Like many good cooks who enjoy trying new recipes, Jerri notes ones that turned out especially well by writing the name and page number of the recipe on the flyleaf of the cookbook where she found it. “It saves a lot of time,” she observes.
There are four thus noted in the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Stretcher Cook Book, which we bought shortly after it was published in 1974. She annotated others throughout the thin volume that came close to making the cut as truly superior. “Good, but a little bland” is her assessment of a ham and cheese bake while Pork Florentine earned a “Good.” In the margin for Corn Chowder she judged it good and said that you could also make it with ham rather than bacon and suggested adding some chopped carrot for color.
I’m sure that she tried many recipes in the book, but there is not one negative comment, unless “bland” qualifies. Like me, she was taught to say nothing if you couldn’t say something nice. Unlike me, she follows that rule.
Of the four recipes she listed on the flyleaf, Ham and Swiss Lasagna is the one we have most often. This may be partly because when Jerri was giving piano lessons, she cooked things that she could assemble before her students came for lessons after school and pop in the oven a half hour or so before I got home from work.
But we cook it today because it is easy to make and has a combination of flavors that we find delicious.
6 Lasagna noodles
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 T butter
3 T all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
5 – 6 ounces Swiss cheese
2 cups chopped cooked ham
1 can mushroom stems and pieces
Start by heating the water to cook the lasagna noodles. As the water is heating, peel an onion and finely chop a quarter cup of it. Wash and finely chop a quarter cup of green bell pepper. Chop about two cups of cooked ham into a quarter inch dice.
Thinly slice about five ounces of Swiss cheese and set it aside.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions until the noodles are al dente, about thirteen or fourteen minutes. Rinse them in cold water and set the drained noodles aside.
Warm the milk to steaming in the microwave or a small saucepan over moderate heat. Preheat the oven to 375º. Drain the mushrooms.
Heat the butter to foaming over moderate heat, then add the onions and pepper. Cook the vegetables for three minutes, then stir in the flour and cook the mixture another minute, string constantly. Blend in the milk and keep stirring until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Stir in the ham and mushrooms and remove the sauce from the heat.
Grease an eight by eight or six by ten inch baking dish. Arrange three of the noodles on the bottom of the dish, cover them with half of the sauce, then cover the sauce with a layer of Swiss cheese. Repeat with a second layer of each ingredient and finish with a sprinkle of paprika.
Bake the lasagna, covered, for about twenty-five minutes until everything is heated through. Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow it to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before serving.
This recipe makes six servings.
NOTES: Simple as it is, this dish deserves the honor of being served with with a good beer or a pinot noir or sauvignon blanc wine. Pair it with some French bread and butter and a green salad for a simple but elegant dinner.
A four ounce can of mushrooms works fine, but you can also sauté about four ounces of fresh mushrooms, which makes the dish taste even better.