.  The tests were successful, which is always the preferable outcome, but the bonus is that I have everything I need to make that most perfect of foods.... Lasagne!

This is more in the Northern Italian Style of Lasagne.  Though it does contain Tomato Sauce, it also contains Bechamel and lacks any form of Ricotta. For this one though, I decided to get a little more complicated.  Normally, when I use Bechamel and Tomato Sauce in one pan of lasagne, I just mix the two together before layering.  This time, I chose to keep them separated to form a more interesting layering effect.  I think I had originally seen this idea in a cookbook for a vegetable lasagne.  I figured that since this lasagne contains a significant amount of veggies, I would follow suite.

Chicken, Cauliflower and Fennel Lasagne

1 head of Cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Fennel Bulbs, quartered and sliced
3 TB Olive Oil
1 recipe Quick Tomato Sauce (or 3 cups Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce)
1 recipe Onion Bechamel
2 cups cooked Chicken breast meat, chopped
1 lb Lasagne Noodles
1 cup Panko
16 oz dry Mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
Reduce the Cauliflower to small florets......

Quarter, remove the core, and slice the Fennel.....

Place in a large bowl and toss with 3 TB Olive oil.

Spread the veggies on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes..

Just until they begin to brown......

Chop the Chicken and mix 1 cup of Chicken with 1 cup of the Quick Tomato Sauce in a small bowl.

Mix the remaining Chicken with 1 cup of the Bechamel in a small bowl.

Place Lasagna noodles in a 13x9 baking dish...

Pour hot water over the noodles and let sit for 5 minutes.

Now they should be slightly "bendy".

OK... Layering time.......
First, butter a 13x9 pan....

Pour in the chickenless Bechamel and spread it over the bottom of the pan.

Place lasagna noodles over the Bechamel.

Spread the Chicken laden Tomato Sauce over the noodles.

Spread 1/2 of the vegetable mixture over the Chicken.

Sprinkle with 4 oz of Mozzarella.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Panko.

Place down another layer of noddles.

Spread the Chicken laden Bechamel over the noodles.

Spread the remaining Vegetables.

Sprinkle with 4 oz of Mozzarella and the remaining Panko.

Top with another layer of noodles.

Pour the remaining Tomato Sauce over the top.

Sprinkle with the remaining Mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Cover with a sheet of parchment.....

Then cover with foil.

Bake for  40 minutes...

Remove the foil and parchment, then bake for 10 -15 minutes longer.....

Until all nice and bubbly.

Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the Lasagne to "set up".

and serve......  Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Now I must go be alone with the whole pan!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Going Nuts for Tillamook Vintage Cheddar - Cheddar & Walnut Wafers

So, Tillamook Cheese Factory, in Tillamook Oregon, has released a new product.  Vintage White Sharp Cheddar.

Not to be confused with the Vintage White "Extra" Sharp or the Vintage White "Medium" that has been available for several years now.  The Vintage White Sharp is aged for 9 months, as opposed to the Extra Sharp, which is aged for 2 years or the Vintage White Medium that is aged for only 100 days (~3 months).

Why am I so excited about this new product?  Well, I know that annatto seed is perfectly harmless, but it has always bugged me that cheddar cheese is dyed orange on the left coast.

Vermont doesn't dye their cheddar, New York doesn't dye theirs either.  So WHY on earth do the cheese companies on the Left coast dye the cheddar orange?  It just reminds me of processed American cheese (yuck!).  We are capable of discerning between Cheddar, dry Mozzarella and Monterey Jack, even if they are all the same basic color in their natural state.  The excuse that I hear the most often is that milk color varies slightly (depending on cow breed and time of year) and the annatto dye ensures that the cheese will always be the same color.  Poppy cock!  I say.  That is a silly excuse.  There is a natural variation in cheese color with Brie, Gruyere, Pecorino Romano, Saint Andre, Gouda, Emmentaller, Gorgonzola and so on. I think it's time that the cheese manufacturers built a bridge and got over it.

Luckily, Tillamook Cheese factory has done just that and finally decided to leave out the annatto dye and call it "Vintage" White.  Maybe, someday, we left coasters will get SO use to our cheddar being white that, 50 years from now, the orange dyed stuff will be considered "Vintage" instead.  One can only hope.  What makes me the most happy though, is that it's the same price as their "regular" orange Sharp Cheddar.  I finally get my blessedly WHITE cheddar cheese without having to darken the door of a specialty cheese shop and spend a small fortune. 

Woo Hoo! Ain't it purty?

To celebrate the mouthwatering deliciousness that is Tillamook Vintage White Sharp Cheddar, I have decided to go nuts, walnuts that is, and bake up some delicious cheddary wafers of utter decadence.   They are similar to a savory shortbread, but with a delicate crispy crunch that is truly satisfying.

Cheddar and Walnut Wafers

186g (6.5oz) (1 1/2 cups) AP Flour
60g (2.1oz) (1/2 cup) Walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Grey Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
113g (4oz) (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, cut into chunks
142g (5oz) (1 1/4 cups) Tillamook Vintage White Sharp Cheddar, shredded
1 large Egg Yolk
2 TB Heavy Cream

In the bowl of a food processor, combine Flour, Walnuts, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne and chunks of Butter.

Pulse until pea sized lumps still remain.

Add the shredded Sharp Cheddar and pulse again.

Until well combined and the mixture is like fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk the Heavy Cream and Egg Yolk together.

Pour through the feeding tube of the food processor.....

Pulse until a soft dough begins to form.

Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while rolling the dough to 1/4 inch (~6mm) on a lightly floured surface.

Use a 1 1/2 well floured round cutter to cut out shapes.

Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased, unlined baking sheet (please note that no parchment is needed)

Prick the circles with a fork in a cross pattern (to prevent a large bubble forming in the center)

Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning at 7 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Move to a rack immediately and allow to cool completely. (If you can)

Consume with delight!  and Wine! (a nice Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz/Syrah)