The B-52

The drink, not the bomber or the 80’s rock band.

B-52 celebrity chefI’m not usually big on sweet drinks unless it’s Ice wine or a Trockenbeerenauslese. Say that 3 times fast. From time to time I also like a Port after dinner. There was a time in the 70’s when I had a collection of liqueurs and would have tastings. When you have a lot of liqueurs you start to experiment and preparing layered drinks is only natural.

Had not thought about making a layered drink in 30 years but my sister-in-law Susan was trying to make a flaming layered drink. Her dilemma got me thinking and looking and although B-52s were not around in my cordial days it sure sounded better than ANY drink that has Creme de menthe in it. I’d rather eat Brussels sprouts. If a drink called for a Creme de menthe I would use green Chartreuse, a French liqueur made by the Monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery since 1737. Now that’s something with a great taste.

Looking at my finished B-52 I was thinking, why not put the Baileys on the bottom? The contrast would be better for showing 3 distinct layers. I would think the Baileys would have a higher density than the Kahlua and would stay on the bottom. I’ll experiment with this later.

Has anyone made a B-52? It’s easier to make than you might think.  What other layered drinks have you made? And Creme de menthe, really?

B-52 
Layer liqueurs in this order
1/2 oz Kahlua
1/2 oz Baileys Irish Cream
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
I’ll post a video of this next week when I’m back in town. I could make another one tonight but don’t think I should drink another one tonight.

Roasted Beets with Leftovers

Had some beets in the refrigerator that weren’t getting any fresher and I had to cook them last night. Wrapping them in foil and roasting in a 375 degree oven for 1.5 hours did the trick. But now what? What else was in the fridge? Cucumbers and green beens from our garden and some spinach leftover in a bag and a couple of hard boiled eggs. And what’s that? Some cheese! It’s a meal.

Let the beets cool then peal and slice. Pour some balsamic vinegar in a pan and reduce. Drizzle thickened vinegar over the beets and a pepper ranch dressing over the egg and cucumber. Colorful, crispy and fresh.

If only there were some ice cream leftover in the freezer.
Roasted Beets_post

Lasagna Bolognese –

Warning: This lasagna has lots of cheese and a dense meat sauce with sausage and bacon.

I don’t eat lasagna often as it’s not exactly a light dish. Sure there are all sorts of varieties with vegetables, gluten free noodles and imitation cheese. And some people may be able to convince themselves that a vegan lasagna is wonderful, you just won’t convince me. You can’t eat like this every day, that would be suicidal. But it was Sunday and family and friends were coming to dinner. Hey, I can eat broccoli tomorrow.
Video Note: Some of the titles didn’t render properly and the tops and bottoms of the script were cut off. Proportions are listed below in the recipe. 

August 4 is National Lasagna Day 

The basis to any lasagna is the meat sauce and you can use any type of sauce you want. For this lasagna I made a classic bolognese sauce with the added flavor of sweet Italian sausage. Sausage is not usually used in a bolognese but is essential for a great lasagna. I also use more cheese than most recipes call for. I made fresh pasta and was able to make the noodle thinner than what you get in a box and was therefore able to put a third layer of noodles on top covered by more mozzarella on top.

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The standard ingredients for a bolognese sauce

The Bolognese for Lasagna:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrot, finely, chopped rough
2 medium onion, chopped rough
2 rib celery, chopped rough
1 clove garlic, sliced
1.3 pound ground beef,  I use Kirkland Organic
1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage, I use Johsonville All Natural
1/2 pound pancetta or slab bacon, chopped
1/2 tube tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine (most bolognese sauces use white wine but for lasagna lets use red)
2 14 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 Bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or milk

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For a standard bolognese you don’t grind the soffritto

Directions
Put the onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a food processor and chop until fine and set aside. In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon until browned but not crisp. Remove the bacon and all but a table spoon of the bacon fat.  Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic (the Sofrito) and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it starts to stick add some olive oil. Brown the beef and Italian sausage, pouring off any excess fat. Add to the sofritto along with the  bacon to the the vegetables.

Stir the tomato paste into the beef stock and add to the meat along with the wine, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, dried basil and oregano.  Simmer over low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours. Every 20 minutes or so add some of the 1/2 and 1/2 until it is all incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme sprigs. This can be done up to two days in advance. When ready to assemble the lasagna reheat and check seasoning.

LASAGNA:
Bolognese sause
2 15 oz containers of whole milk ricotta cheese (2 pound container.)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 pounds of fresh mozzarella
1.5 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb cooked lasagna noodles.

ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA
Preheat over to 375
Mix the 2 eggs with the ricotta and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. NUTMEG?
Some classic Italian lasagnas use a béchamel sauce instead of the ricotta. The béchamel sauce is a butter and flour roux with warm milk added and cooked until thick. Traditional béchamel sauce calls for nutmeg. So why not add that to the ricotta? It’s not over powering but adds a subtle taste that people won’t be able to figure out.

I brush the bottom and sides of a 9 X 13″ baking dish with olive oil.
Start with a thin layer of sauce.
Arrange a layer lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish
Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the remaining meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle  1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Spread the other 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the rest of the meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the noodles
Sprinkle the remaining parmigiano over the mozzarella
Coat one side of a sheet of aluminum foil and carefully cover the lasagna. You don’t want the top layer of cheese to stick to the foil. You can create a tent to help keep the cheese from sticking.

Place covered into the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until the cheese is browned on top and the sauce is bubbling.

Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before slicing into large pieces. Serve with a large salad and a nice Italian bread. I will sometimes make a side sauce for people to pour over the lasagna if they like a wet dish. This recipe certainly doesn’t need the sauce as it is packed with flavor.

Posted by Chef/Humorist Vinny Verelli
Learn more about Vinny on his website and his youtube channel.