My lifelong friend, and a very dear one at that, is in Paris for the week, and I would be completely lying if I said that as soon as I knew she would be in Paris with her boyfriend (which was a couple of months ago) I didn’t think about having her over for dinner and what I would prepare.
So alas, she agreed to come over last night with her boyfriend whom I would be meeting for the first time. This friend of mine is brilliant in every way and I hold her opinion in high regard; needless to say, I wanted this dinner to be perfect.
So, I got to thinking about what would make for some good dinner options. I had been craving some sort of mushroom dish for the past couple of nights, and I found a wild mushroom lasagne recipe that features the bold earthiness of dried porcini mushrooms – so soulful and satisfying.
I wanted to make a simple salad to start off the dinner, and I chose a very basic endive salad with a red wine dijon vinaigrette – simple, tasty, and light.
For an additional starter, I knew I wanted my friend to try pissaladière – it’s so unique in flavor with slowly caramelized onions, salty anchovies and olives, and a crispy pastry crust, that it makes a bold and enriching statement. It really is amazing, I find myself craving it at random times throughout the day – the flavors stay with you!
Of course, the glorious cheese plate had to make an appearance – and it was the star of the night! The real winner on the cheese plate was a 2-year aged gouda that I got from a farmer’s market in the 7th arrondissement; this cheese is a beautiful combination of sharp, nutty, and creamy.
Finishing off the dinner with two large maccarons, flavored with salted butter and caramel, and a small strawberry tart, we were successfully stuffed. And happy as clams.
So, I hope that anyone who is reading this (although I’m slowly becoming certain that I’m writing these recipes for no one but myself) can find inspiration in these dishes to create his or her own five-course dinner at home, and bring joy, passion, and love to a dinner table. The recipe for the endive salad is in the next post, and the recipe for the mushroom lasagne is what follows.
To make the filling for the lasagne, you’ll need 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, 1 1/2 pounds white mushrooms, 2 large zucchini, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 5 tablespoons butter, 6 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat, then add in the porcini mushrooms. Let the porcinis soak for about 20 minutes, and then remove them from the water, squeezing them out to get rid of excess liquid. Strain the porcini to remove grit and pat them dry. Chop them up, then place them in a large bowl. Simmer the porcini water until reduced to about 1/4 cup, then place in the bowl with the porcinis.
Chop up the white mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme, and cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and once it has stopped foaming, add about 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms, and cook until most liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and they’re beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Place them in the bowl with the porcini mushrooms. Repeat this process with remaining mushrooms in two batches, adding them to the porcini mixture. Next, cook one more tablespoon butter, and cook zucchini until tender, about 8 minutes. Add to the porcini mixture. Cook final tablespoon butter (talk about excessive use of this dairy product!), and cook onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and chopped thyme and cook for about 30 seconds, then add to the mushroom mixture. You can make this 1 day ahead, and keep it refrigerated.
To make the sauce, you’ll need 1 stick of butter, 1/2-cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, about 1 1/2 cups parmesan, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture (which I learned is called a roux), whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add the parm, mustard, salt, and pepper. This can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
Ok, we’re almost done now, phew. To prepare the lasagne, you’ll need about 15 small lasagne sheets, 3 small mozzarella balls or 2 large ones, and 3/4 cup grated parmesan. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Place one layer of filling on the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan (you can really use any size, this was all I had), and then cover with one layer of lasagne sheets, making sure the sheets don’t overlap. Spread a layer of filling over the sheets, and top again with a layer of lasagne. Press down softly to seal everything together.
Rip up your mozzarella balls, and spread half of them over the pasta sheets. Repeat these steps one more time, ending with a layer of lasagne on top. Sprinkle parmesan over the lasagne, and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
Serve with a nice bottle of red wine, and you’ll be feeling fantastic. Santé!