Sunday, April 24, 2011

From Pani Frattau to Matzoh Lasagna

OK, I know it's Easter Sunday and everyone is making roast pork with ramps, or a turkey with a side of asparagus and finishing it all off with lemon cake with pink icing and lots of wonderful Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies.  But Passover is still here this year, overlapping Easter, and I wanted to share this most unusual of Passover recipes, one that has become a Passover tradition in our house and that I think could do double duty for both holidays.

As for Easter, I didn't grow up in  a religious family so to me Easter was all about chocolate.  I loved milk chocolate growing up and the success of Easter was based on how big my chocolate bunny was.  I still love going by Li-Lac Chocolates in the Village to admire the huge, ornate bunnies and chocolate eggs, but that's as close as I get to religious fervor.

Meantime, what follows is not so much a recipe as a set of guidelines.  For those of you who don't know, during Passover you can't have anything leavened nor can you have anything made from grains, the exception being Matzah itself, the flat, cracker-like bread that symbolizes the unleavened bread of the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt.  In New York and other cities with large Jewish communities you can usually find a large selection of Matzahs, everything from whole grain and organic to the ones below which are called Shmura Matzoh.  They are much more expensive then the usual square ones you buy at the grocery store, but they are bigger and often sold by the pound.  These are made by the very orthodox to meet their rigorous interpretations of how matzah should be made.
When I first saw this kind of Matzoh it rang a bell in my head.  As you can imagine I collect recipes and am always clipping out things that look interesting, tasty, or present a challenge that I think would be worth taking on. One such recipe was for Pani Frattau a lasagna-esque dish made with a traditional Sicilian flat bread called Carta Da Musica  (I call it a flat bread but for all intense purpose it's a big cracker).  Made with a thick ragu of tomatoes, meaty lamb bones and lots of Pecorino, the whole thing is topped just before serving with poached eggs.

My version is vegetarian and I bake it (Pani Frattau is served at room temperature), because our Passover seders (the traditional dinner held on the first two nights of the eight day festival) are vegeterian.  You could make it a meat dish, but then, since mixing meat and dairy isn't kosher, you'd have to leave out the Pecorino.  Again, i'm offering guidelines!

For our version, the first thing I do, the night before, is make a very rich tomato sauce that is redolent of rosemary.  I sautee a head of garlic in a sauce pan with about 1/3 cup of olive oil.  I add 4 large cans of crushed or diced tomatoes.  I add 2 hot dried red peppers crumbled up and add salt, freshly ground black pepper and a titch of sugar to taste.  I also add 1 or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and about 6 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves and let the sauce simmer for an hour over low eat, adjusting the seasoning as it cooks (I'm a little obsessive that way).

Grate about 2 cups of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375 F

To assemble the lasgana I use my casuela and spread a generous amount of sauce over the bottom of the dish then sprinkle it generously with grated cheese, then add a Matzoh and repeat. I usually make 6-8 layers depending on how much sauce I have.  Top the lasgana with the rest of the cheese and bake for about 20-30 minutes, you want to get it hot and melt the cheese a little.

While the lasagna is baking place a splash of white vinegar in a 1/3 filled pot of simmering water.

Just before you are about to take the lasagna out of the oven poach 6-8 eggs - I usually do an egg per person this year we had 7 people so...judge accordingly.

I like my eggs runny so 2 minutes should do it.  Drain with a slotted spoon and place on the lasagna, I squash them so the yolk runs then sprinkle another tablespoon or so of chopped rosemary on the top.

While writing this it occurred to me that this would be a perfect Easter recipe as well.... mix into the tomato sauce some nicely roasted lamb if you want!

Oh and sorry, but I don't have a picture of the final dish.  But so much was going on during Passover dinner and it was so completely devoured I had no time to think never mind take a picture...maybe next year or maybe I'll make it again with my left over Shmura Matzahs, because this is one dish you doesn't need a holiday as an excuse!

1 comment:

jon76 said...

Hi, the bread comes actually from Sardinia, where they call it " pane carasau".

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