On Carbo Loading (Or, Why Reason Does Not Equal Logic)

Today I registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Yesterday I entered the lottery for the New York City Marathon. Given the serious training regimens races of this caliber require, it is only sensible that today I share with you a recipe for mushroom lasagne. And before my attempt at athletic prowess lead you to think that this is some sort of health recipe consisting of little more than fresh organic mushrooms, low-sodium tomato sauce, and gluten-free noodles, note that this recipe contains not two or three but, indeed, five different kinds of cheese. And, let’s be honest, that’s not even making mention of the butter and whole milk.

Mushroom Lasagna Slice

I could reason that at the least, such a decadent recipe might be good for carbo loading, but, if we’re continuing with this honesty streak, we know that any of the benefits of the lasagne noodles are negated by the pure fat they are swimming in. If running 26.2 miles won’t hurt your bowels, I’m pretty sure all this dairy might (at least, if you have even a whiff of lactose intolerance). Logically, this should be the last thing I am tempted to eat while training, and, yet…

I’ve been telling myself that now is the time to run these various races because of some recent medical adventures that have left me feeling like now is the time to get started on some of these bucket list items. Lest I panic anyone, I am perfectly healthy and not facing any sort of impending peril. And yet, one week with a few too many doctor’s appointments (even though they didn’t indicate anything wrong) have left me feeling like the time is neigh. Logical? No. Reasonable? I’d like to think so. And what does this have to do with mushroom lasagne and running? Well, if I can’t convince myself the recipe is good for me while training, I can at least reason that I’ll have earned it after the race.

Mushroom Lasagna Section

Mushroom Lasagne

Adapted from Plenty

Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 3/4 cups warm water

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (separated into two portions of 5 1/2 tablespoons)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (a mix is best)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 cup flour

2 1/3 cup whole milk

13 ounces ricotta

1 egg

5 ounces feta, crumbled

6 ounces Gruyere, grated

1 pound dried lasagne

5 ounces mozzarella, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

Mushroom Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the dried porcini and water in a bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, making sure to get out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for later in the recipe.

Melt 5 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the thyme, dried mushrooms, and fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks like the fresh mushrooms have started releasing some of their liquid. Take the pot off the heat and the the tarragon, parsley, and salt and pepper to season. Set aside in a bowl.

Using the same pan you used to cook the mushrooms, make the béchamel. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for a minute. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the mixture turns to a paste but does not change color. Add the milk and the reserved mushroom liquid slowly, whisking with each addition. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whisk until the mixture is boiling. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to become thick, and then remove from heat. This should take about 8 minutes.

Bechamel

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta and egg, and add 3 tablespoons of the sauce you just made. Add the feta. Add the remaining Gruyere to the béchamel.

Being careful so that they do not stick together, pour boiling water over the lasagne noodles. Soak for 2 minutes, then remove and dry on a cheesecloth or tea towel.

Mushroom Lasagna

Prepare a 10 by 14 inch dish to assemble the lasagne. Pour one fifth of the béchamel on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Add one quarter of the ricotta mix on top, and then one quarter of the mushrooms, and then one quarter of the mozzarella. Repeat again, beginning with the béchamel, until you have used up all of the components. Finish with a layer of a noodles covered with béchamel. Finally, sprinkle the parmesan on top, cover the dish loosely with foil, and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil when there are 10 minutes left in the cooking time to allow the cheese to brown. The dish is ready when the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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