Smoked Chicken Lasagna

A short while ago, over on the ALL THINGS BBQ forum, I was asked about a recipe I had for smoked chicken lasagna. That put the idea into my head that it was just about time for another batch of this family favourite.  Last weekend we decided it was time to run this recipe by my Italian brother-in-law, Fiore, and see how it held up against the authentic lasagnas of his youth in Italy.  


As you can see by the gathering of ingredients, I do not start totally from 'scratch' for this recipe.  By using some commercial ingredients, the prep time and cook time is substantially reduced.  As far as the sauce is concerned, we've really grown to like the taste and quality of the Classico brand white sauces, most notably the ones in their Alfredo line-up.  This one is the 4-Cheese blend and I think it's pretty much as good as what you could do on your own.  If you feel you want it all to be from scratch, certainly make your own bechamel or Alfredo sauce beforehand.  Also, the Barilla brand non-boil lasagna noodles are a huge step up from the typical no-boil brands on the market.  It's Italy's top brand of commercial pasta and that's good enough for me.  If you feel you want to make lasagna pasta sheets by hand for an authentic touch, knock yourself out.  Our other key ingredients are mushrooms, bacon, onion, garlic, cheese (again, I am a fan of the Armstrong brand as far as commercial blocks of cheese are concerned.  If you want to go with a fresh ball of buffalo mozzarella, that's certainly taking it a step further than I was ready to do this day!), some white wine, parmesan cheese (again, in a can versus shaving authentic is entirely up to your call/budget), and then some smoking wood for flavour to that chicken you see in the foreground.  I recommend something like pecan or cherry or apple for smoke (or some Smokinlicious! lemon woodscuits would add a nice touch too!).  As for the chicken, I find bone-in thighs to be the right combination of juicy, rich chicken at a price that is manageable.  Also, since you may have noticed that I don't use a 'wet' cheese like cottage cheese or ricotta, the dark meat of the thigh retains and offers more juice than something like breast meat would.  

If you feel that the end result of this dish is a bit 'dry' for you, certainly add a bit of either cottage or ricotta cheese to the mid-level of the layered lasagna.  We found it plenty moist without it, due to the wine-soaked mushroom paste and dark meat chicken, but if you find it otherwise, add some ricotta cheese to the lasagna and you won't be hurting my feelings.


I don't season the chicken before smoking, just put it into the Green Egg at 275°F over an elevated fire stoked with that pecan/cherry/apple/lemon woodsmoke in a nice clean application.  When the chicken reaches an internal of 170°F, remove and let cool until you can handle it.  Pull the skin and discard (or snack on it, if you're inclined that way), then chunk the meat by hand and reserve.  Time to deal with the other filling items.......

Using our recently cured cherry-seasoned bacon, six or seven strips were fried up crisp and then reserved on a paper towel-lined bowl.  A tablespoon or so of the bacon grease was reserved in the skillet and our mushrooms (I used basic white 'shrooms, but this is nice with an 'exotic blend' of shitakes, portobellos, oysters etc) are added along with some diced white onion.  Add the garlic, at least 4 cloves that you've minced or sliced paper thin, and sauté until mushrooms have browned slightly and onions are translucent.  As mixture starts to dry, add the bacon, and then hit with a generous splash of quality white wine.  


At this point, you can start layering the lasagna, but I like the added step of taking our bacon/onion/mushroom and garlic mixture and putting it into a food processor and rendering to a moist, concentrated paste.  That way, it is easy to spread across the noodles and there isn't as much chance of the finished lasagna losing contents and going all 'sloppy' when you attempt to slice and serve.

To assemble:
  • In a 9X13 Pyrex dish, or equivalent, pour approx 3/4 cup of the Alfredo sauce.  On that, layer 4 squares of the uncooked Barilla lasagna noodles.  
  • Next up, a generous layer of the smoked chicken, topped with a handful or more of the shredded mozzarella.
  • Four more noodle squares and then a layer consisting of your mushroom paste.  More mozzarella and then noodles again.  You should be about 2/3 way up the side of your dish at this point.
  • Remainder of chicken, a touch of sauce, some mozzarella, then 'cap' with four more sheets or lasagna.  
  • For topping, I take any unused sauce and spread to ensure all noodle is covered, lest it get crunchy and hard, then whatever mozzarella remains, usually a cup of cup-and-a-half's worth if I'm working from a 600 gram bar, and then a generous sprinkle of the shredded parmesan.  That should give you a nice, full Pyrex of smoked chicken lasagna!
  • Cover with aluminum foil, tenting in the middle so that it doesn't pull all that lovely cheese off when you remove foil!  Into pre-heated 350°F oven, and let go for about 35-40 minutes or until you see it bubbling at the bottom of the Pyrex.  Time to remove the foil and let the cheese on the top firm up and brown a bit.  Then, it's time to eat!


As a side note, you can make the 'smoke' component of this dish as intense as you wish.  Feel free to do the mushrooms in a bbq wok over some smoke (mushrooms absorb smoke like the little sponges they are!) or use a double-smoked bacon or even bake the whole dish in your bbq if it allows for that type of thing!
Hope you give this a try as it's a great little recipe and can be made as extravagantly or as frugally as you wish, depending on the ingredients you incorporate.

 

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Comments

  • 3/20/2008 10:01 PM Diva Q wrote:
    Well I think you have turned out something incredible. I know where the next batch of practice chicken is going. Can't wait to try it.

    TY!!
    Reply to this
  • 7/10/2008 2:03 PM Janice P wrote:
    Thanks Mike, I am definitely going to put this treasure together.
    Reply to this
  • 5/3/2009 10:26 PM HONCHO GREGORY wrote:
    Nice, Diva put this on her facebook. U on facebook ? got hooked put me on your list, See U this summer friends
    Reply to this
  • 3/9/2010 3:13 PM Avon Dining wrote:
    This looks amazing! I'm going to try this out at my house later on this week. Any recommendations on what to serve with it? I'm guessing a salad, but it looks like it could also do very well on it's own!

    Cheers!
    -Booker
    Catering Indianapolis
    Reply to this
  • 7/11/2010 11:58 PM can koozies wrote:
    wow great picture thanks to you for these wonderful tips and ideas on cooking really great cooking admin i am very happy to read information on this delicious recipe.
    Reply to this
  • 8/1/2010 9:42 PM Jean Hunteain wrote:
    Thanks for taking the time to share this. I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

    - Jean Hunteain

    Reply to this
  • 8/26/2010 12:33 PM Binaural Beats wrote:
    That was a fantastic commentary. I stumbled across your piece of writing and found it extremely practical.
    Reply to this
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