It is pepper season; the vegetable gardens are bursting with all kinds of peppers, hatch peppers, green peppers, poblanos, chilis etc. This is a spinach lasagne layered with a poblano/chicken broth/cream sauce; interspersed with chicken and mushroom bits and sprinkled with shredded cheese.
Since this is a project, it is easy to split it up into three major steps: Making the pasta (or using ready-made), making the sauce, assembling the dish.
NOTE: This dish can easily be made with boxed pasta, like penne or fusilli.
MAKING THE STUFFING FOR THE LASAGNE:
- 2 cups of button mushrooms
- 2 large onions
- 1 1/2 pounds of chicken drumsticks and wings
- salt, pepper, a dash of cumin and a dash of allspice
- 1 teaspoon of mashed garlic
- Butter or olive oil, as needed
- 1 16-ounce bag of shredded Italian cheeses
- Sprinkle spices on the drumsticks and wings and fry in oil or butter until golden-brown; add several cups of water and one onion, quartered and let the chicken pieces cook gently for 45 minutes or until tender. Strain the sauce and use for making the poblano sauce. Shred the chicken pieces and set aside in a bowl, covered.
- Chop the other onion and fry in butter; clean the mushrooms and quarter them, remove the stem and chop it. Brown the mushrooms until soft and fragrant and add the garlic at the end, mixing well to combine. Add the mushrooms to the chicken pieces and combine. Set aside.
MAKING THE SAUCE:
- 3 large poblano peppers (can substitute any green peppers of your choice)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon of mashed garlic (mixed with salt in a mortar)
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of cream (can substitute milk)
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg, to taste
- olive oil or butter, as needed
- To roast the peppers: Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet under the broiler and let them blister on all sides, turning them every few minutes. Transfer them to a plastic bag (pour one tablespoon of water in the bag) and close the bag tightly; let them sit in the bag for 10 minutes, then open the bag and peel and seed them.
- Chop the onion and fry in half a stick of butter (or replace with 1/4 cup oil) till golden; add the flour and stir till the flour is well mixed and cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and stir (it will lump up at first, not to worry); add the milk then the cream and stir. The sauce will thicken; add the peppers and garlic and cook in the sauce for a few minutes, adding pepper and nutmeg if desired.
- Transfer the sauce to a food processor and puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside or refrigerate till much later or the next day.
MAKING THE PASTA:
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups of flour (all-purpose and cake flour 50/50, or all-purpose)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 1/2 cup of chopped spinach, cooked and squeezed dry (can use any other greens)
- Place the spinach, salt, olive oil and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Mix until pureed; add the flour, one cup at a time, processing each time, until a ball forms; be careful not to add too much flour at once, add it gradually so as to keep the dough moist (not sticky) and pliable; remove into a work surface and knead a bit to make sure it is not too sticky and is firm and smooth. If too sticky, add a bit of flour at a time. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for one hour or longer.
- When ready to roll out, use a pasta machine or cutting one small piece at a time, roll with a pin until each piece is very thin, almost like paper. Keep the remaining dough in plastic to prevent drying it.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 30 seconds and spread on paper towels.
- Grease a large serving dish (or several) and pour a bit of sauce at the bottom; place a few lasagne sheets (cut them to fit with a pizza cutter) and pour 4 ounces of poblano sauce, sprinkle some chicken pieces with the mushrooms and about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Continue this operation, ladling sauce, then chicken and mushroom, then cheese. Spread cheese on the top layer.
- Bake in a 325F oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the dish is hot; run under the broiler for 30 seconds if desired. Serve.
TIP: To “puff up” the top layer, sprinkle with shredded cheese and gently pour a few tablespoons of whipping cream over the cheese; run under the broiler for 30 seconds.
When making pasta, it is easier to make it by hand on the counter; if using the food processor or a mixer, add the flour one cup at a time, adding more as the eggs absorb it completely and the dough is still very tacky.
When assembling the lasagne, it is best to add a small amount of sauce rather than too much; the idea here is to showcase the fine pasta, which should be very light and silky; the sauce is an accent and should not smother the pasta.