Next day, rise and shine, hungry people! Hopefully eat lasagna tonight. Today we're walking on the creamy side of the street. That's right, the Bechamel sauce.
You will need a pot, a whisk, a wooden spoon and a lil' bit o' courage. No biggie. So put your bechamel face on and let's do this!
Yes, that is my game face of choice. Feel free to channel your own here.
1.Ingredients and quantities
The recipe apparently asks for - or suggests - 00 flour. I had the opposite, which is strong white flour. Still works fine. The difference is that the 00 flour is fine flour, not fine like a booty is fine, but more like refined and dusty, which makes it better for thickening sauces. My bechamel turned out all right without it, so don't worry.
Please use the handy collage you see below, it's there to guide your steps into the mysterious world of bechamel. Melt butter in your pan (1). Low heat, my friends. When melted, add flour. Mix well. What results is called a roux, and yes, it's supposed to look like that (2). The key to this is cooking the flour, so don't rush to add your milk just because you fear it's gonna stick to the pan or something. It won't, that's why the butter is there. The easy thing to remember is that the butter quantity and the flour quantity is the same. This is for a medium thickness sauce. The amount of butter and flour are the ones controlling this. So, if you want a thicker sauce, increase the butter and flour amount, if you want a more liquid sauce, diminish the butter and flour content. Or, if you realize you want a more liquid sauce when you're almost done, add more milk and thoroughly incorporate it. I don't know if it' s recommended, but I found myself in that situation, and that's what I did, and it turned out fine. Can't stress enough how important it is to cook the flour at this point! (3) Otherwise your bechamel will have a pasty taste. Unpleasant.
Next step: take the pan of the heat. Add a third of the milk (4). Now, some recipes say the milk is supposed to be warm, others say that having the milk cold helps prevent the formation of lumps. I tried both versions. When the milk is warm, you have to move faster, because the process of cooking is faster. Having the milk cold slows things down a bit, you need to whisk just as thoroughly, though. The result were good with both methods. After incorporating the first part of the milk, it should look like this (4). Creamy and thick. Put it back on the heat. Whisk, whisk. Take it off, add the second part (5). Incorporate. Back on the stove. Whisk. Do the exact same with the last third of milk. At this point it should be liquid enough so that it doesn't hold onto the whisk, as you can see in the picture (6). Add salt and nutmeg. Put in back onto low heat, all the while whisking.This is consistency that my sauce had (8).
The thing I think I did (twice) was let it get a bit too thick, because as it cooled it got even thicker, so I added a bit of cold milk to it, whisked and it loosened right away. So, have that in mind, the fact that as it cools it thickens too. If you know you are not using it immediately, pour the sauce into container that doesn't hold onto the smell of other foods (like glass, ceramic) - you don't want your bechamel infused with the smell of old fried onions or whatever, cover it with cling film and let it cool gradually. Second component, done!
Last piece of the puzzle: the lasagna sheets.
I thought about making them from scratch, I really did, but them I remembered I'm not Superwoman. And I also remembered that I have an amazing little Italian restaurant around the corner, that also sells fresh pasta. Problem solved! I strongly recommend using fresh lasagna sheets as opposed to the dry ones. One day I will try to make my own and let you know how that went. Now that everything is ready, lets put this baby together. First layer is a thin bolognese one, this is to prevent the bottom of your lasagna sticking to your tray. Next, the lasagna sheets; have them overlapping a little bit so that they don't run away from each-other when you add the heavy load.
Then bechamel, then ragu, and last but not least, some grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat this process until you hit your final layer (I had 3 layers).
For the last bechamel and ragu layer, I mixed them together and added them as a unit, as a team, as one (read this in a dramatically and over the top fashion) then topped it with a bit of the tomato sauce I mentioned at one point (wish I had a bit more, preferably without the tomato chunks that I now cannot unsee). For the final step, grate glorious Parmesan over your much worked for lasagna.
Look at it and sigh a “Oh, my cheesy, overweight baby! You're finally here”. Don't judge, talk to me after you have gone through the same thing. We'll compare. Exchange notes, even. Now pop that in a pre-heated oven, at 150 degrees for approx. 50 min. Thank [insert preferred deity here] for my oven thermometer, cause otherwise I would be completely lost. My oven is weird, but more on that in a different post.
The way I checked up on it was by inserting a trusty fork in there. She went in easily, no opposition, then came out, told me everything was fine and I believed her. Call me crazy, if you wish, but she was right.
Now, the pictures I took, are few and let's face it, not so good. My only excuse is that I had 4 man-sized hungry boys, surrounding me like vultures, so I did what I had to do. Lil' tip: don't rush into cutting your lasagna the minute you get it out of the oven (that's madness!) because it's gonna be very hot and it won't hold its form (not even if you beg) and it will look like a melted lasagna monster (which is not a thing, I just made it up).
Feedback: I had two Germans, a Romanian and a Polish guy at the table. The Germans were not very vocal, but they did ask for seconds, the Romanian attempted to ask for a third and the Pole offered me money in order to make this again. I thought I went a little overboard with the filling, because I was mostly terrified of ending up with a dry lasagna, but it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Not the prettiest dish I've made but definitely one of the tastiest.
This was my very first post. I had a number of difficulties and realizations while making this. First of all, will improve photography skills. Second,will remember to photograph ingredients and everything important. Third, will enjoy this process. Will take my time to prep, and play and experiment. If that means I will be eating frozen pizza, so that I am not hungry and in a rush when doing this, then be it. Cooking and cooking for blog are different. Must get out of the ''make it quick and delicious'' mindset and step into the slow, creative, attention-to-detail one. We'll see what comes out of it.
Until the next one, happy eating! ;)