Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Crockpot lasagna

With fall in full swing (foggy mornings, sunny afternoons, cold nights), I broke out the lasagna recipe and decided to try it in a crockpot to see if it was any different or better by Googling "slow cooker lasagna recipe." Most seemed to be variations on standard lasagna recipes just cooked on low for four to six hours.
Spoiler alert: the lasagna rocked. Just as good as in the stove, but I could let it cook all day while I was at work (sort of). But if I do it in the crock again, I'd change one thing. Here's how I put it all together.
First, I made my standard lasagna filling, using lean ground turkey that I sprinkled with italian seasoning and seasoning salt. I added just over a pound of chopped crimini (brown) mushrooms, a chopped yellow yellow onion, and chopped garlic from a jar, sauteeing it all in one pan.
I sprayed the inside of a 6 quart oval crockpot, layed down a little sauce to coat the bottom, followed by the first layer of broken no-boil lasagna to cover the bottom. The first real layer of meat mushrooms mix followed.

Next was 32 ounces of ricotta mixed with 2 scrambled eggs, 2 pounds of frozen chopped spinach that I cooked in the microwave for 4-5 minutes per directions, drained, and to which I added a little butter.
Next came the shredded cheese layer. I repeated the noodle, sauce, ricotta, cheese layer again...
and put it in the fridge overnight. I took it out and put it on low when I left for work and had Jason's Great Aunt who lives with us turn it down to warm after about 6 hours.
When I returned home, it was still hot and the cheese had melted perfectly.
We added a salad and some freshly buttered bread...
for a delicious adult- and kid-pleasing meal. It was also really nice to come home to a hot meal that only required 15 minutes of prep work on the sides before it hit the table.
It cut so much time out of our evening routine that we had time for a fall family movie night showing of a vintage Jonny Quest episode and It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown before putting the kids to bed.
Lesson learned: the one thing I'd change is maybe cutting the recipe in half: it made a lot, as usual, but I didn't care for how the crock's oval shape (9 1/2" x 11 1/2" x 5 1/4") compressed the contents compared to my 9" x 13" x 3.5" lasagna pan. The piece were really tall and I didn't care for the ricotta to meat layer ratio: too much ricotta. So halving the whole thing might eliminate that issue. Or just using the standard pan, even though I couldn't leave it to cook all day like I did in the crock.
Also, I didn't like how it was a little difficult to cut small, uniform pieces because of the shape. Silly, first world concern, I know (If someone in a food desert read this, they'd be thinking, "You and your stupid crock can bite me."), but hey: friends asked me to tell them how it came out and I'm doing that, silly concerns and all. I just like the uniformity of the nice, square pieces that emerge from my regular lasagna pan.

So did it work? Yes, and it didn't stick to the crock at all, which was a risk a friend warned me about. Apparently PBS's America's Test Kitchen recommends creating a sling of foil to make crockpot lasagna. I liked the outcome, but will try the half-size version next time to see if that reduces my issues with the shape and depth. Still, it's nice to know I can use the crock option if needed. If you try it, let me know if it works for you.
MT @queenofSpain THIS IS AWESOME. why YOU WILL vote for Obama. Oh yes you will # jedimindtrick