Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Creamy Chicken Lasagna

A great Christmas Eve make-ahead dish.

This is a rich, creamy treat.  It's loaded to the brim with butter, cream and cheese. 

(But you can substitute lower-fat or skim milk for the whipping cream.)

You can also substitute white cannillini beans for the chicken, making it vegetarian.

To make the cream sauce:
Melt the butter until it's nice and sizzling.

Whisk in the flour, a little at a time,
until it soaks up all the butter.
Then whisk in the chicken stock,
cream, cheese, and spices.

Excuse me while I dive into this deliciousness
and swim around for a minute.
TIP:  run the sauce through a blender or
food processor to get it really smooth.

Add the parsley.

And the pimentos.

Now whip it.
Whip it good.
(Any Devo fans out there?)

Spread some of the cream sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
Sprinkle cheese over it.
Add a layer of the noodles.

I like using these noodles because
you don't have to boil them, and you can break them
to make them fit perfectly.

After all the layers are in place,
add some more cheese.
You can prepare it to this point up to a day in advance and refrigerate it. 
Add about 10-15 minutes to the baking time in this case.

Christmas Lasagna
(Creamy Chicken Lasagna)

For the Chicken Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 pound ground chicken*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (mixture of basil, oregano, thyme, etc.)
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed, and well-drained (optional)

For the Cream Sauce:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups flour
5 1/2 cups chicken stock (or broth)
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded (divided)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
5-6 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (that's about a handful)
1 4-ounce jar sliced pimentos, diced
1 9-ounce box Barilla Lasagne no-boiling-required noodles**
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

To make the meat mixture:  Heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Then add the garlic and cook 4-5 minutes more (don't let the garlic brown).  Add the ground chicken and cook until no longer pink.  Mix in salt and dried Italian seasonings.  Mix in the spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.

To make the cream sauce:  In a very large saucepan or stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once it is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour in 1/2-cup increments while whisking.  Whisk until flour is well-incorporated and smooth.  Add the chicken stock, slowly--one cup at a time--whisking very briskly until smooth.  (You can eliminate most of the lumps by thoroughly whisking in this step.)  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce until it thickens equivalent to a cream soup.  Add the yogurt and one cup of the Parmesan cheese.  Stir in the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using).  Make sure cheese is completely melted.  (If the sauce is too lumpy for your liking, run it through the blender or a food processor at this point.) Remove from heat and add parsley and pimentos.  Stir well.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Mix the Monterey jack and mozzarella cheeses together.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble: Spread a layer of the cream sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Sprinkle one cup of Monterey jack/mozzarella cheese mixture over sauce.  Layer lasagna noodles over cheese, then add half of the chicken/spinach mixture, 1 cup of cheese mixture, one-third of remaining cheese sauce.  Add another layer of lasagna noodles, the rest of the chicken/spinach mixture, 1 cup of cheese mixture, and one-third of the cream sauce.  Layer on the remaining noodles, and cover with the remaining cream sauce.   Sprinkle the remaining cup of Parmesan cheese evenly over the top of the lasagna.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling.  After removing it from the oven, let it stand for about 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving it.
*You can substitute ground turkey or a baked chicken which has been skinned, deboned and shredded. 
You can also eliminate the meat and substitute 3 14-ounce cans white cannilini beans'; I recommend mashing them as they're cooking for a more even consistency.
**Of course you can substitute regular lasagna noodles that require boiling.  The flat noodles just save a step (and a pot to clean).


lasagna said...

Wow, that looks really delicious! I will definitely give it a try. We all love lasagna even my youngest who's only four. We love meat lasagna the most but we have tried veggie lasagna as well. :)