We are moving from Switzerland to England a week from now. In light of this, I thought it best to open up and sift through the few still sealed boxes left from our last move here-- five years ago...
I am glad that I did because I found a wealth of memorabilia; old press clippings, stacks of magazines featuring food articles I had forgotten that I had written and tons of artwork treasures from the kids.
I also found a pile of recipe cards. Each one had a handwritten recipe from friends of mine. They were given to me at a wedding shower fifteen years ago. It was lovely to see everyone's handwriting. A recipe for Minnesota Wild Rice Soup was given to me by my high school friend, Katja. Katja died of a brain tumor several years ago. As I looked at the recipe card, I ran my fingers across her words, wondering if any of the ink that she used would come off onto my skin-- sort of a last link to my friend.
I miss her.
I also found a recipe for 'Chicken a la Roma' from Jennifer-- another dear friend I have known since 7th grade. It looked really good. I reworked it just a little-- it is delicious. And great to make for company, which makes sense because Jennifer's parents (and providers of the recipe) are fantastic entertainers; gracious, attentive, witty.
So, here is my version of Chicken a la Roma, renamed, Swiss Lasagna because I added porcini mushrooms and Gruyere cheese, both of which are readily found in Switzerland.
1 tablespoon butter
2 large shallots, minced
2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
125 grams (about 4 oz) fresh procini mushrooms, chopped small or 1 handful dried porcini
1/2 cup white wine
2 tins diced tomatoes (plain) with juice
1 big pinch dried tarragon
1 small pinch dried basil
salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (or good quality 'Swiss' cheese)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
10 oz non cook lasagna noodles (or traditional kind cooked to package directions)
1) If you are using dried porcini mushrooms, stick them into a deep bowl and pour boiling water over them. Weight them down with another small plate or bowl (so that the mushrooms don't float) and allow them to rehydrate for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the water by pulling the mushrooms our of the water, rather than dumping them out all together, as a lot of grit will have collected at the bottom of the bowl. Chop the porcini.
2) Melt 1 tablepoon butter in a large non-stick pan. When it becomes frothy, add in the shallots. Saute until just translucent, then add in the chicken and saute until most of the pink is gone. Now add the mushrooms and saute for a few minutes more, until they are soft.
3) Once the mushrooms are softened, add in the wine and allow to simmer for a minute or two, then add in the tomatoes, tarragon and basil. Stir and add salt to taste (do not fear salt!). Allow this whole mess to simmer contentedly for 10 minutes.
4) While the sauce is simmering, make the bechamel (cream) sauce. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan, over medium heat. Once it is frothy, add in the flour and stir to combine completely. Allow to cook for one minute, but do not allow to brown. Now add in the half and half and milk. Stir well, to make sure there are no lumps, then allow to just barely simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt.
5) Add the bechamel sauce to the tomato sauce and stir well to incorporate everything. Pour 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of a rectangular pan, then lay down a few lasagna noodles. Next add more sauce, then 1/4 of the grated cheeses, continue this until all the ingredients are used up-- try to end with sauce topped with cheese. Cover with foil.
6) Bake at a 375F preheated oven for about 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes more until bubbly and golden. If you make the lasagna ahead it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days before baking-- adjust the baking time to be longer of it is being cooked from a cold state.