Monthly Archives: February 2019

Pastitsio: Greek Lasagna in the Instant Pot

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Pasttitsio is full of flavor and texture and made much quicker in the Instant Pot!

This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. With the Instant Pot there are not as many leftovers, it makes a smaller amount, but I like that since we typical feed two to four at our house. If you want to make it the traditional way for a larger number of people, click here. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.

Greek Lasagna Pastitsio

When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.

Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • /2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano crushed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
  • 1/2 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
  • 2 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
  • 1/4cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
greek noodles

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pint milk, warmed
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1/2  of a whole nutmeg, grated with a microplane

Preparation:

This recipe will yield about 4 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a 6″ spring form pan that is 3-4″ deep.

Begin with the Meat Filling:

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.

Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.

Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.

Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.

Brush the bottom and sides of the spring form pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.

Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can

Bechamel Sauce:

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.

Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.

Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back the sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired. I make a foil sling for the spring form pan to make it easier to remove from the IP.  Process in IP on high on rack for 18 minutes using instant release. remove from the pot and place on a sheet pan. place under broiler on low to toast the topping. allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

tight shot 2

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Mee Krob: A most Delicious Treat

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Since I was a child this has been one of my favorite Thai Dishes, It is a savory, yet sweet and savory dish with a lot of crunch from Northern Thailand. It is rarely seen on restaurant menus because it must be served fresh and it is fairly labor intensive to prepare. I promise you, it is well worth it.

Mee Krob With Shrimp and Tofu
Mee Krob
Thai Crispy Stir Fried Rice Noodles
Developed by Devany Davidson  
Mee Krob is an easy dish that makes a fantastic snack, or appetizer. Children LOVE it. Vegetarians could easily leave out the shrimp. In Thailand this is almost always prepared in a wok If you feel nervous about deep frying in
a wok, you may use a stock pot.
Ingredients
6 ounces sen mee – rice noodles (these are called by other names in
Chinese look for the thinnest rice noodles if you do not see the “mee”)
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbs of thinly-sliced pickled garlic or regular garlic rough chopped.
6 tbs of shallots (small red or purple onions), sliced thinly
6 ounces of medium prawns, shelled and de-veined
Sauce
¼ cup sweet chili sauce (also known as dipping sauce for spring rolls)
¼ cup of ketchup
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate mixed with 5 teaspoons water
6 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup palm sugar (or brown sugar if you cannot find it)
7-8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, shredded (if you cannot find fresh, forget
about it dried and frozen are not flavorful enough
2 tablespoons fish sauce – Nam Pla (I prefer Red Boat)
* Note the sauce should be a balance of sweet, salty and savory, not just
sweet
Garnish
Thinly sliced green onions, and red and green Thai Chiles or jalapenos julienned.
1/2 cup extra firm tofu, cubed
½ cup of cilantro chopped coarsely
1 Cup of bean sprouts
4 radishes julienned
Chopped peanuts, toasted

Method
1. Heat about 3 cups of peanut oil in a wok or very deep stock pot until very hot (350)
2. Drop the noodles, a small quantity at a time, into the hot oil.
They immediately puff up and turn golden brown.  Turn immediately
with chop sticks or spider.
3. Remove at once with a slotted spoon, or a wire spider.
4. When all the noodles have been cooked, set aside to drain
5. Drizzle the egg into the oil to form a ribbon of cooked egg, then take it from the oil and chop it up. 
6. Finally deep fry the pieces of tofu until golden brown and set aside.

1. Now pour off and reserve all but a little of the oil
2. Stir fry the garlic pickle and shallots
3. Stir fry the prawns briefly until they turn pink
4. Mix the cooked ingredients, except the tofu, and transfer to a serving platter.
5. Combine the ingredients of the sauce, cooking on a medium burner
until slightly thickened and place it in a small bowl.
7. Just before serving, ladle it over the food and toss gently then add a
bit more on top and garnish.

Notes: If you live in an area that does not have an International Market, you can order everything online at www.simply-thai.com Most large
grocery stores have many of the ingredients now days.
You can prep the garnishes ahead of time and make the sauce ahead, so
that all you have to do is the frying and tossing before service.