I am shy.
The best way to tell if you really know me would be if I could peek at you while you read those three words. Did you snort with laughter? Or, did you nod in agreement? Do you really know me?
The truth; I am shy. But unless you really know me, you’ll never know that because I force myself not to let it show. Twenty; thirty years ago, I didn’t fight it. Instead I stood in the shadow, hung out on the fringes and spent more time wishing I could instead of doing.
Now, I force myself to talk to people I don’t know. I accept invitations to events even though I know I’ll be pulled a little out of my comfort zone. If asked to speak in front of others, my hesitation is barely discernible. I seek out the people on the fringe and try to engage them, remembering how I felt when I lived there.
I dare myself. All the time. I dare myself to open the door and walk in instead of turning and running away. I dare myself to speak to that woman who looks like either her feet hurt a lot from her pointy-toed heels or she is more shy than I am and hates being where she is.
Daring myself is what led to this blog. Of course, it’s easier to tell you about myself with miles of wireless Internet between us, but it’s still hard. Ask Hubby. He sees me gnawing on my nails after I hit the publish button. Ok, I don’t really bite my nails; I pace. The image is the same.
I dared myself to make this lasagna for two reasons. First, because Hubby says he doesn’t like the stuff and I want to prove him wrong. Second, because it takes about two and a half hours to make from start to finish. Then a third impetus reared its head.
What cemented my dare was a conversation I had with a friend this past weekend. She told me that she likes recipes that are quick, easy to make (one does not beget the other), and uses ingredients she already has on hand.
This recipe was the one being considered when she told me that. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, my heart clenched like it does when I’m about to do anything remotely like public speaking. True, this lasagna uses ingredients that most people already have on hand, and yes, the components are easy to make, requiring no specialized skills or appliances. But quick? Definitely not.
I was filled with momentary angst. But, like I’ve been forcing myself to do, I shrugged it off and headed home to begin the cheese sauce, brown the meat and boil the pasta.
It was time for lasagna.
Unless you buy the pre-made frozen variety, there really isn’t a quick lasagna. Sure, the no-boil noodles make things a little less irritating, but technically, not faster. If you do decide to give this a try, set aside about three hours from start to finish.
As I said above, this is easy. Making the cheese sauce is a simple matter of putting together a roux (in this case, the butter, scallions and flour), adding milk while whisking constantly, then heating it slowly until it thickens. Throw in the cheese, let it melt and you’re done.
The meat sauce is ever more simple since it’s not much more than meat, tomatoes and a splash of ketchup. Broccoli; chopped. Done.
This is verbatim the conversation at the dinner table after plates were served and first bites had been taken.
Dudette: “I don’t like it,” she proclaimed as she flicked bits of onion and tomato into an I’m-not-going-to-eat-that pile.
Me: “I does seem to lack something,” I said as I slumped my shoulders over another non-win.
Hubby: “Taste?” he chimed in with a smug smile, knowing he’d just made it into The Verdict with one word.
And that he was right. For as cool and healthy the concept of this lasagna was to me, it lacked flavor.
This doesn’t taste bad; it just doesn’t taste bowl-you-over fantastic. And in my book, if something takes an hour and a half to prepare and another hour and a half to cook, it should bowl you over with deliciousness.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Honestly, I wouldn’t bother. Too much time for too little return.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup flour
- 2½ cups whole milk, warmed
- 12 ounces sharp yellow cheddar, shredded
- salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons EVOO
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1½ pounds 85% lean ground beef chuck
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb 5 oz) florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stems trimmed, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
- ¾ pound dried lasagna noodles
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring often, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk; bring to a simmer and whisk for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in 8 oz. cheddar and season with salt and pepper; let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.
- In a large, deep skillet or pot, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium heat. Add the onion and 14 tsp. each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the onion is softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Push the onion to the side of the pan; in the center, add 1 tbsp. EVOO and crumble in the ground beef. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes. Break up the meat with a spatula, then cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ketchup and 112 cups water. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until al dente, 2 minutes; drain. Rinse with cold water until cool; coarsely chop and season with salt and pepper.
- In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the remaining EVOO and the noodles, stirring, until al dente; drain. Transfer to a bowl of cold water.
- Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees . Greasea 9-by-13-inch baking dish; pour in 34 cup of the meat sauce. Add a layer of noodles, overlapping slightly. Spoon on 112 cups of the meat sauce and 12 cup of the remaining shredded cheddar. Add another layer of noodles, half of the broccoli, 114 cups of the cheese sauce and another layer of noodles. Repeat with more meat sauce, the remaining cheddar, more noodles, the remaining broccoli and more cheese sauce. Add a fifth layer of noodles, the remaining meat sauce and the remaining cheese sauce. Cover the pan with a greased sheet of parchment, then wrap with foil. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour; uncover and bake for 15 minutes more. Loosen the foil, then let stand for 30 minutes before serving.
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