Saturday, March 20, 2010
Lasagna Bolognese Recipe
I made lasagna last week to help me tackle the physical and mental challenge of the daily classes and rehearsals involved in the staging I’m doing of Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace for the phenomenal dancers of The Juilliard School for their spring concert. My diet is mostly vegetarian, but it was a long, cold, and snowy winter, and lately, I’ve been craving lots of meaty fortification against the brutality of it all. It is the last I will make of winter’s hearty meals, however, for spring is here, and I am shedding. I even wore sandals today. And shorts. It was a Summerspace kind of day.
Thinking a lot lately of Merce and John Cage (Merce’s long-time partner and collaborator), I’ve been revisiting some of John's books and came across one of my favorite passages from Silence. A student of Zen Buddhism, and an avid wild mushroom hunter, John curiously searched for a Japanese haiku involving the fungus, and came across this one, by Bashō:
shiranu ko no ha no
This haiku is translated literally into English as:
ignorance leaf of tree
John Cage found this haiku in R.H. Blyth's compilation of haiku poems, the autumn section, where Blyth translates the literal Japanese words into the following English haiku:
The leaf of some unknown tree
Sticking on a mushroom
The story goes that John read this translation to a Japanese composer friend (Ichiyanagi or Takahashi, he can’t remember who), and the composer replied that he found Blyth’s translation uninteresting, and, at Cage’s urging, came back two days later with this version:
Mushroom does not know
That leaf is
Sticking on it
After three years of thought on the matter, John created his own version:
That that’s unkown
Brings mushroom and leaf together
And then, later, this one:
So, in honor of Merce and John and Summerspace at Juilliard next week, here’s my version:
The lost leaf of tree
and mushroom stick together
Wayward tree leaf,
Earthy mushroom togetherness
And taking some liberties:
Adhere to me, leaf
On your mushroomy free fall
Next time, Japanese mushroom lasagna it is. With shiso leaves, perhaps.
Lasagna Bolognese from Mario Batali
Serves six to eight.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound veal, ground
1 pound pork, ground
4 ounces pancetta, ground
1 8-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup milk
/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 to 1 pound fresh pasta sheets, about 7 by 4 inches, or dried lasagne noodles blanched for 6 minutes and refreshed
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Oil for brushing
In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sweat over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are translucent. Add veal, pork, and pancetta to the vegetables, and brown over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together. Add the tomato paste, milk, wine, thyme, and 1 cup water, and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (if the ragù becomes too thick, add a little more water). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour, and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until it is just about to boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until the sauce is very smooth. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and season with salt and nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with melted butter or oil, and layer in the following order from the bottom: ragù, pasta, béchamel, and grated cheese (saving about 1 cup béchamel for last topping), making 3 to 4 layers of pasta, finishing with ragù, béchamel, and 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled over the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, slice, and serve.