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3rd February
written by Steph
Fantastic Fish Lasagna... So says Jaime, so say I!

Fantastic Fish Lasagna... So says Jamie, so say I!

For Christmas, my good friend Taryn gave me a copy of Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook.  It’s a gorgeous book, and each recipe is devoted a full-page picture.  Jamie also covers a bunch of techniques (such as cutting veggies, keeping knives sharp, various popular herbs & their uses, etc.,), and provides recipes for each major course. I first amused myself by flipping through the book, just looking at the pictures to get some ideas for dishes I might make.  One thing I noted was that several of the dishes seemed to be geared to a more European market, because many of the ingredients were not ones you’d find in your average grocery store (whereas I know they’re readily available in standard UK supermarkets).  Also, Jamie has the tendency to use weights for ingredients rather than our traditional measurements of cups, which was also interesting.  Certain recipes in this book I’m sure I’ll never make (sorry, but I doubt I’ll be making my own pasta anytime soon, no matter how good it looks!), but many recipes did catch my eye.  One I couldn’t get out of my mind, so I decided that I would give his Fantastic Fish Lasagna a go.  Some of you might be shocked to read this, because generally I’m not one to go for a fish dish.  Still, it looked mighty good (and called for mild, white fish), so I decided to make this dish in order to break in Taryn’s cookbook.  I think she’d be proud of me (plus, it’s not gnocchi, so she really can’t complain!). Below is my translation of the ingredients used, as well as my own personal method for making this dish.  Elements of Jamie’s method were difficult to follow (e.g., the final dish clearly has shrimp in it, but he never actually mentions when you’re supposed to add anything other than the shrimp heads… which he then throws away.), so I assumed certain things and hoped for the best.  It wound up turning out well, so I think if you follow my notes, you should be fine if you attempt this dish.  I think when Jamie says he will make you a better cook, he is assuming you are already a pretty decent one to begin with!  I will not make such an assumption! 😉 Ingredients •    8 tablespoons of butter •    1 white onion, finely chopped •    2 medium carrots, peeled, and finely chopped [I just chopped up about 12 baby carrots instead] •    3 stalks of celery, finely chopped •    1 small fennel bulb (stalks removed), finely chopped •    12 whole fresh shrimp, with heads removed but saved •    1 slice of bacon or pancetta •    1 small bundle of parsley stalks, leaves removed and chopped •    1 small sprig of bay leaves (several leaves) •    ½ cup of white wine •    3 cups of milk •    ½ cup of flour •    sea salt •    black pepper •    1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg •    1 lb of 6 oz fish fillets, skinned and cubed into approx. 1-inch pieces (we used a mild tilapia, but you could use sea bass, cod, halibut, salmon, or whatever fish you like) •    12 lasagna noodles, precooked according to package directions •    ¾ cup of grated parmesan cheese •    1 container of cherry tomatoes (ours came in a plastic container and amounted to 1 dry pint), chopped in half •    ½ cup of breadcrumbs •    1 lemon, zested Method 1.    Heat a large pot with ¼ of the butter (2 tbsp) over medium heat.  When butter is melted, add in your onion, carrots, celery, and fennel, and allow the veggies to sweat (put a lid on the pot to keep the steam & moisture in) for 10 minutes. 2.    While veggies are cooking, wrap your parsley stems & bay leaves in the slice of bacon or pancetta & tie the bundle with string (I didn’t have appropriate string – didn’t want blue soup! – so I just fed through a wooden skewer several times to keep the bundle intact).  After veggies have cooked for 10 minutes, add in the herb bundle along with the shrimp heads and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  [Note: I couldn’t find shrimp with the heads on, so I just used thawed shrimp that still had the shells on… you’re making a stock here, so the shells will add flavour.] 3.    Add in wine and allow to boil for about 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced a bit [Because I kept the lid on after adding in the shrimp and bacon bundle, there was quite a bit of liquid already in the pot when I added the wine.  You should NOT put the lid back on after you add the wine, otherwise the liquid won’t reduce.].  Then add in your milk and bring the mixture slowly to a boil once more.  Once the mixture begins to boil, immediately turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot so that the flavours can infuse. 4.    Preheat oven to 350°F. [Jamie says to do this at the beginning, but the recipe takes so long that my oven sat idle for a good hour or so while I got things ready] 5.    While flavours are mixing in the pot, heat a second large pot (I used my wok), and melt the remaining butter.  Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add in the flour and stir until it is fully incorporated and smooth (it will look like a paste). 6.    Remove the bacon bundle and the shrimp (heads & bodies) from the stock and discard [NOTE: SAVE THE SHRIMP (not heads) FOR INCLUSION IN THE LASAGNA!].  Then slowly add the stock (including all the veggies!) in ladle portions to the butter-flour (roux) mixture, waiting until the liquid is fully incorporated before adding more (otherwise your sauce might get lumpy).  In the end you should have a very thick white sauce.  Let sauce simmer for a minute or so in order to allow the flour to cook [I was worried my sauce would get too thick, and couldn’t get it hot enough to simmer again, so I just trusted the time the flour & butter spent frying while I fished things out of the stock prior to incorporation would suffice.].   Remove from heat and add in salt & pepper to taste, as well as nutmeg. 7.    In baking dish, spread ¼ of the white sauce, making sure it reaches the corners.  Then scatter 1/3 of the fish and the shrimp (I cut each shrimp into 2 pieces).  Scatter in 1/3 of the cherry tomatoes, 1/3 of the parsley, and 1/3 of the parmesan cheese.  Place 4 lasagna noodles on top. 8.    Make two more layers in the same fashion.  Spread any remaining sauce on the top layer of noodles.  In mixer, blend together parsley, lemon zest, and breadcrumbs.  Scatter over top of lasagna. 9.    Cover pan in tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil for last 15 minutes. 10.    Remove from oven, let rest for about 10 minutes.  Cut and serve!
Close up!

Close up!

Jamie says this lasagna would feed 4-6 people, and I can only assume he means giants, because this is a very hearty and rich dish.  We served ourselves much smaller portions than we would have with regular lasagna, and were totally fine.  The white sauce is much more filling than your average tomato sauce, so I’d say that a regular lasagna pan would easily feed 8 people. With that in mind, I think this would be a great dish to serve company.  This is not one of those “quick & easy” dishes I have a proclivity for posting, because it took me probably 2.5 hours to complete (including all the prep work and baking time).   It’s not a hard dish to make by any means, but it involves a lot of chopping and a lot of simmering, so it does take time.  Probably best to try this one on the weekend when you can start it early.  It was really delicious and creamy and lovely, and I was very happy with it.  It was a nice change from the regular Bolognese lasagna, and it would be sure to impress any dinner guests.  (Though I must admit that with all that work, I’m happy that we have tons of leftovers!)  I guess Jamie was right – this was a fantastic fish lasagna!  Also, thanks, Taryn!  I definitely wouldn’t have been able to whip this one up on my own!


  1. 02/03/2009

    I’d never thought of using fish this way. The picture is drool inducing. I might have to give this recipe a try. Thanks for posting this!

  2. 02/03/2009

    It was a great dish, and has been feeding us days after the fact. Like most baked pasta dishes, it actually improves upon subsequent servings. I didn’t find it to be overwhelmingly fishy, but very creamy and satisfying. If you do try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. It’s really not a challenging dish to make; the only drawback is that it does take a while to prepare.

  3. taryn

    You made FISH!!!
    That, just in itself, is extremely impressive 🙂

    After having looked at the photos, i’m seriously considering having a go at this myself this weekend. Perhaps i’ll have to halve the recipe, though, otherwise this would literally be the only thing i’d be eating all week (ahh, the perils of cooking for one…). In the end, could you still taste the distinctly anise flavour of the fennel, or was it well incorporated by the end of all the simmering/cooking? And if you enjoy this flavour (as i believe you do, judging from your absinthe habits), remind me to send you a bottle of Ricards pastis. I would also like to remind you that my favourite bar — conveniently located 3 blocks away — serves absinthe. Oh look, i digress!

    Thanks so much for putting the entire recipe up, including artistic photo — this really IS the gift that keeps on giving! 😉

  4. 02/04/2009

    If you have ziploc bags (sandwich sized ones and big freezer ones as well), you could make the whole thing and then freeze portions. If you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two, it firms up really nicely (the first night, it’s quite sloppy… like a drunk! 😉 ), and is easy to cut and handle. You could readily cut it into slices at this point, put them in baggies, and then place in the larger freezer bag for storage. In fact, Jamie suggests this very thing himself in a section of his book! Then you don’t have to eat it for a week (though we totally have been, it’s made planning lunches REALLY easy), but whenever you want! I was considering doing so, but then see above comment about no-brainer lunch planning…
    And no, you could not distinctly taste the fennel. I could certainly tell that it was added, because after all that simmering and whatnot, I think it imparted a sweeter flavour to the white sauce than you would achieve with just using the onion, carrot, and celery at the start, but there was not a hint of licorice at all. Tony hates anise flavours so you can rest assured on that point (I don’t think he would have eaten so much of the lasagna to date if that were not the case)! I don’t mind it so much personally, but I don’t think I’d want it to be very dominant at all in most dishes.
    When I next tackle another Jamie O specialty, I’ll be sure to post it here so that you can reap the rewards. Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t just read through the whole thing beforehand and copy out promising recipes… 😉 (I know you did do some perusing, as how else would you have personalized my copy with all those post-its otherwise? Much appreciated, by the way!)

  5. Simona

    I’m so happy to see others are enjoying the recipes on this blog! See, Steph? It’s not just me!

  6. 02/04/2009

    You’re right… I should know better than to doubt you! I have learned my lesson. 😉

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