Whenever I enter the kitchen to cook, I try to engage the creative process in the hope that, whatever I prepare, it will be delicious and unique. Sometimes I like to get really creative! Today, was one of those days.
This is an unconventional lasagna with some very traditional Italian ingredients. It is not the standard red-sauce lasagna that most people are familiar with. I had a handful of basic components and, truth be told, I was trying to use up an assortment of odds and ends. The following recipe is an original creation of mine that just came together this afternoon. You saw it here first.
There is a bit of advanced preparation to this dish, but when all the ingredients are finally assembled, it can hold in the refrigerator over night. In fact, if left to chill for up to 24 hours, it will become a little more firm and the flavors will have a chance to meld.
So here it is: CHICKEN & PISTACHIO LASAGNA
Olive Oil (enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish)
Lasagna noodles — a one pound package of the extra wide noodles.
Ricotta cheese— 1 pound container
Mozzarella cheese— 1/2 pound grated
5 cloves of fresh sliced Garlic
1/2 cup minced Shallots
1 cup of Chicken stock
1 large Chicken breast — cooked & shredded
In advance, season and roast the chicken breast and let cool. After the breast is cooled, shred it. You can cook it in the oven but the flavor will be much better if you grill on an open fire. You may even poach the breast for the sake of expediency. Also roast and peel the red bell peppers and have them sliced and ready as part of the ensemble of ingredients. Oven roast the pistachios as well.
Next, cook the pasta Al dente and set aside in cool water to keep them from sticking together.
Then, add the sliced garlic to a medium hot pan and allow it to slowly gain a bit of color, and then add the shallots, cover and sweat until they are translucent. Season the garlic and shallots with Mrs. Dash, the crushed red chili, marjoram, salt & pepper. To this add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and remove from the fire to cool.
When the garlic/shallot/chicken stock mixture is cooled, add it to the ricotta cheese and mix well. Add a small amount of the grated mozzarella to thicken it.
At this point, all ingredients are ready for the final assembly. Oil the bottom and sides of a large (8 X 14 inch) baking dish. Oven-proof glass is best for this type of item. Now, place a layer of pasta on the bottom of the pan. Add a thin layer of the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the lasagna noodles. Season each layer with S&P, marjoram and Mrs. Dash.
Next layer of pasta, then, more of the ricotta mixture and some of the shredded chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios, seasoning.
Another layer of the pasta, ricotta, chicken, pistachios, roasted red bell peppers, seasoning.
Finally, another layer of pasta and top it off with the remaining ricotta mix and some mozzarella cheese and a bit or Parmesan cheese to finish.
(I thought I had some dehydrated zucchini slices, but I could not find them. They would have added some green color and different texture to the layers too. Another option for color would be to add a layer of spinach.)
Here is the finished dish served with sauteed zucchini, hot green peppers and scallions. On the side is a mixed salad of romaine, radicchio and Belgian endive. I put a light tomato sauce on the plate then placed the slice of lasagna on top of it. This dish was another success! The nuttiness of the pistachios was a nice treat and added a wonderful texture. The chicken was delicate and offset nicely by the rich and earthy flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes. The roasted red peppers added a little bit of a smokey dimension to the dish and the tomato sauce added a bit of acidity to cut through the cheesiness. Overall, this was an excellent new creation. I will be sure to do it again for guests.