A personal recipe from James McConnell
General Manger, Slippery Salmon Bar & Grill
Preparation time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 1½ hours
Serves: 8 to 10 generously
1½ pounds diced halibut
1½ pounds diced Alaska cod
1 pound chopped king or lump crab
1 pound chopped shrimp or prawns
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb, finely chopped
¼ pound melted butter to soften the onion and fennel
1 large box of wheat lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
¾- to 1 pound of Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound of fresh ricotta cheese
⅓ pound of feta cheese crumbles
NO SALT OR PEPPER AT THIS POINT
¾ – to 1 gallon of whole milk
1 cup white wine, Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc (No sweet or oaky wine)
¾ pound unsalted butter
2 cups whole wheat flour to be used making a roux
4 fresh tarragon sprigs (1- to 1½ tsp dry leaves)
4 fresh thyme springs (1- to 1½ tsp dry leaves)
2 (2-ounce) packages of fresh chopped dill
2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp Red Hawaiian sea salt
Cook your noodles first, al dente. Once pulled from the boiling water, rub a generous layer of extra virgin olive oil over them. At the “Slippery,” we pull our pasta with a Chinese wire spoon and do not rinse them as we want a bit of the starch to remain as a binder for the sauce. The key here is to ensure the pasta does not stick while you prep the rest of the dish. You also want that nutty flavor of the olive oil to permeate the noodles.
Melt two sticks of butter in a large saucepan and take let it “brown” before adding the flour; you know—like “popcorn butter brown.” Add just a touch of olive oil to the butter to stop its browning and add the two cups of flour. Immediately begin to stir with a whisk. You will be making a hard roux at this point and it will clump up as you stir it. Not to worry, just keep moving it around the pan for a minute or so to change the flour flavor to the nutty flavor of the butter. At that point, pour in two quarts of the whole milk and whisk until it gets nice and smooth. It will get really thick and a bit lumpy but don’t panic. Keep stirring and add more milk, a cup or so at a time, while it comes together as loose gravy. At that point, if it is lumpy you can smooth it out with an immersion blender. Don’t use a hand mixer, as its rpm’s are too slow to create a quick breakdown of the lumps. It will on the other hand create more gluten in the flour than you want in this dish.
Once the sauce is made you can add the sautéed onions, fennel, tarragon, thyme, chopped dill, salt and pepper. Let this simmer for 30 minutes and then taste for the highlights of the herbs. Tarragon has a dominant flavor so if you want more, add it one stem at a time and let it poach for another 15- to 20 minutes to fully embrace the flavor. At this point add the white wine, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. You now have made a Tarragon Beurre Blanc sauce or French Butter Sauce.
Do not add any more salt as it will come from the Pecorino and Feta.
Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your pan, spreading evenly. Add on a layer of lasagna pasta. Put a layer of halibut, followed by a generous layer of sauce and then Pecorino Romano. More pasta, crab, sauce and ricotta. More pasta, ricotta, cod and feta. More pasta, then shrimp and Pecorino Romano. Layer as you like, just keep it very moist and build your lasagna layers as you see fit. When you reach four layers, add feta and Pecorino Romano as your finish layer. Cover the pan with Saran Wrap (yes, Saran wrap), followed by aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 1½ hours. At that point you can pull the foil and Saran Wrap and let it brown back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Bring it out of the oven to rest for at least 20 minutes.
We present our lasagna servings in 8- to 10-ounce portions. You should have some reserve sauce that you can ladle onto a plate and present each piece with a bit of salmon lox for color. If you don’t have any lox then just ladle more sauce on the top, sprinkled with dried parsley or fresh chopped basil.
Enjoy your delicious lasagna, and we will see you at the Slippery Salmon!
Slippery Salmon Bar & Grill
114 E 3rd Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501