Thursday: Wear a fascinator to work and tell everyone that your birthday is coming. Feel childish in your excitement. Run with it.
Friday: Reflection, Kirtan, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.
Saturday: Clean your apartment. Bask in the open space of your bedroom where, mere days ago, summer’s window AC units had been stacked, staring you down with their large-scale clutter. Go to the market. Cook food. Have people over, make punch, laugh a lot, adore whatever family and friends are around you. Soak in the celebration even if you have a little tummy ache.
It was a mellow party, a nice party, and it ended early enough for Shawn and me to do some cleaning so we weren’t faced with a mess this morning, music still playing, early enough to slow dance in the living room in a pretty dress and sock monkey slippers and new birthday earrings in the wee hours of the real birthday day, when the guests had all left or gone to sleep. What could be better than that?
Sunday: Birthday! Wake up to your little sister and her adorable boyfriend cooking eggs in your kitchen. Feel your heart swell even as you decide to keep your eyes closed a little longer, listening to the clatter of pans and coffee mugs in the next room. Talk on the phone more than usual. Open presents. Post a recipe from your birthday party that was requested last year, made this year, too, requested again.
What Goes In:
- 4 pounds or so winter squash (a couple medium butternuts or comparable amount other squash)
- 6 Tbsp. butter (yep, lots of butter)
- small handful sage, chopped
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
- 8 oz. or so gruyère, grated
- 1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles
How to Do It:
- Prepare squash: Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast until soft, then scoop flesh into a big bowl.
- Brown 2 Tbsp. butter in a pan. When the butter turns light brown and smells nutty, remove from heat, toss in sage, and mash into squash with some salt and pepper.
- Make bechamel: melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter, whisk in flour, slowly add milk, stirring lots to avoid lumps. Add some salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Stir and cook until it’s thick.
- Assemble lasagna: Put a cup of bechamel in the bottom of a pan. Layer uncooked lasagna noodles, bechamel, cheese, and squash. I had 4 layers, ending with bechamel only, with some leftover cheese.
- Cover with foil, bake for half an hour or so at 35o. Remove foil, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, cook until cheese is melted and browning just a little. Probably around 15 minutes.
If you are, say, making kale chips and decide to crank the heat to 400 instead of 350, you will most likely end up with a burned, crispy layer at the bottom of the pan. Some of your friends will claim that that’s the best part. Others will push it to the side but still ask for the recipe. Having done this two years in a row, I recommend just remembering to keep the heat on the lower side.
Enjoy your lasagna, friends! I am off to enjoy a walk on a gray day, tasty dinner cooked by a professional, and yet more good cheer.