Food + Wine, Videos

Lasagna Strata…and the video that almost showed you how to make it.

They say to never work with animals or children.  Well, I’ve done both.  And I never agreed with that rule.  Working with either creates something you never knew you could have had.  Putting a young child in a scene (or a chimp…) suddenly creates this level of excitement- you literally never know what could happen next, and usually what does happen is waaaaay more interesting than what you had planned.  And if you know me well enough, you know that even though I’m a big planner in my family life, I don’t like to rehearse anything I do on camera, because that’s when the good stuff happens.  I like to dive right in and see where we can go.  And when things end up being different than what I had initially planned, I just make it a different thing all together.  No biggie.

A couple weeks ago I made a video with a good friend and her two incredibly cute kids.  We set out to make a video showing an easy-to-make meal for the busy-mom-on-the-go.  I wrote a recipe just for her and her family, something I had never made before, and was excited to share and give to them.  I wrote the recipe on the living room floor, in my sweatpants one night.  Which is just how I work…I like to cook things in my head and sketch them out on paper.  I decided I wanted the kids in the video because the reality is that she would be making this meal with the kids around anyway, so why pretend?  That’s how I like to write my posts, or make my videos, or teach my lessons- I keep things real…otherwise how are you going to adapt it to your real life?  Not everyone can create a flawless meal in a pristine kitchen with complete silence, hair and makeup and a team of PA’s setting up the scene. (Talking to you, Food Network)  Sure, it’s fun to watch.  Like, a Kate Hudson movie…totally unreal but fantastic to sit through and dream about.

So…when my friend and I set out to make this cooking video, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  Seriously.  No idea.  But damn, was it fun to watch back.

So…here’s the um, blooper real (?) of what would have been far less interesting to view.



(I would like to take this time to thank Pepperidge Farm and their Goldfish for helping us through this day.  Without you, none of this would have been possible.)



And here’s the actual recipe for Lasagna Strata!!  It comes out tasting like everything you love in a lasagna…only it’s so much easier to make because you’re not boiling noodles and layering anything.  It’s a great make-ahead/freezer-friendly meal that I hope you’ll all enjoy!

*Lasagna Strata
(just now remembering I never got a photo of the finished product…awesome.)

Grease one large (9x13in) casserole dish, or two square (8x8in) dishes and place along the bottom…
-1 large loaf of stale Italian or French bread (equalling about 5 cups of cubed or torn pieces)

Add the following ingredients on top of the bread, distributing evenly throughout…
-28 oz can of peeled, plum tomatoes, drained and broken up into pieces.
-2 lbs. lean ground beef, browned in a skillet and seasoned well with salt/pepper/garlic powder OR your favorite seasoning salt blend.  Set aside to cool (can be made in advance and stored in the fridge)
-2 cups shredded mozzarella (I like to use light)
-couple handfuls of torn, fresh basil leaves
-a small handful of fresh oregano leaves, minced (or a tsp or so of dried)
-a sprinkling of ground allspice
-a couple pinches of light brown sugar (to offset the acidity in the tomatoes)
-a little crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk completely…
-10 large eggs

Add in, by whisking…
-4 cups milk, or 1 quart (I don’t recommend anything less than 2%, as it would produce a watery custard)

Then add the following (again, by whisking)…
-2 cups ricotta, or 1 (15 oz) container (I like to use full fat..there’s no substitute!!)

-1 head of roasted garlic*, cooled and cloves squeezed out
(each of these won’t break down completely, and that’s ok.  I like the idea of having a chunk of soft garlic here and there and a delicious glob of ricotta placed throughout.)Then, season the custard with…
-2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
-a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg
Slowly pour the custard over the bread, meat, tomatoes etc.  Make sure to evenly coat all the ingredients, and then once all the custard is in, press down with the spatula to allow the bread to start soaking it up.  You want all the pieces to be moistened by the custard.  (This can be done in the morning, and placed in the fridge until ready to bake.  That actually makes a better strata, but you can also bake straight away, no problem.)
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s puffed up and golden brown and it doesn’t jiggle when you shake it/there is no liquid apparent in the center.
Cool slightly before serving warm!

(*roasted garlic- Slice off the top of the garlic bulb, exposing the tips of the cloves.  Place on a sheet of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt/pepper.  Wrap up tightly like a little package. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and cook for 45 min.  Allow to cool (and continue to cook) in the foil package until ready to use.)

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