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Aug 15, 2010 09:13 AM

Help w/ dinner menu for 18 on Sunday 8/22!

Thanks to all those respondents who contributed to my Sunday dinner post previously. My roast chickens, spaghetti w/ lemon sauce and spinach w/ almonds and raisins was a huge hit! Nobody could believe that I am a beginner. Chowhound is my secret weapon! Ha!

So I have taken on a new challenge: I have decided to cook Pastitsio, a Greek-inspired lasagna, for roughly 18 people on Sunday 8/22(that's next week), and I need your help in calculating ingredient proportions, determining prep times and work, and basically any ideas on how to make this easier on me.

The recipe that I will be using comes from Ina serves 8 people..Here it is(the questions that I have follows the recipe):

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup red wine

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1-1/2 teaspoon strong ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 can crushed tomatoes in their juice (28 ounces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, divided in half
2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt
2 eggs
3/4 pound pasta (macaroni-style, not spaghetti-style)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat; add onion and saute for 5 minutes; reduce heat to medium, add meat, and cook for 10 minutes; add wine, cook for 2 minutes; add garlic, cinnamon, oregano, and thyme, cooking for another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper; bring just to simmer; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes; set aside.

2. Heat milk and cream over medium-low heat until just simmering.

3. In separate pan, melt butter, then whisk in flour; cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly; add hot milk and cream; cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, whisking frequently, until smooth and thick; remove from heat and add nutmeg, salt, pepper, half the Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of meat sauce; let cool for 5-10 minutes, then whisk in yogurt and eggs

4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions

5. Combine drained pasta with meat sauce, add to large casserole dish; pour cheese sauce evenly over top; sprinkle with remaining half of Parmesan.

6. Bake for 1 hour, then let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

1) I will need to double the recipe. Will I have to double each and every ingredient, including those in the bechamel sauce?

2) The original recipe calls for ground lamb and grond beef, is it ok to use only ground turkey(ps. that's what will be provided)?

3) I only have pre-packaged grated Parmesan from the supermarket; it's labeled "real Parmesan". Is that satisfactory?

4) I don't have red wine, what can I substitute for it to maintain the flavor?

5) Ina used shells on her show, I only have elbow macaroni? Is that OK and how many #'s?

6) What can I make ahead, even the previous day?

7) Any tips for the bechamel sauce? How not to make the eggs scramble?

8) Ina served a watermelon, feta and arugula salad, citrus vinaigrette with this. I can get watermelon and romaine lettuce, no arugula or feta? How can I modify or re-create something similar?

9) Any ideas for a quick and easy dessert?

Thanks again for all your help!

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  1. this seems like an awfully heavy dish for a late august sunday, but well done on a new challenge!

    1. just make 2 pans, and yes double the recipe. i have never seen a bechamel recipe with yogurt in it. the classic ratio would be 2 cups milk, 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup butter. i'd use milk and no cream for a slightly lighter sauce. make sure to cook the flour enough. don't be afraid to let it get slightly golden. raw flour will ruin the flavor of your sauce.

    2. ground beef and lamb are richer, and far more delicious than ground turkey. treat yourself instead of worrying about the fat content. lean ground turkey is nearly flavorless.

    3. the pre-grated parm is only that -- "satisfactory." can't find a hunk anyplace?

    4. wine is wine. you can sub water, but the flavor will not be the same. the acid in the wine also helps tenderize the meats.

    5. elbows are fine. for ease, i would just use two boxes. i would undercook them by a few minutes or they will get mushy.

    6. you can make the entire thing the day ahead. it will reheat perfectly.

    7. most recipes call for adding a dollop of the warm white sauce to the beaten eggs and stirring. that's called tempering the eggs. then you add the eggs to the saucepan, slowly, over low heat and keep stirring. i prefer to keep the white sauce and meat sauce separate. it's a better visual when the pie is cut.

    8. i wouldn't serve a salad with cheese with a heavy meal like this. a watermelon and black olive salad would look and taste great. add some toasted chopped almonds on top. however, instead of that salad, how a bout a green gazpacho to start. google "green gazpacho silver palate." it's fantastic. or do a simple leafy green salad with a really zippy lemon dressing.

    9 again, this is a very heavy meal. a light fruit dessert, like a tart, plus a plate of cookies would be a lovely finish.

    this is an extremely forgiving dish. don't stress over the measurements too much. good luck!

    1. My opinion? I'd do the first part of the recipe like this:

      1/4 cup canola oil
      1 1/2 large onions, chopped
      2 pound ground lamb
      2 pound ground beef
      1 cup red wine

      5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
      2 teaspoon strong ground cinnamon
      1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
      1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

      40 oz. crushed tomatoes in their juice
      3 teaspoons kosher salt
      1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

      I'd double the bechamel. To keep the eggs from scrambling in the sauce, make sure to temper them first. You could use turkey but the lamb is in there for the Greek flavor. The parmesan that you have is fine; fresh is always better but what you have will work. If you don't have wine, you can use broth or stock. If you're using turkey, chicken or turkey stock will work.

      Use the macaroni, if that's all you have..I'd use 3 pounds. I just did a party this week for 8 and had to make a pasta dish. I cooked the pasta the day before (under cook by a few minutes), and my recipe said one box would serve 8 but I ended up picking up a second pound of pasta because I was afraid I wouldn't have enough. I was right. If pasta is your main course, you should always have more than you'd think you would need.

      The day before, you can partially cook the pasta (drain, plunge into ice bath and drain again well; store in bags or whatever wrapped well. You can also make the filling for your dish then warm up slightly before assembling. You can also make the vinaigrette. I'd make the bechamel the day of.

      For the salad, if you want to do a similar salad, other greens you can sub are mesclun mix or any baby greens mix or even spinach. Don't use romaine, unless you can get small heads in which you could serve whole leaves with cubed watermelon, sliced red onion & olives and Ina's vinaigrette. You don't have to have the feta.

      For dessert, why not make it easy on yourself and serve a sorbet or ice cream with cookies?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cherylptw

        The pastitsio can be made ahead and reheated. Greece is very hot in the summer and I have seen pastitsio served in lots of places so I think it will be fine. I personally like a green salad with pastitsio and there are lots of nice greens available now. I agree that sorbet or fruit with cookies would be the ideal dessert. The fruit this year has been really good - especially the white peaches and the black plums. Maybe a fruit ice cream?

      2. 1. There's not enough bechamel sauce for sure. There should be about 4 cups of sauce. Add about half the bechamel to the macaroni mix it, then a layer of the meat sauce, more macaroni, then the rest of cream sauce over the top. I've never used yogurt, I guess that would be fine though.
        2. Yes you could use turkey, and I've seen many recipes that use all beef. I would use ground and lamb to keep it traditional.
        3. Can you buy a wedge of parmesean? It's nicer to grate your own, and I bet cheaper.
        4. No red wine? Use white or vermouth. There is not a sub for wine really, don't use vinegar. I've made mty favorite chicken piccata without my vermouth before, its just not the same. sorry.
        5. Traditional is long macaroni, you can use the regular, I've had that too.
        6.Lots of people make the dish ahead because they're usually making several trays, this is a dish for a party or gathering.
        7. Make the roux, frying the flour until its slightly cooked-don't brown it. Add warmed milk, stirring constantly-use a flat bottomed spoon like thing if you can or a rubber spatula to grab the bottom,stir til thickens, and add the parmesean cheese, salt and white pepper (I use white in bechamel) It should be slightly thick, then remove it from the heat, and stir in beaten eggs-keep stirring.
        8. What about watermelon and balsamic over romaine. Mexican cheese queso fresco is made from goat's milk and sharp that would work. Watermelon and a drizzle of honey with balsamic?
        9. My favorite easy dessert is the blender coconut pie. Its very flan like, but all ingredients go into the blender, bake it for an hour and its beautifula and delicious. I usually add whipped cream to top it but not necessary. Serve it cold or warm.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chef chicklet

          with such a heavy main dish, i personally wouldn't serve dairy with any other courses.

          1. re: chef chicklet

            recipe for the blender coconut pie please.

          2. Ok. As a preface, if you and your friends haven't eaten this before and you are used to eating things like parmesan from a jar, then I don't think the substitutions you are asking about would make it inedible. I would say that making the recipe as written with that quality of ingredients would really make the dish sing. Ina Garten really makes foolproof recipes but she emphasizes using high quality ingredients. That being said, it sounds like you are hesitant to go to the store and get stuff that you already don't have on hand so I'll work from that place.

            Here are my answers to what hasn't been covered.

            2) The original recipe calls for ground lamb and grond beef, is it ok to use only ground turkey(ps. that's what will be provided)?
            That's fine. People substitute ground turkey for ground beef all the time. I would however, up the seasoning. Add a bit more salt and even add a tablespoon of tomato paste to intensify the flavors. Lamb is a fairly strongly flavored meat so you will have to compensate.

            4) I don't have red wine, what can I substitute for it to maintain the flavor?
            If you have a little red wine of balsamic vinegar, that would do in a pinch. White wine would work if you had it but again, add some tomato paste to intensify flavors.

            7) Any tips for the bechamel sauce? How not to make the eggs scramble?
            Whisk vigorously and temper the eggs as noted.

            8) Ina served a watermelon, feta and arugula salad, citrus vinaigrette with this. I can get watermelon and romaine lettuce, no arugula or feta? How can I modify or re-create something similar?
            I don't think that substitute is a huge problem. As folks said, the feta would make the salad a little heavier so the omission might be a good thing.

            9) Any ideas for a quick and easy dessert?
            Panna cotta. Easy to make ahead.

            1. Thanks guys! I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow. I'm starting the meat sauce today. I will definitely be using all turkey and I was only given jarred Parm. as for the butter, I have whipped unsalted so I hope that will be ok for the bechamel sauce. I'm scared but excited for the outcome.