The 1840s were a boomtime for American mythologies. The democratic experiment of 1776 was proving to be a great success. Pioneers were expanding the country’s territory and population. The United States was defining itself in history, politics, commerce, art, and literature. It was time, in short, for a national cocktail.
Though no drink officially commanded that title, there is certainly one that embodies the particular cultural circumstances—and technological advances—of the time: the
2015 was my favorite year for cookbooks. Books that pushed vegetables to the forefront. Books that got readers thinking about how to treat (and make!) their food better. Books that took us to far-flung locales and guided us through cuisines we had no idea held so much excitement.
We cooked through and obsessed over many books that came through our test kitchen this year, but these are the ones we felt a deep connection to, where we went on a journey with an author, and where, most importantly
Looking back, 2015 was a sweet year. The four seasons, like always, gave us a rotating cast of ingredients to bake with, and we did just that. We baked seasonal staples (strawberry cheesecake and blackberry cream pie) and classic confections (crème brûlée and chocolate chocolate chip cookies). So get that stand mixer plugged in, and leave it plugged in through 2016. We’re not saying you need to skip the Häagen-Dazs, but let it play second fiddle to these desserts. They are easier to
Lasagna may seem like an intricate and complicated dish, but it’s really quite straightforward, and the essence of comfort food and familiarity.
1 hour, 30 minutes
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 cloves garlic
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes, puréed
1 tbsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup flour
2 cups milk
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 1⁄2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 lb. lasagna sheets
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high. Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beef and pork and cook until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and sugar and simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Melt the butter over medium-high. Add the flour and cook 2 minutes. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until sauce is the consistency of thick cream, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then combine with the ricotta, half the mozzarella, salt, and pepper.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add lasagna sheets and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, then toss gently with olive oil.
Heat oven to 375°. Drizzle some oil in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay three sheets of lasagna on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread 1 cup of bechamel evenly over pasta and 2 cups of meat sauce. Top with 3 more sheets of pasta and continue layering with bechamel and meat sauce. Once you get to the final layer, top with remaining 1 cup of meat sauce and mozzarella cheese, plus the parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove foil and change oven to broil. Cook lasagna another 5 minutes and remove from oven. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Everyone has that one dish that they make for everything. A potluck, a death in the family, a birth in the family—you name it. My go-to recipe for these occasions? Lasagna. Everyone eats lasagna. And if they can’t eat it right away, they can stash a tray in the freezer and re-heat it whenever they’re ready.
But lasagna gets a bad rap for being a labor-intensive dish. And to be honest, it often is. When I have the time, I roll my own sheets of pasta and simmer a pot of sauce for hours