Saturday, 14 July 2012

Lucky coincidence seafood lasagna

Putting together a three course menu always requires a bit of thought. I usually start with an idea for a main course and then build around that. It's a bit of a puzzle to put together a nice balanced menu trying to somehow tie together the dishes while still keeping a balance. If there is cheese in the starter and main, it might not be a good idea to bake a cheese cake for pudding, that sort of thing. I finally managed to settle on a nice combination of dishes, and headed off to the grocery store. Only to realise there is no way I would be able to cook what I planned as I couldn't get the main ingredient. Sob. Happened to me last Saturday. There I was in the grocery store, trying to come up with an alternative. I had settled on a bit of an Italian theme, melon with parma ham and Burrata with tomatoes and basil for a starter, mussels in white wine and freshly baked cheese bread for the main and then lemon and meringue pie for pudding. Turns out there were no fresh mussels. Panic!!! And you know how your brain always shuts down when you need it the most. There I was, the person who could list a dozen of dishes I want to cook in a minute, not coming up with anything. Ok, so Italian theme. Pasta. No mussels, but maybe sticking with sea food. Salmon! Salmon pasta. Then I remembered Best Friend talking about a smoked salmon lasagna she had made and it turned out great. Breakthrough! Smoked salmon and king prawn lasagna with sundried tomatoes and a lovely Bechamel sauce made from scratch. Lots of parmesan and mozzarella. Problem solved!

I have to admit this was the first time I have ever made proper Bechamel sauce, and I'm happy to announce that it was a success. The secret is to boil everything slowly enough so that you won't burn the milk or the flour so that the sauce stays nice and white. And to use a lot of onion and pepper. I managed to get a wonderful, creamy and delicious sauce using this recipe.

Seafood lasagna (serves 6-8):
For the Bechamel sauce:
1 l milk
a couple stalks of parsley
1 shallot
2 bay leaves
20 black peppers
80 g butter
40 g white flour
salt and black pepper

300 g fresh lasagne
200 g smoked salmon
200 g king prawns
300 g mozzarella
100 g grated parmesan
1 jar sundried tomato paste (finely chopped sundried tomatoes in olive oil)
white wine

The howto:
Start by preparing the Bechamel. Finely chop the onion, and add the onion, parsley, bay leaves and black peppers to the milk and bring it slowly to a simmer (yes the secret is to do it very slowly, and stir every once in a while to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan). Then strain the milk. Melt butter in a pan, and when melted, add the flour. Make sure to keep a low or medium heat so that the butter doesn't brown. Stir rapidly to make a gooey paste. Add milk in very small amounts while stirring rapidly to the butter and flour to make sure no lumps form. After adding half of the milk, you can start adding the milk in slightly more at a time, and keep whisking with a ballon whisk. Bring everything slowly to a simmer and let simmer for about five minutes, or until the sauce is thick and shiny. Season with salt and pepper. Go light with the salt, as the smoked salmon will bring quite a bit of salt to the dish.

Line an oven proof dish with lasagna, spread tomato paste on the pasta and add smoked salmon, grated Parmesan and a quarter of the Bechamel sauce. For the next layer, use prawns and mozzarella instead of salmon and Parmesan, and make the third layer identical to the first. Top with a layer of pasta, and pour Bechamel sauce and white wine over the top, and finish off with the rest of the mozzarella. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling and mozzarella is golden brown. 

Ready to go into the oven, with mozzarella
and creamy dreamy Bechamel on top.
The verdict:
Sundried tomatoes and salmon. And lots of cheese, and a creamy dreamy Bechamel. A splash of white wine, and more of the same in a glass to accompany the food. Admittedly not health food in any way, but amazingly good. And it was as terrific re-heated the next day. And the day after. I ate way too much of it. And will be making another batch very soon, as this was one of the best things I have eaten in a long time, even if I say so myself. I'm actually happy I didn't end up getting any mussels as it resulted in this amazing dish. Talk about lucky coincidences.

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