My First Lasagna (Plus, A Nightmare Table Spread)

&uotI was a difficult kid to invite over for dinner. Growing up in a cheeseless home (my father being a cheeseophobe), I would inevitably find myself at a friend’s dinner table, starving, only to find his mother waddling over with a big tray of lasagna.

“Hope you’re hungry boys!” she would say, inevitably.

I would then proceed to mash the lasagna around my plate, creating a sense of consumption without actually consuming. I think my mother got a few angry phonecalls on the matter.

“Your son hardly touched his dinner,” I recall one mother informing my mother.

And yet today, with my bold forays into the kitchen, I have acquired more generous tastes. If I were allowed to play with youngsters (damned court order!), their mothers would be calling my mother to commend my hearty appetite.

“Your son ate three whole trays of lasagna!” a mother would say, inevitably.

Tonight, for a reason I can’t really fathom, I found myself craving lasagna. And sitting before me was one of my birthday books, The French Laundry cookbook to be exact.

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Buried between recipes that would take the most expert experts eons to complete, is a simple recipe under the heading: “Staff Meal.; The recipe? Lasagna.

Before I tell you about how I made it, I feel compelled now to highlight the most disturbing page in a cookbook I have ever seen. I am going to post an extra-large picture of it so you can see it too (click to make larger):

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Do you see what this is? This is supposed to be a beautiful spread on a beautiful table somewhere in the French Laundry. To me, it looks like the final scene from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Let’s play a Highlights Magazine game of What’s Wrong With This Picture:

1. There is a pig’s head on this table!

2. There is a dead bird on this table!

3. There is a dead fish on this table!

I am most disturbed by the dead bird because in my wildest dreams, I can’t think of any other reaction to a dead bird on my lunch table other than: “Aahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

Unless, of course, there’s a pig’s head on the table too in which case my reaction would be: “Blech! Aaaaaaah!”

With that said, the lasagna came out delicious. It was incredibly easy to make. In fact, it was so easy, that I will not narrate the process. I will simply show the way through pictures:

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(Ok, so I cheated on the sauce. Thomas Keller wants you to make a sauce that takes three hours. My sauce took two seconds: I lifted it off the shelf and put it in the cart. And it tasted pretty good!)

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(This part was a little tricky. Those noodles are so thick I never thought they’d all cook together. But they did. I tore a few in the process though; and had too few by the end).

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(That’s ricotta and eggs. I used brown eggs because the store was out of white. Can anyone tell me the difference between brown eggs and white eggs?)

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(I think chopped parsley is what makes this lasagna so special. It brightens it up, so to speak).

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(This is pretty interesting: he has you flavor the mozzarella with salt and pepper before you sprinkle it on the top. Never done that before!)

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Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

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Mmmm.

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Ok, so the ricotta’s a little unevenly distributed, but so what!

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Terrific!

Tasty and scrumptious. Lauren liked it too. Except when she got to the dead bird.

“What is this?” she asked, in horror.

“Dead bird,” I said, cooly. “It’s in the book.”

Some people just don’t appreciate great cooking.

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