Recipe: Lasagne with Cod-Cream and Lemon Butter

Lasagne with Cod-cream and Lemon Butter

This dish is based on a Recipe by Michel Troisgros, one of the true Grand Chefs of France.
I had found it some time ago and always wanted to do this but I never had the time.
Finally, the opportunity came and I did it.

This article isn’t about exact quantities, etc. You’ll find those in one of Michel Troisgros’s recipe books (I can really recommend checking out his recipes. Haute Cuisine but very down to earth). I rather want to show how much effort can go into a normally very simple dish like a Lasagne if it’s prepared ‘Haute-Cuisine’-style.
Seeing it on the plate, you wouldn’t believe how much work goes into this little starter. Once you taste it though, you know the difference to your standard classic cheese-crusted, half burnt Lasagne from the Pizzeria across the street.

Ingredients:

Cod-Cream:
Cod
Coarse Salt
Fine Salt
Potatoes
Creme Fraiche
Olive Oil

Tomato-Concassé:
Tomatoes
Onions
Garlic
Mediterranean Herbs
Salt
Olive Oil

Lasagne-Sheets:
Flour
Eggs
Olive Oil
Basil

Bechamel Sauce:
Butter
Flour
Milk
Pepper

Lemon Butter:
Mineral Water
Butter
Salt
Lemon
Sage

This list of ingredients alone should already give you an impression on the effort it takes to make this Lasagne. But bear with me, it’s absolutely worth it.

Tomato-Concassé:

We’ll need to prepare one component after the other, let’s start with the Tomato-Concassé.
This brings freshness into the Lasagne so I decided to take some really fresh ingredients and fresh herbs from my herb-garden.

Ingredients of the Tomato-Concassé

First of all, the tomatoes need to be skinned.
To do so, I put them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds (really just 10 seconds max.).

Tomatoes in boiling Water

I then put them into a flat bowl where I skinned them.

Skinned Tomatoes

I cut them into quarters and strained them.

Straining Tomatoes

As I needed to get rid of the seeds, I strained them through a sieve as well.
This left me only with pure Tomato-juice.

Straining through a Sieve

I then cut the onion into small pieces.

Cutting the Onion

The onion was added to the Olive Oil in a pan and just slightly heated to get it translucent but not fried.

Onions in the Pan

I added the Tomato-juice, garlic and herbs.
This was left to simmer for 20 minutes before I turned off the heat.

Preparing the Tomato-Consommé


Lasagne-Sheets:

Preparing the dough is really simple.
This is a standard noodle-dough made of flour, eggs and a bit of Olive Oil.
What’s special is that half of the dough was mixed with Basil to give it a green colour and also enhance the flavour.
First of all the dough was kneaded. Being lazy, I let a machine do the work.

Preparing the Dough

In parallel, I shredded the Basil into tiny bits.

Mixing Basil

One half of the dough was removed, the other half was kneaded with the Basil.

Green and white Dough

The dough was then formed into sheets using a noodle-machine.

Forming Dough into Plates

For the top plate, in order to give the Lasagne that ‘special’ look, I decided to make it striped.
This is also how Michel Troisgros serves it. After all, the first contact a guest has with their food, is with the eyes. Making it look special is important for that first impression.
I cut one sheet of each colour into Tagliatelle and laid them out on a white sheet, always one white, one green.
To make them stick better, it’s advisable to rub just a little bit of water (really only a tiny little bit) onto the bottom sheet.

Preparing the striped Lasagne-Sheet

This double sheet was then put through the noodle-machine again.
I liked the result even though it didn’t look nearly as good as in the original recipe.
To get more contrast, it might be a good idea to add some green food colour. I guess I’ll try that next time.

The striped Plates for the Top of the Lasagne

Next, the sheets had to be boiled.
Due to the size of my home-made sheets, this isn’t easy in a normal pot.
Luckily, I have enough Gastronorm-bowls plus a gas-stove, so it wasn’t much of an issue.
You will need two bowls here.
One with boiling water and the other with cold water to stop the cooking-process immediately.

Two Bowls: a large one with boiling Water and a smaller one with cold Water

First, the sheets are put into the bowl with slightly salty boiling water, one at a time.
They need to be taken out after exactly 30 seconds (not longer, not shorter, otherwise they’ll be either too rubbery or too soft).

Preparing the Lasagne-Sheet in boiling water

Immediately afterwards, the sheet is put into the bowl of cold water where it will rest for a few seconds until it’s cold.

The Lasagne-Sheet is cooled down

The Lasagne-sheets are then set aside between layers of baking-paper to make sure they won’t stick together.

Lasagne-Plate resting on Baking Paper


Bechamel-Sauce:

Next comes the Bechamel Sauce. This is really a standard Bechamel.
First, heat the butter, then add the flour.

Stir this for three to four minutes, then add the milk.
Stir some more until it thickens. Right at the end, add some pepper.

Adding Pepper to the Bechamel Sauce


Cod-Cream:

Now comes the Cod-cream.
This is actually quite simple but very, very tasty.

First of all, I prepared the Cod by coating it thickly in coarse salt from all sides.

Cod coated in coarse Salt

While the Cod rested in the salt, I peeled two potatoes and boiled them for 20 minutes.
I then pressed them through a potato-press to get them nicely mashed.


After 30 minutes, I rinsed off the salt and cut the fish into four pieces.

Rinsing the Salt off the Fish

I then put these four pieces were into slightly salted boiling water.
I lowered the temperature and poached the fish for five minutes.
This is one thing I will probably do differently next time. I find that fish loses a lot of aroma when poaching in water.
I’ll rather use the Sous-Vide for the fish when I do this recipe again. I’m sure it will keep a lot more aroma that way.
But anyway, this time I prepared it according to the original recipe and it was very good.

Poaching Cod

After five minutes, I took it out of the water and placed it on some paper towels to dry it a little.

Cod drying on Paper Towels

I pulled it into small pieces simply using two forks.

Pulling the Fish apart

I added the fish to the mashed potatoes, together with some Creme Fraiche and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper.

Creating the Cod-cream with Potatoes, Cod and Creme Fraiche


Putting it all together:

Finally, with all components prepared, I could start putting them all together to make the Lasagne.
First, I coated a bowl with butter. This must be butter, not oil, because we need it to be very sticky.

Buttering the Bowl

Next, I put a piece of baking paper into the bowl. This needs to be pressed tightly so that it sticks to the bowl with the butter.
Using baking paper is vital at this point, as the Lasagne will later be served upside-down and mustn’t stick to the bowl so that the top layer isn’t damaged.

Preparing the Bowl with Baking Paper

Next, the first layer of Lasagne-Sheets is placed in the bowl.
Here, I took the striped sheets and placed them upside-down, with the stripes at the bottom.
Remember, the Lasagne will be served upside-down, so this will later be the top-layer.

Placing the striped sheets at the Bottom

I placed the layers in the following order:
Bechamel
Tomato-Concassé
Cod-cream
Bechamel
Tomato-Concassé
Cod-Cream
Six layers altogether, separated by Lasagne-sheets.

Layering the Lasagne

Finally, the top layer of sheets was placed.
As the sheets were slightly bigger than the bowl, they rose quite high out of the filled bowl.

Lasagne-Sheets rising out of the filled Bowl

As the Lasagne will be turned upside-down when it comes out of the oven, there should be as little overhang as possible, I therefore cut off what stuck out.

Lasagne with the Overhang cut off


Lemon Butter:

While the Lasagne was in the oven, I prepared the Lemon Butter.
This was really simple and quick to make.
I just put a bit of mineral water into a casserole, added butter once the water was hot, as well as some leaves of fresh sage.
Stirring it, I then squeezed one lemon into the mixture. And that was it. Lemon Butter made easy.

Squeezing a Lemon into the Mixture


Serving:

After 15 minutes, when it came out of the oven, the Lasagne didn’t look very special.
But remember, this will be the bottom once it’s turned upside down, so nobody will see it.

Lasagne fresh out of the Oven

Now the moment of truth.
I turned the Lasagne upside-down, hoping nothing would break.
Thanks to the baking-paper, all went well and it looked as hoped for.

Lasagne upside-down

Obviously, it can’t be served that way and just cutting it into squares would be a sin. After all, there is a heck of a lot of work in this dish, so you want to make it look as good as possible.
I therefore used a round shape to cut out pieces of Lasagne that could then be placed on a plate.

Cutting out round pieces of Lasagne

Finally, I placed them in a contrasting black bowl, slightly off centre, placed a sage-leaf on top, added the lemon butter et voilá. The starter is served.

Plating is as important as cooking. Contrasting black bowl, Lasagne off-centre

All in all it took me 4 1/2 hours to prepare this meal. Obviously, this was the first time, so next time it will probably be faster.
Will there be a next time?
Definitely! I will do some things differently, e.g. preparing the fish in the Sous-Vide, using some green food-colour for more contrast in the lines of the top layer but overall, I’m very pleased with the result.