Yes, it’s the first month in a new year and yes you’re looking at a gooey, cheesy, packed with carbs plate of Swiss Chard Lasagne. Yes, I’ve noticed my fellow bloggers and their admirable resolutions concerning food. No grains. No dairy. No this. No that. Yes, I’m supposed to be embracing the latest foodie fads by guzzling green smoothies or chomping the new kale salad (whatever it may be). But frankly, there’s nothing like a good plate of lasagne to ring in a new year. It might just be the perfect comfort food. But screw it up, and we’re talking mushy noodles, soupy sauce, and congealed cheese.
Swiss Chard Lasagne
The thing about lasagne is it’s an open concept so mistakes can be made when cooks try to take shortcuts. However, as long as you keep it good and cheesy and above all honor the noodles you really can’t go too far wrong.
So I say skip the ricotta cheese (it becomes dry and crumbly unless beaten with egg) and nix the no-boil noodles (nobody could accuse no-boil noodles of being texturally interesting). And don’t forget to honor the noodles, if there are less than three layers of them, it’s probably not really lasagne.
Which isn’t to say that there’s no room for a re-interpretation of a cheesy, packed with carbs plate of lasagne. A good cook can take the techniques learned making the classic version and transform even a vegetarian lasagne like this Chard Lasagne into something appropriately decadent. So long as you’re familiar with Bechamel.
Bechamel is made by combining hot milk with a pale roux made from butter and flour. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s a versatile sauce that can serve as the base for – well, this, that, and everything. I bet I could turn a green smoothie into a decent lasagne with a healthy dose of Bechamel.
Bechamel is considered one of the mother sauces of classic French cooking. Add cheese to it (as in this recipe for Chard Lasagne with Hazelnuts) and it technically becomes a Mornay sauce. I was raised on classic French cooking by a Julia Child obsessed mother. As a kid, I knew what Bechamel (and Mornay) sauce was even before I learned the devastating news that baseballs were for boys and Easy-Bake Ovens were for girls.
Yes, because of the Bechamel turned Mornay sauce my Chard Lasagne with Hazelnuts is very rich. It probably won’t work for most people’s New Year’s resolutions list. However, a healthy heaping of Swiss chard and a big scoop of baby spinach makes this lasagne practically the same thing as a green smoothie, right? GREG
PS Lasagne? Or Lasagna? I’ve decided to go with the British spelling because this recipe was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi.