March 22, 2004 12:11 AM | By Adam Roberts | 7 Comments

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.


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):


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:

1) IMG_4.JPG

(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!)

2) IMG_5.JPG

(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).

3) IMG_6.JPG

(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?)

4) IMG_7.JPG

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

5) IMG_8.JPG

6) IMG_9.JPG

(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!)

7) IMG_10.JPG

8) IMG_11.JPG

9) IMG_12.JPG

10) IMG_13.JPG

11) IMG_14.JPG

12) IMG_15.JPG

13) IMG_16.JPG

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

14) IMG_17.JPG


15) IMG_18.JPG

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

16) IMG_19.JPG


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.


You seem pretty disturbed by that French Laundry spread; it's not like you're going to take a big honking bite out of a rotting carcass with all its feathers or fur or scales or whatever still on it. I see it as Keller showing off his ingredients; did you think porkchops and chicken wings fell out of the sky?

By the way, that lasagna looks pretty good.

I am with you on the dead bird! I have been known to recruit total strangers to come into my house to remove a bird the cat killed. Total strangers are far less frightening than dead birds!!!!

And the lasagne looks wonderful.

Did you ever see the movie, "Babette's Feast?" AG, the French really know about using live animals for their fancy meals.

Your lasagne looks scrum-dilly-lish-us!

It seems to me that that photograph is meant to mimick some classical still life paintings which often include dead animals. BTW, if you look closely you can see what looks like a rabbit under the dead bird.

Brown eggs versus white eggs. I've been told that certain varieties of chickens produce brown eggs and certain varieties produce white eggs. Other than that, no difference.

The lasagne looks great!

First of all, there are more things wrong with that picture than I care to explain. Second, I think I might print out your pictorial instructions on how to make that lasagne and see what happens when I try to make it.

Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh. At least, that's what they told us growing up in New England.

As for disturbing table spreads, trot down to your local video rental establishment and rent 'The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover' by Peter Greenaway. Then we'll talk about disturbing table spreads.

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