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Viva Las Lasagna

This week's lasagna for the Piccante Dolce Love 4 Lasagna Challenge was something I wanted to try as soon as i read about this challenge. I will be honest with you, I don't make lasagna often. I don't make rich, cheesy, gooey food much although Shack would love me more if I did. When I make this sort of food, I do really enjoy it once it's out there but it just never occurs to me to make it in the first place, so I really appreciate this challenge. My thighs will not not appreciate this challenge if I am not careful, of course, but it's been fun to make food that is really out of my comfort zone.

One of those comfort zones happens to be Mexican food so i knew right away that I was going to try to incorporate those flavours into this challenge. I am sure there is a restaurant chain in there somewhere,  "Paco and Pasquale's"?  Gnocchi a la Veracruz? Carnitas ravioli?

One of my favorite stews to make is a green chile verde with pork. I would love to tell you the story behind how my Old El Asso chile verde came about but it's a salty tale and not at all PC. The bottom line is that I got my original recipe from an online friend of Mexican heritage and I have played with it and tweaked it over the years. I thought that if I made that but tried to make it less soupy and substituted the ricotta for queso fresco and added a bit of Monterey jack in place of mozzarella, it might work. Basically, if you switched out the pasta for layers of corn tortillas you would have an enchilada so there was no reason for it not to work.

I was, once again, happy to see that when i googled "chile verde lasagna" that i actually found quite a few recipes like this one over at closet cooking that looked like something i would like

I made the chili verde this morning using the crock pot and the three main changes I made to my regular recipe was to add less liquid, leave out the potatoes and leave out the jalepenos so that Little Shack would eat it. Sometimes I make my chili verde too spicy and he doesn't eat it and normally I am happy about that because it just means that there is more for me but I wanted him to actually eat this.

I used canned poblanos and canned tomatillos because, frankly, since this was going to end up in a cheesy baked dish where all the flavours were going to mash all together I didn't think it was as vital that I use fresh tomatillos and peppers and char them first and do all of that. If I make this to be eaten on it's own as a stew, I would definitely do my best to use fresh, charred veggies but the canned chiles and tomatillos were more than fine in this particular dish.

stew in the crock pot ready to cook

After the stew was finished, I let it cool completely and I ended up using about 3/4 of the meat. I strained out almost all of the liquid so it would be a bit thick and was left with kind of a tasty soup with a bit of pork that i will add potatoes too and maybe some chick peas for dinner tomorrow. Bonus!

As i was assembling the lasagna, i realized I still had a bit of pico de gallo left in the fridge so I did this:
Oiled the lasagna pan lightly, added a bit of sauce to the bottom of the pan, layer of pasta, layer of queso, sprinkling of pico de gallo, pork stew meat, a light sprinkling of grated jack cheese, lather , rinse , repeat for three layers and top the whole thing with lots of grated jack cheese.

a bit of pico made a great last minute addition

After a good bake, the lasagna was bubbling and the top was just starting to brown nicely. I took it out, let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting it up and serving it.

Once again, Little Shack and I really enjoyed this dish (Little Shack had two large pieces) but Shack found something too bitter again. Last week it was the arugula and this week I think it was the tomatillos, which are pretty acidic. I think that the bottom line is that for Shack, lasagna = rich, meaty tomato sauce, mild, creamy ricotta, mozz and pasta. Period.

He ate it but he didn't love it. My friend, Nancy was here and I gave her a piece and she loved it too so I would most definitely make this again but I have to admit, I wouldn't do it often and I would still rather eat the stew with some rice. I am just not really a huge fan of all of this cheese and goo. I hate to admit that I am more exited about doctoring up the leftover chile than I am about eating the lone serving that is sitting in the fridge but I am not a cheesy, gooey girl so that doesn't really reflect on the deliciousness of this dish.

Perhaps next week I should make a lasagna with tandoori chicken and paneer? 
"Salvatore and Singh's"?
Greek lasagna with spinach, feta and dill?
"Sal and Spiro's?"
I have always wanted to open a Jamaican/Polish restaurant and specialized in jerk chicken perogies and call it Jah Polski.
Swear to God.

Chile Verde Lasagna
1 1/2 lb pork , cubed (i have used pork butt, a pork roast and pork tenderloin - depends on how rich and fatty you like it)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 small tomatoes or one large, chopped
1 27.5 oz can Poblano Chilies , drained and chopped
1 850 mil can tomatillos, drained
500 ml chicken stock
200 ml beer
one bunch of cilantro root and stalks
1 tbls mexican oregano
handful of chopped cilantro leaves
a couple of limes

Cut the meat into stew meat sized cubes and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat oil in a heavy pan and brown the pork, remove and put in your slow cooker. Add a bit more oil and saute the onion and garlic in any pork drippings. While the onion/garlic cooks, add the rest of the ingredients (except for the cilantro leaves and the limes) to the slow cooker with the pork and finally, add the browned onion/garlic, cover and cook for the first hour on high.
Turn the heat to low and cook for at least another 5 hrs, the longer the better. 
When the meat is falling apart, add the chopped cilantro and squeeze in the lime juice to taste. Set aside to cool.

To make the Lasagna:
preheat oven to 350F

Mix about 1/2 lb queso fresco with 1/2 cup ricotta and 1 egg
salt and pepper
put aside

1/2 cup or more of fresh pico de gallo if you have it

cook lasagna noodles, rinse in cold water and set aside while you get all of your elements together.

I found the chili verde to be too soupy to use straight up so i used a slotted spoon and took out the pork and the solids and left the broth in the pot. I will eat that later as a soup and add some potatoes and maybe chickpeas. 
Shred the meat up and set aside that mixture.

grate about 1/2 cup or more of monterey jack cheese, depending on how cheesy you like things

Oil the lasagna pan lightly and add a bit of sauce to the bottom. Start to layer:
Noodles, 1/3 of the queso mixture, a sprinkling of fresh pico de gallo if you have it, 1/3 of the stew, a light sprinkling of jack cheese and then do a couple more layers ending with a generous layer of jack cheese.

Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes until it is bubbling and the cheese on top is starting to brown a bit. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before you cut it up and serve it.

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