Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Nov 5, 2013

Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna

Libations used: 1/2 cup Marsala wine...
Libations left over: Pretty much the whole bottle, so save it for another recipe...
This past Sunday was one of those days when I wanted a good, long cooking project.  I've often turned to cooking or baking to relieve stress and take my mind off of things, and I needed a recipe that was going to occupy me for most of the day.  Plus, I was having a couple of my girl friends over that evening, and I wanted to treat them to something decadent, that would also make enough food so they could take home leftovers at the end of the night.  This Celery Root and Mushroom Lasagna from Food & Wine is a great fall/winter recipe for family and holiday gatherings, and a delicious way to treat the ones you love to a really special, gourmet meal.

The ragù not only has diced celery root and plenty of mushrooms (both dried and fresh), but leeks, prosciutto, fresh herbs, Marsala wine and cream, and it's layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella cheesy goodness.  I made a few modifications from the original recipe, which I indicated in the ingredients list, and I also cooked fewer noodles because I had to toss out so many unused ones.  This dish can be made ahead the night before and just popped in the oven the next day.  And because it's so rich I served this with a baby kale and mustard green salad with thinly sliced fennel, dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and a light, lemon-mustard vinaigrette.  I can't wait to make this same meal again, and impress my family during the holidays!
Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna - serves 10
  • 1 cup dried mushrooms (I used Portobello, but Porcini or a mixed variety is great too)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb white mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto slices, cut into 1 inch pieces (the original recipe recommends the thickly sliced Prosciutto di Parma kind, diced into 1/4 inch pieces, but that's not always easy to find)
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 lb celery root, peeled and finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 medium leeks (white and green parts only), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 lb lasagna noodles 
  • 1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese (the original recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, but I'd already spent enough money on all the other ingredients!)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
- In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in the boiling water until they're soft (about 15 minutes).
- Drain and coarsely chop the mushrooms (hint - save and freeze the mushroom broth - it's great for soups and sauces).
- In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tbs of the butter and 2 Tbs of the olive oil.
- Add the fresh and formerly dried mushrooms and season with salt and white pepper, stirring occasionally until browned (about 10 minutes).
- Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.
- Add the remaining 2 Tbs of butter and olive oil to the same pan and turn the heat down to moderately low.
- Add the prosciutto and shallots, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is crisped up and the shallots are softened (about 6 minutes).
- Tie the bay leaf, rosemary, sage and thyme into a bundle using kitchen string.
- Add the herb bundle and celery root to the same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery root is crisp-tender (about 6 minutes).
- Add the leeks and cook until the celery root is tender (about 5 minutes).
- Turn up the heat to medium, and return the mushrooms to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the Marsala wine and cook until it's evaporated (about 5 minutes).
- Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of the cream and let it simmer for 3 minutes longer, or until the mixture has reduced to about 5 cups.
- Season the ragù with salt and white pepper.
- In a separate large saucepan, add the remaining 2 cups of cream and 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Simmer over medium heat until it's reduced to 3 cups (about 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Whisk in the eggs.
- Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth.
- Season the sauce with salt and white pepper and set 1/2 cup of it aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water.
- After the lasagna is cooked to just barely al dente, drain and transfer the noodles to the ice water to cool.
- Drain the noodles and pat them dry.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- Line the bottom with a single layer of noodles, overlapping them slightly.  Try to reserve your prettiest noodles for the top.
- Spread 1/5 of the vegetable ragù on top.
- Spread 1/5 of the cream sauce.
- Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and then some basil leaves.
- Repeat to make 4 more layers, ending with a layer of noodles.
- Top with the reserved 1/2 cup of cream sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  You can even toss some leftover shredded mozzarella cheese on top if you have any!
- Bake the lasagna for about 1 hour.  It should be bubbling and golden.
- Let the lasagna rest for about 15-20 minutes before serving.