I made a lasagna in my toaster oven last night and I must say it was an epic endeavour.
First off, procuring all the ingredients is none too easy. Finding ricotta cheese and lasagna noodles is a lot more complicated than just wandering off to the nearest grocery store. The Indian place in Itaewon has carried both in the past, but I hadn't been able to find them in the last couple of months. I finally scored at Hannam Market, which is basically a cheese-lovers heaven. I can see that a good part of my salary may start going to cheese, now that I've rediscovered Hannam. I hadn't been there in ages and now I blame it all on Melissa.
Then there was the ground beef dilemma. I was all set to cook up a store Monday night and even bought my bottle of wine, only to remember that you can't buy ground beef in Haebangchon - meat is something I get from the grocery store near work. My plans were foiled for the evening. Plus, I drank the bottle of wine. Tuesday I grabbed a bunch of stuff on break, including more red wine, and was ready.
Once home, ingredients all assembled, I made my sauce. My lasagna differs from my mother's in two ways - the incredible amount of garlic I put in the sauce and the incredible amount of wine that goes both into the sauce and into the cook. I used to have lasagna parties where the rule of thumb was that three bottles were needed - one for the cook, one for the sauce, one for the guests. This time I figured one would do, as I thought that my five little tins wouldn't require that much sauce, there were no guests, and I wasn't in the mood to be hungover at work on a Wednesday.
I decided to cook the noodles because the Italian on the package suggested to my limited Italian-language ability that pre-cooking the noodles would make it faster to oven cook and I figured already that my toaster oven would increase cooking time. Then I put the egg in the ricotta - I have no idea why this is done, but since my mother told me to do it, I do it. Seldom am I this obedient but you don't mess with lasagna.
I had forgotten how much I freaking hate to grate mozzarella. If anyone ever wants me to make them a lasagna all they have to do is show up to grate the damn cheese. That done, I assembled the ingredients, ready to start making my five wee lasagnas. And this is where it went a bit pear shaped - I had nowhere near enough grated cheese, I ran out of sauce and that ricotta was being spread incredibly thin by my last tin. In fact, the last one is even a layer thinner.
Based on how damn good it tasted once I had one cooked and (messily) on my plate, I'll certainly be making lasagna again. However, in case anyone was wondering if I was taking the piss by saying that it's cheaper to eat out in Korea than cook, let's just look at the numbers for a minute. I made five servings of lasagna. The noodles and cheese alone cost me $40. I'd estimate there was another $25 worth of sauce, ground beef, and vegetables. The wine was $11.
So each lasagna cost me $15 to make. For $15 I could buy a lasagna at pretty damn nice restaurant here. And if I did that, I wouldn't have to do the ridiculous pile of dishes! Granted, restaurant lasagna is never as good as homemade - in fact, I refuse to order it out because I always find it disappointing.
Eating dinner last night was like a flashback to family gatherings at my parents' house, particularly birthday parties for my Nana and her twin sister. I pictured all my little cousins (not little anymore - they're all old enough to be my Facebook friends these days!) running around, making the dog bark like crazy, while Nana and Aunt Joan did shots of airplane Bailey's and the rest of us got merry and quite full. Good times.