On a business trip to Paris a long time ago, I was invited to “the boss’s house” for lunch. The house was a beautiful apartment above the famed Place Vendôme.
When I got there, I was awed by the formality of the at-least 18-foot ceilings, the highly polished wood floors, the posh furnishings and rugs and chandeliers, and an ornate seemingly walk-in fireplace. I felt underdressed in my work uniform of the day– an Evan Picone suit and not-too-high-heeled pumps. There were eight of us there, and in that formal atmosphere, our conversation started off a bit stiffly. That changed when we sat down to lunch at a table simply dressed with white cotton linens, and were served this white lasagne from a clear Pyrex casserole dish wrapped in a kitchen towel! Comfort food! Informal made elegant with a green salad, a glass of wine and a small tray of pastries passed for dessert. We chatted away, and lingered over that comforting menu. That was the day that I realized that the right atmosphere can be created by the right food choices—a great lesson for all of us who like to cook and have people to our table.
6 medium shallots, minced
1 stick unsalted butter
½ C flour
4 cups milk
1 C chicken stock
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
½ C Marsala wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese, divided
12 no-boil lasagna sheets
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and cook the shallots for a few minutes until they are tender. Sprinkle the flour over and stir, cooking over low heat for about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and chicken stock and whisk the mixture while you bring it to a boil. Just when it boils, lower the heat and simmer over low heat until the sauce is just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This only takes a minute or 2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chicken, Marsala, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Spread enough of the sauce just to cover the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Lay three lasagna sheets over the sauce. Repeat the layering three more times, and then top with the remaining sauce and sprinkle over the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, until bubbling at the edges and browned on top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.