It was the night before Thanksgiving. Biggest party night of the year. A fact that was completely unbeknownst to me until I found myself at Brother Jimmy’s drinking $2 margaritas. At 8 PM.
If only I had known then. The night was only just beginning.
Scene II – The Stumble Inn. A sports bar across the street from Brother Jimmy’s. Popular post-exam party location. Beer pong tables set up in the back. World-renowned for its fabulous drink deals. (The world, of course, as delineated by the Weill Cornell Medical Campus borders. No one else really cares about being able to get $1 American beers on Monday nights or $2 pitchers on Wednesdays. It IS the Upper East Side, after all. They are all at Stir or Bounce or one of the many other high-end lounges in the neighborhood paying $13 for their drink and damn well proud of it.)
“Let’s make a bet,” he said to me.
The “he” in question, of course, being my good friend Matt.
Warning signs should have gone off as soon as he said that. (How many margaritas had I had? In a court of law, could I make the case that I was too mentally unfit at this point to make any kind of a rational decision? And if not, should I maybe have drank some more so that, should worse have come to worse, that actually would have been a valid argument?). None of this went flashing through my head. however.
Instead, I smiled coyly. “What’s the bet?”
“You play with me on a team for beer pong. You have to make three shots. If you don’t do it, you have to cook me any dinner that I want. If you do do it, I have to cook you any dinner that you want.”
Have you ever heard of beer muscles? A phenomenon that occurs, mostly in men, such that when they drink too much they think they are stronger than the actually are? That’s what I had. Except the female, domesticated version. In which I believed for a second that I actually could cook anything.
Unequivocally, without a moment’s hesitation. “You’re on.”
Little did I know that when he said he would cook any dinner for me, what he really meant was that he would cook any dinner that was limited to a grilled cheese sandwich. And/or take-out. We may have even had to take out the grilled cheese sandwich.
So probably, it’s a good thing that I lost.
Instead, Matt, Sophie, Adam, Justin and I ended up at my apartment this past Monday eating the lasagna and garlic bread that he requested, as well as an undisclosed dessert that shall appear in the next few days.
My first dinner party. A veritable success.
Irony – we had just had an exam that day. So where did we end up later that night? None other than The Stumble Inn. (Yes, I went, crutches and all. Not even a pulled groin muscle is going to hold me down.)
The first thing I hear when we walk in?
“So Joanne, let’s make a bet.”
Boys. Gotta love em.
I did a lot of searching when trying to figure out what lasagna to make and settled on Giada’s recipe for classic Italian lasagna. The only thing I changed was to omit the bechamel sauce. My parents have made lasagna for years. And I am pretty sure they never heard the word bechamel before in their lives. Therefore, I deemed it unnecessary. I also added some garlic powder to the ground beef. Should I make this recipe again, I would season the ricotta a little bit more heavily as well as add some tomato sauce and an onion to the ground beef while cooking it. Other than that, it was a hit. The boys basically licked their plates. I would have too. If it weren’t entirely un-ladylike.
Classic Italian Lasagna
Serves 8, adapted from Giada DeLaurentis
3 cups tomato sauce (I cheated and used a jar from Whole Foods. All fresh ingredients – tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil. I will post the exact brand next time. It’s my favorite jarred tomato sauce.)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
4 cups part-skim ricotta
1 lb lasagna noodles (I didn’t end up using the whole pound, just enough to fill my tray. I also used no-boil noodles.)
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and patted dry
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. In a saute pan, preheat the olive oil. Cook the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula as you go. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder if using. Cook until browned, then remove from heat, draining any excess liquid, and set aside.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Add a layer of the pasta sheets. Over this, spread all of the ricotta mixture, followed by all of the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta. Spread all of the ground beef over this, followed by half of the mozzarella. Add another cup of tomato sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta. Spread the remaining tomato sauce over THIS and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and then bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Kevin of Closet Cooking (one of my favorite bloggers!).