I have a thing for lasagna.
It was my birthday meal request every year until I went away to college. And even then I had my way with it as often as I could (even in the low-carb phase of junior/senior year Brig and I would make it with low-carb tortillas instead of noodles... Surprisingly delicious).
Most recently you saw this happen.
I'm still making it up to my arteries. Especially since I've made it twice (maybe thrice?) more since then.
The highlight of my lasagna career came when Dakota's mom (who is an incredible cook herself, holy cow) texted me to get the recipe because he had requested she make it for Christmas breakfast.
Anyway, a while back I felt my blood was flowing a little too freely.
So I decided to throw some bacon and cheese at the problem.
Bacon Bison Bleu Cheese Lasagna
(all measurements are approximate - use your best judgement)
- 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (I always have some Trader Joe's brand on hand)
- 1 bag shredded mozzarella and/or parmesan (I usually mix them half and half - you end up with extra cheese but when has that ever been a problem?)
- 1 lb. ground bison (turkey would be great too)
- 1 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped or torn into smaller pieces
- 1/2 head of garlic (I think I used 7 or 8 cloves), peeled and minced
- 1 tub whipped cream cheese (if possible, remove from fridge about 15-20 minutes before use to soften up)
- 1 small tub ricotta
- 1 lb. bacon (I used TJ's applewood smoked for a kick of sweetness)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- however much bleu cheese dressing you want (here's where the recipe gets tricky... I actually used about half a jar of (fairly chunky) Smoked Bleu Cheese dressing from my beloved Red Hills Market - I can't for the life of me remember the brand but more importantly, I'm not sure how readily accessible it is, but you could your favorite bleu cheese dressing - the chunkier the better!)
- olive oil as needed for sautéing
- salt/pepper and other seasonings (a dash of cayenne or smoked paprika is a fantastic addition!) to taste
(( the beauty of this is that all of the "layers" are cooked up separately before construction of the lasagna itself so you can taste things as you go to get flavors where you want them ))
1. Preheat oven to 400. On a cookie sheet, lay out strips of bacon (if you have a wire rack to raise the strips off the sheet that would be ideal, but I didn't have one and it works just fine) and cook until done (depending on your oven it should take about 20 minutes). Once cooked, remove from oven and cool enough to handle. Roughly chop and set aside. Reserve bacon grease to cook the spinach in. Be sure to eat at least two strips of said bacon, just for quality control.
2. In a large bowl, empty cream cheese and ricotta, mix well. Toss in a little salt & pepper (I used garlic salt too because, yeah, let's be honest, I'ld eat that stuff plain). Set aside.
3. In a large skillet (actually, I used a big dutch oven because that's what I had on hand and the deeper pot worked out perfectly), drizzle in bacon grease and heat over medium. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add in spinach and cook down until leaves are wilted a little. Remove from heat and combine with cream cheese mixture. The heat from the spinach should make mixing easier. Once combined, taste and decide if it needs more seasoning at this point. Set aside.
4. In same skillet (dutch oven), cook up ground meat as you normally would. Season to taste. When almost done, add in chopped bacon and continue until ground meat is completely cooked. Remove from heat and mix in bleu cheese dressing (reserving just a little for the next step). In a normal lasagna, this would be the red sauce concoction so you want it to be reasonably thick, but saucy enough to pour into each layer. Now that the bleu cheese is in there, do one final taste text. A chef friend of mine has the rule that you season EACH AND EVERY COMPONENT of a meal individually. That way you get it just right.
5. Assembly time! In a large glass lasagna pan (you'll probably end up with enough ingredients to fill one large pan as well as one smaller 8x8 dish as well - don't worry, this is not a problem because you will want more of this) spread a thin layer of that remaining bleu cheese dressing along the bottom. Lay down a layer of noodles (moment to talk about how much I LOVE no-boil noodles... LOVE THEM!) and spoon out a layer of the meat/sauce mixture evenly across surface. throw a handful of shredded cheese on that mess. Here's where I'll leave the layering up to you. You can either spread a little of the cream cheese/spinach mix on top of that, then a layer of noodles, or go straight for another noodle layer and then cream cheese/spinach on top of that. Just so long as the meat/sauce, cream cheese/spinach and shredded cheese all do their job!
I switch it up every time I make it. I have no set routine when it comes to lasagna layers. Incidentally, that's pretty much my whole philosophy in the kitchen: just wing it and hope for the best. And always top the final product with as much shredded cheese as you can handle.
6. Once assembled, let sit for about half hour to let noodles soak up some moisture. Then pop in oven and bake according to noodle package instructions. Cheese on top should be bubbly and golden. When it's done, let it cool a little so that it holds together when cut up and also, it should be noted, the insides will be molten.
That one is filed under "Lessons Learned The Hard Way".
So there she be.
Bacon. Bison. Bleu cheese.
Really do a body good and enjoy with a glass of wine.
(We drank an Erath '09 Prince Hill Vineyard 115 Clone Pinot Noir)
Let me know how it turns out if you make it!