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I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Surviving the Real World

Is it true that those closest to you know you best?

Oh, sure they may know exactly what drink to order for you at the bar or they may know your favorite flavor of ice cream and that you love garlic stuffed olives from the olive bar at Harris Teeter. But do they really and truly know what makes you tick? I think not.

Case in point....someone very close to me and who once revered me as an independent, got-it-going-on kind of girl told me not long ago that I had no idea what it took to live in the real world. Huh??? I made it just fine on my own before and when I look at my life today, I see that not only am I surviving, I'm flourishing. I've managed to acquire a well paying job. I bought a cute little house and I have a ton of friends. Oh, yeah...and I mowed my lawn last week {yet another impossibility according to Captain You-Are-So-Wrong}. And I did every bit of it all by my own self!

NEVER, EVER tell me that I can't do something because I will do it or die!

And so it was with that same fervidity that I joined the ranks of the awesome group known as The Daring Bakers. My friend Lis over at La Mia Cucina has practically begged me for over a year to join. Well, okay...that's not entirely true. She asked nicely once or twice but I put her off because my life was so upside down at the time. But now that I'm ready to face challenges in the real world, I figured I was ready for the first challenge that the DB'ers threw my way.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Now, ya'll know I love all things Italian. And Lord knows I've made my fair share of Italian recipes. But this, my friends, is a real Italian recipe and not an Americanized version with noodles from a box and sauce from a jar. No sir. This was a crank out your own handmade noodles {but only after the cramps in your pectorals have subsided from the kneading process}, and you can't take a nap on Sunday because the ragu has to simmer for 2-1/2 hours kind of recipe.

This challenge was a 3 day process for me but only because I decided to divide it up that way and two of my three components seemingly had major issues. Shall we take a bet before reading any further as to whether or not my challenge was successful and I can claim a high rate of survival in the real world?

The whole point of being a DB'er is to get you out of your kitchen comfort zone and while the technique aspects of this challenge weren't new to me, the flavor aspects were. The ragu featured not only ground beef but ground pork, ground veal, pancetta, and proscuitto. All of this was browned and simmered with chicken stock, red wine, and milk. As someone who doesn't eat alot of meat to begin with, has serious issues with meatloaf, and an aversion to a dairy product on her hamburger, you're gonna take all the animals on the farm and cook them together along with some milk? Yeah, right! I should mention here that my ragu did not look nor smell very appetizing after it was finished. Seriously, folks...it took 2 days for me to get the smell out of my house. I was close to chalking the ragu up as a failure but my faithful DB pep squad cheered me on and assured me that all was not lost.
As I was heating it for final assembly, I added a few more crushed tomatoes and some tomato juice from the can both of which went a long way toward making it look more appealing.

The second day of prep was the homemade pasta. My first attempt at making pasta turned out quite well, so I thought this would be a breeze. Ha! Do something once and you think you have it mastered, do ya? I wound up adding 2 extra eggs and I think I could have added another because the flour would NOT come together as dough. Let's not mention that I added 10 ounces of spinach because I had no use for the leftover 4 ounces from the box AND I forgot to finely chop the spinach per the recipe instructions. After it finally starts to resemble dough, I'm kneading, kneading, kneading {dear Lord I'm needing this pasta to turn out right!} for what seems like forever but only 3 of the 10 minutes have passed. Total lightweight, I am. I start cranking it through my pasta machine, going through each setting, trying to achieve the transparency that is required but I think my spinach was a little too coarse to achieve the proper transparency. My noodles were so transparent, they actually had holes. By this point I really didn't give a flip because it was getting late and I was losing my patience so I slapped the noodles on the only thing I had lying around that could be used for a drying rack.

Are you laughing out loud yet? Because I was {and still am} at the sight of pasta hanging in my laundry room. Appetizing, huh? In retrospect, the hangers were not wide enough to keep the noodles from touching and gluing themselves together once they were dried. I didn't even share this perceived failure with my DB pep squad for surely they'd ban me from the group.

The final day of prep started only after I had trimmed trees in my back yard {is there no limit to the things I can do all on my own now??} and was dog tired. The bechamel came together with no problems and I boiled the crumbled, pitiful pasta noodles. Out of the water, they looked like masses of wet Kleenex.

Was there hope for survival?

Fully assembled, it didn't look half bad and honestly, when it came out of the oven I was quite pleased with how well it looked and smelled. Also impressive was how nicely it held together after it was sliced and plated. The taste? I will be honest and say that I didn't particularly care for the flavors of the ragu. It was bit rich and too heavy for me. I'm also ashamed to say that most of the lasagna went uneaten and into the trash.

The final verdict?

Success in the world of The Daring Bakers! Bring on the next challenge!

Please make sure you visit all the lovely Daring Baker blogs and especially vist the lovely hosts and author links shown below.

Enza - da grande
Melinda - Melbourne Larder
Mary - Beans and Caviar
Lynne Rossetto Kasper - The Splendid Table

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6 comments:

Anne said...

Your post is entertaining. I'm a newbie DB and have enjoyed the first challenge. I'm an NC girl, as well! I'll look forward to reading future posts!

Lisa Michelle said...

Gorgeous lasagne, and I LOVE the phto of the pasta drying on the clothes hangers! Ingenius! Great job all around!

ice tea: sugar high said...

Love how you dry your pasta.. looked like a bunch of green scarves. Great job on the challenge. They looked fabulous

Nicole said...

It did indeed seem like a big mess until it all came together, didn't it? I was so proud when I put mine in the oven. Thanks for a great post about our challenge!

Christina said...

Your post was amazing! I struggled with "holey" pasta too! I loved the Ragu though...but I'm a meat/potatoes kind of girl normally.

Chantal said...

Your post was a thrill to read. Too bad you didn't enjoy the lasagna, but like a true DBer you persevered in the face of tribulation ;)