12-27: Chicken Broccoli Lasagna

Here’s something a bit different…and I’m not talking about the recipe. In fact, 12-27: Chicken Broccoli Lasagna itself is pretty boring. But here’s what’s interesting: I made this recipe at work, for work. This one will be a bit of a glance into what I do all day–my other kitchen, if you will.

I usually use ground turkey for ground meat recipes (there’s a few kids with special dietary preferences) and I’ve made lasagna before for work, so this one seemed like a perfect recipe to try to scale up for the amount I need for a daily meal. “Healthy” is what parents are looking for these days when it comes to school lunches–another way this recipe is a good fit. ?

EDIT: Full disclosure–this was written in 2016, and I now have a career in a completely non-culinary related field. However, this still serves as a fun reminder of a previous “life”. Enjoy!

Lasagna is usually a pretty arduous process–12-1: Lasagna involved making two separate sauces as well as browning meat and boiling noodles. There’s the two latter steps in this one, but the two former are significantly reduced in difficulty for this recipe.

Ingredients. Notice the much LARGER portions–I order my supplies through a national food distribution company, so I usually struggle with finding enough room to store everything in my relatively small kitchen. I scale things mostly by proportions and eye-balling, so it would take me ages to explain how all of this is going to ratio out for what I usually serve in a day.

Giant turkey roll and garlic (that I forgot to include in the first ingredients shot–I can only get fresh garlic in ABSURDLY large amounts that go bad on me before I can use it all, so I mostly stick with jarred), along with my chopped onion. I just got a new knife, so I’m super jazzed to DICE/SLICE ALL THE THINGS.

In the back you can see the bottom of a plastic container that has measurements on it–that is a 4-quart Cambro full of tomato sauce that I made last week for another recipe and froze. I defrosted it for this recipe and used that instead of the suggested tomatoes and tomato paste–this sauce contains that and more, plus that frees up room in my very limited and stuffed freezer. ☃

Boiled lasagna noodles while heating up a big sauté pan for the turkey.

5 lbs of ground turkey takes a while to cook down and brown.

After draining the lasagna noodles, I tossed the still-somewhat-frosty tomato sauce into the very-hot-but-empty pasta pot to finish bringing it down. Previously-frozen tomato sauce tends to have a lot of water content to it, so simmering it now might not have been a bad idea to start getting that excess liquid out. Otherwise, you end up with a watery lasagna.

I cooled the hot noodles down with cold water and tossed them with a bit of canola oil to keep them from sticking while I finished prepping the other components. Stove space is limited, so I have to be strategic in what I cook when.

The meat is pretty brown now, so I threw in the onions. This still cooks for a while though–there’s a lot of liquid still. I could drain it, but I feel like leaving it in and letting it reduce naturally preserves more of the flavor.

After letting the meat & onions cook long after they were brown and almost all of the liquid was gone, I combined them with the tomato sauce, letting the two simmer together for a while to reduce more of the liquid and marry the flavors.

I called a bit of an audible and combined the Ricotta cheese with some Mozzarella & Parmesan, along with my “pizza seasoning” which is a blend of dried basil and oregano. I keep it in a dredge for shaking on top of pastas & pizzas when I make them, a concept I originally encountered at one of my very first cooking jobs–slinging sandwiches at a Quizno’s during high school.

I bought fresh broccoli instead of chopped/frozen broccoli, so I blanched it in some boiling water to cook the florets quickly.

I use various sizes of steam pans as cooking/baking pans–they take a lot of abuse and don’t get rusty after being dishwashed/sanitized repeatedly. I sprayed them with a bit of allergen-free cooking spray to make clean-up later much easier.

Layering as instructed, except for the changing-the-direction of the noodles thing.

To chop the broccoli quickly (and into pieces even my littlest diners could eat), I pulsed the cooked florets in the food processor a few times.

All three lasagnas (one for each class) ready for the oven.

Here’s one after it came out. My oven at work doesn’t do a great job at browning (as opposed to the one I have at home, which torches everything if you don’t keep an eye on it), so it’s tough to get that nice golden brown crust on top sometimes.

Most of the kids eat their school meals family-style to help teach manners and social skills, but the smallest ones still have their teachers dish it out for them first. They had salad and applesauce along with this, in case you were wondering.

Here’s the fully loaded cart that I send to one of the rooms. Each table gets a salad and an applesauce, and then they share the lasagna. They also get milk in pitchers to share.

After they eat, I pick up what’s left of lunch, and pack it up for the teachers’ break room. That way they have food to eat during a long work day and much less goes to waste. Today I had a lot come back–this is probably a combination of it being a new, unfamiliar recipe, a hot day, & low attendance (lots of families on vacation right now). I could send this same amount out on a different day and have almost nothing come back.

I helped myself to a bit after it came back (someone had to eat the photo plate). I thought it could have used a lot more spice and salt (I tend to cook with a much heavier hand when it comes to that stuff), but overall it wasn’t terrible. I don’t know if I’d make it again for work, but it definitely could be tweaked and made much more delicious for home.

Grade: B