I’m very excited. Tonight is the season finale of Top Chef Masters and the premiere of the next Top Chef series! My in-laws are coming to spend the night and I’ve already told them not to plan on seeing much of me unless they want to watch the shows – QUIETLY. Is that rude?
So, I’m thinking about the way these chefs just improvise incredible dishes with combinations I’d never think of while I’m making lasagna for Noah’s friend, Austin, who is getting ready to fly the coop for the University of Kentucky. And I’m pretending, in my own sad little mind, that I am competing on Top Chef making lasagna! I’m also watching Ina Garten on Food Network, so I’m very conflicted. I’d like to be her, too. So, the first thing is I make spaghetti sauce with two pounds of ground chuck (do NOT drain – let the beef brown in the fat) and some finely diced carrot. I learned that from Giada de Laurentiis (am I fixated with these people or what?). Then throw in some diced onion, and lots of garlic. After the beef browns, douse it with red wine and let that cook down a little. Then add a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, a lot of oregano, some salt and pepper and the secret ingredient (except it’s not secret because I’m going to tell you), smoked paprika. Just a little bit.
At the same time, I saute some diced red pepper and chopped mushrooms in a little olive oil. And in my Top Chef moment, I deglaze the pan with Madeira. I want to flame it but I fear that will be going overboard. So, now Down Home with the Neelys is on Food Network and Pat is making his daughter’s favorite Sloppy Joe recipe and I’m thinking how much my spaghetti sauce looks like Sloppy Joe’s, which is not a good place to go in my head.
Then I make the ricotta filling with whole milk ricotta. The term “part skim” just isn’t in my vocabulary. I’m feeding this lasagna to a boy who, I promise you, will not gain an ounce after eating about half the pan. And I decide to add a beaten egg (that’s pretty standard), some grated Parmesan cheese and sour cream! Just a little bit.
Now it’s time for the lasagna noodles and this is where I think I am a complete genius. I use the kind that you don’t have to cook. They’re really thin and you layer them in with the sauce and the ricotta and they cook themselves in the oven. For some odd reason, there’s only one company that makes them that I can find at the Publix. You’d think this idea would have caught on like wildfire.
I wasn’t going to add this next photo, but Max looks so cute sitting in his chair and observing every move I make. Sort of like an audience…on Top Chef. Sort of. At any rate, layer the sauce, noodles, ricotta, peppers and mushrooms (Bunny’s coming for supper, too, and she hates mushrooms but I’m going to goof on her – she’ll never know), more noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese (WHOLE MILK), more noodles, the last of the sauce and more mozzarella.
I’m writing this early because I have to go make the salad and garlic bread and have everyone fed by the time Top Chef starts. I will not get accolades from Padma and Tom. Giada just had a baby – she won’t even care about her secret carrot thing that I stole. But Austin will love it. Noah will inhale it. And that’s really the only thing I care about anyway. This is the last night I’ll be able to feed Austin until Thanksgiving break. Where are all my peeps going? College is overrated.