Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"McCall's Illustrated Dinner Party Cookbook" - Old-World Lasagna

Date I made this recipe:  October 5, 2014

McCall's Illustrated Dinner Party Cookbook by the Food Editors of McCall's
Published by:  The McCall Publishing Company
© 1961 (renewed annually through 1970)
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks, NYC – July 2014
Recipe:  Old-World Lasagna – p. 47

Folks, it's not often that I need a moment while perusing cookbooks at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks in NYC, but this time around I had to sit a spell to take in a fabulous find:  McCall's Illustrated Dinner Party Cookbook.  Because the second I found it, I was transported back to my childhood.

You see, my mom was a faithful McCall's (magazine) subscriber, and over the years, she clipped many of their illustrated recipes from the magazine, saving them in her own, personal collection.  But right there, in one bound cookbook, were all those recipes including my favorite, Old-World Lasagna. 

When mom died, I took all her cookbooks and her recipe cards and her clippings, and when I went through them, there it was – the original clipping of the Old-World Lasagna in mint (i.e. spotless) condition.  My mother never seemed to put so much as a drip of anything on her recipe cards and recipe clippings whereas mine looked like something nasty exploded nearby.  These days, I photocopy the recipe from the book and use that copy in my kitchen and I still get slop all over it.  I may emulate my mother in many ways but her neatness in the kitchen in not one of them.

Anyway, the minute I spied the lasagna recipe, I knew what I was going to make from that cookbook but still, I took a moment to look through the entire book. The illustrations, of course, make the whole thing worthwhile.  In fact, the illustrations are what drew me back to that recipe time and time again. 

Besides the recipes, the other thing that made me love McCall's was the Betsy McCall cut-out paper dolls.  I loved Betsy McCall!  Each month, Betsy (of indeterminate age) was featured along with a couple of outfits that I'm pretty sure could probably be purchased at some department store somewhere in America. Betsy, of course, had the coolest clothing and she was usually decked out in something pertaining to the month, season or theme like October's trick or treat for UNICEF.  I so wanted the Christmas outfits from the December 1969 issue it was ridiculous.

So there you go—cooking and fashion all in one fell swoop.  Awesome.

Another reason I made this recipe was to wax nostalgic about my upcoming birthday on October 9th.  As is customary in many families, the birthday celebrant gets to pick the dinner meal for that day and I normally whittled it down to these:  my mother's meatloaf; scalloped potatoes and ham; mom's beef roast or lasagna.  Mind you, we enjoyed all of these on a regular rotation but I always thought they tasted better on my birthday!  In addition to the meal, my mom normally made an angel food cake, my favorite, with 7-Minute Frosting, also a favorite.  In the cake's center, she normally iced over a piece of cardboard cut to fit over the cake's opening and then placed a flower or two on top.  My favorites were always the big, Gerbera Daisies she picked from her garden (not to be confused with regular daisies which gave me a headache).  And with that my birthday celebration was complete!  (In addition, my mother could have walked straight out of McCall's magazine as she was always impeccably dressed so there's her fashion tie-in).

Regardless of whether or not it's somebody's birthday in your household, make this lasagna.  The sauce is close to what my mother made (except she didn't use pork in her sauce) and it provides great leftovers to be frozen for another day.  The only quibble I had with the recipe was the instruction to cook the sauce for three hours.  I cut it down to 1.5 and it was fine. 

So—there's my walk down nostalgia lane to quick off my birthday month.  Enjoy!

Old-World Lasagna – Makes 8 servings
For the tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil or salad oil (Ann's Note:  I used 1/8 and it was still a bit much)
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
½ lb ground chuck
¼ lb ground pork
1 can (2 lb, 3 oz) Italian tomatoes, undrained (Ann's Note:  I used 2 cans of diced tomatoes.  If you want to use whole tomatoes, I recommend putting them through a food mill to crush them, just like my mom used to do.)
2 cans (6-oz size) tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
(Ann's Note:  regarding salt and sugar, I am not big on salt so I put in about ½ tablespoon.  And when it comes to sugar, I like a tart tomato sauce and so I add it gradually until I get the flavor I'm looking for but that's just my style)
For the lasagna
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil or salad oil
½ package (1-lb size) lasagna noodles
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 jar (3 oz) grated Parmesan cheese

Make the tomato sauce:  slowly heat oil in large, deep, heavy skillet.  In hot oil, sauté onion, garlic, and parsley until onion is tender – about 5 minutes.  Add chuck and pork to skillet.  Sauté meat, stirring occasionally, until it is well browned.

Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to skillet; stir to mix well.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 3 hours.  (Ann's Note:  1 ½ hours should do the trick.)  Stir sauce occasionally during cooking.

Once the sauce is done, cook lasagna noodles as directed.  McCall's recommends bringing 3 quarts of water and the salt to boiling.  Then add the olive oil.  (Ann's Note:  I never add olive oil to my pasta water – ever.  Sure, it keeps the noodles from sticking but you can do that yourself once you drain them.)  Add lasagna noodles, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, to the boiling water; then return water to boiling.  Cook noodles, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Ann's Note:  my box said cook for 10 minutes so I did.  Fifteen would have made them too mushy.)  Drain and rinse under hot water.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.

To assemble lasagna:  Spoon a little of the tomato sauce evenly into bottom of prepared dish.  Over sauce, layer a third each of noodles, ricotta, sauce, Mozzarella, and Parmesan.  Repeat layering twice, beginning with noodles and ending with Parmesan.

Bake, uncovered, 45 to 50 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the top is browned.

Let lasagna stand 10 to 15 minutes before cutting, to make serving easier.

No comments: