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Mile-high lasagna

October 06, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

MAUGANSVILLE -- Once plated, the steak lasagna Dorriene Diggs made was at least three inches thick.

The adapted family recipe gets dimension from five cheeses, six kinds of vegetables, marinated steak and a Chardonnay-red wine sauce -- all without overloading the senses.

It's a fitting dish to serve when you are entertaining many. At three inches thick, a little bit will go a long way. It's comfort food to the max, a good family reunion dish.

It's also fitting that it comes from Diggs, 54, of Maugansville, who grew up a middle child of 18 kids. The recipe came from her mother, who cooked for the whole family.

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"I used to sit in the kitchen and watch her," said Diggs.

Her mother was a professional cook and worked for local schools and church organizations, which meant she wasn't home much during the week, Diggs said. So she cooked all the family meals on weekends. The meals for each week day were labeled and put in the freezer. Sunday dinner was a major production after church.

"The only time I saw my mother was on the weekend," Diggs said.

Childhood was tough, Diggs said. The family had very little money. Diggs recalled having to eat lard sandwiches when there was not enough food. Diggs said she was 21 years old when she got her first coat.

But her mother's culinary skills were passed on to Diggs, who has worked in the culinary business for 25 years, starting when she was 16, shortly after her mother's death. The lasagna recipe is a dish that mom used to make.




Q&A with Dorriene Diggs



So, tell me about your mother's lasagna.
I used to watch my mother make the lasagna, but she used ground beef. I remember saying, "Wouldn't it be nice to put some steak in there?" And she said, "Sweetie, we can't afford no steak."

I used to be the kind of person to make my own money. I would carry peoples groceries until I got enough to buy the steak. I got it and said, "Mom, here's the steak."

Do you think you've followed in your mother's footsteps at all?
Yeah, as far as the cooking is concerned. But I also played sports. I would have loved to be a basketball player, but they didn't have (girls) basketball then.

What's your favorite team?
I like women's basketball, the Mystics, but they haven't been doing too good. We used to have season tickets. I like the Wizards.

So you like sports. But where does cooking rank?
Cooking's got to be No. 1. I can't sleep, so I cook. It's nothing for me to be cooking until 2 or 3 in the morning. ... Cooking is a relief of stress.

What are some other things you like to cook?
I make banana bread like my mom made -- with black walnuts. I do a pumpkin bread with raisins and pecans and that (bread) a person will jump off the Empire State Building for. It's that good. I have to be careful when I make it because I can eat it all by myself.




Steak lasagna



For the meat

2 pounds top or bottom round steak
Chardonnay, enough to marinate steak
Garlic powder, to taste
Meat tenderizer, to taste
Pepper, to taste

For the sauce

2 medium-sized onions, chopped
3 spring onion (also known as scallions) stalks, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 medium zucchini, cubed

1 medium squash, cubed
1 8-ounce package of fresh mushrooms
4 to 6 ounces fresh spinach
16-ounces of tomato sauce (see cook's note)
4 ounces of tomato paste (see cook's note)

2 12-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon parsley, to taste
1 teaspoon season all, to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, to taste
1 teaspoon basil, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano, to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup Chardonnay wine
1/3 cup red wine

For the lasagna

2 boxes of lasagna noodles (see cook's note)
Marinated steak, cubed (see instructions for steak)
12 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound shredded Swiss cheese
1 pound shredded mozzarella
1 pound shredded sharp cheddar
16 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare the meat, season to your own liking with garlic powder, meat tenderizer and pepper and marinate in Chardonnay overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, sauté the onions, green peppers and celery in the olive oil until everything is tender. Add the zucchini, squash, mushrooms and spinach, then add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Add the garlic and the rest of the seasonings. Pour the wines over everything. Allow to come to a boil.

Once the sauce reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.

Chop the marinated meat into cubes. Add the steak after the sauce has simmered and cook for two minutes. Turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix together the Swiss cheese, mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

Assemble the lasagna in a large and deep lasagna pan. Start by placing a layer of noodles on the bottom. Add the cheeses for the next layer, then add a layer of sauce. Repeat these steps until you reach the top. For the top layers, add a layer of noodles and add a layer of cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the top layer has browned. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

Serves 12 to 15.

Cook's notes: Dorriene Diggs specifies using Hunt's tomato sauce and Hunt's tomato paste to make her sauce. She specifies using a jar of Ragu Chunky spaghetti sauce if you do not want to make your own sauce.

Diggs specifies San Giorgio lasagna. When preparing the pasta, Diggs uses a tablespoon of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking.

-- Courtesy of Dorriene Diggs of Maugansville

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