Layered dinners = happy rectangles!
January 12, 2011 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Seeking dinner recipes that involve layering components!

I like making dinners that involve layers, and in large batches so that I can freeze individual portions for lunches.

Why layers? It's entertaining-- I like making the components, I like putting them all together, and after my first (initially intimidating but ultimately very successful) experience making lasagna I realized that as long as I like the ingredients, the results are going to be awesome.

I'm looking for new ideas to add to my repertoire--so far I've got variations on beef/spinach lasagna, shepherd's pie, the basic casserole template, and- don't judge- taco pie (taco ingredients layered on top of puff pastry).

Some caveats:

1. Must have some sort of animal protein. This is a requirement from the male half of the household.
2. Tomatoes are unwelcome in our home (well-- sauce and paste and the like are okay in small doses, but no actual or canned large-ish pieces).
3. Eggplant shows up in a lot of layer recipes I've found, but neither of us particularly like it unless it's cooked by professionals.

A note on grocery selection:

We live in a really remote (think 60th parallel) small town where the produce selection is rather unpredictable. As in, there's obscure tropical fruit year-round but the fresh spinach comes and goes and every once in a while something random like broccoli rabe will appear and then vanish just as quickly. Recently I saw bok choy. Leeks, butternut squash, and shallots are pretty consistent. I have yet to see fresh haricot vert/green beans in this town, and while I see them in a number of "layer" recipes, these would have to be out, because frozen or canned they're just vile. Mushrooms are limited to button, crimini, and the occasional portabella. I have plenty of red potatoes and homegrown garlic from my in-laws. Dry goods selection is pretty much the same as anywhere else, thankfully. We get high quality fresh meats and sausages from a local butcher so that's not an issue either. In the summertime I can grow pretty much anything but as it's about -20 at the moment, I'm limited to what's in the stores.

A note on herbs and spices:

My indoor winter garden includes chives, basil, parsley, and thai basil. Spices are not a problem-- I have a well-rounded cupboard stocked with a lot of Indian and Thai basics as well. Anything I don't have I can order online.

So! I'm looking for new recipes and am open to all sorts of flavors/ingredients-- North American, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, anything, really! I don't mind putting time and effort into each of the individual components. We recently received an upright freezer as our Christmas present so the more ideas to fill it with, the better! Recipes that incorporate fruit into an otherwise savory dish would be especially awesome, but not necessary.
posted by mireille to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Mexican lasagne.

Layer chili con carne, or pork/chicken/beef/shrimp cooked with black pepper and cumin with refried beans, onion, peppers (hot or bell), cheese, rice (optional), guacamole, soft tortillas, salsa (verde, if you don't like tomatoes) topping it with a final layer of soft tortillas, refried beans and cheese, then bake to make a delicious Mexican 'lasagne'.
posted by essexjan at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Quiches are cool. I usually don't intentionally layer mine (just sort of mix and dump), but when I do, it's fun cutting into it and seeing the neat little rows of crust, meat, veg, and cheese.
posted by phunniemee at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2011

I think your lasagna intuition is right on: as long as you like the components, the dish will be tasty. I like to make lasagna-style things based on other countries' cuisines. Use tortillas instead of noodles, taco seasoning on the meat, and cheddar/jack instead of of mozzarella - call it taco lasagna. Stick with the noodles but instead of tomato sauce make a thai-style peanut sauce, or green or red or yellow curry, and throw some veggies in there -- mozzarella is still good with peanut sauce, you might have to experiment to find a good cheesy element for the curry versions. Lasagna made with mashed butternut squash, rosemary, and white sauce instead of red is amazing, and I guess you could throw some chicken in there to keep the man happy.
posted by vytae at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Large, impressive, layered.
i have tried freezing and it works okay. However, reheating is best done in the oven to avoid making the crust into a tough floppy weird thing.

Nothing in the recipe is hard to find and most things can be substituted.
(Sausage for meatballs, types of cheese, types of salami, etc.)

i have even added vegetables successfully and make full veggie versions, so play with it.
posted by Seamus at 9:51 AM on January 12, 2011

For lasagna, try making it with polenta cooked, cooled in a bread pan, and sliced.
Polenta lasagna is as flexible as regular lasagna just completely different.
posted by Seamus at 9:53 AM on January 12, 2011

Chicken chilaquile is very tasty. Here's a random recipe for it.
On preview - this is rather similar to what essexjan calls a Mexican lasagne. Although I use tortilla chips instead of soft tortillas.

You could also try Moroccan chicken Bastilla.
posted by jonesor at 10:08 AM on January 12, 2011

Butternut squash lasagna is great - has a B├ęchamel instead of tomato sauce and totally different flavors than a traditional lasagna. You could substitute just about any similar gourd - pumpkin, acorn squash, etc. I used a recipe from Epicurious, but there are tons online if you Google it.
posted by misskaz at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2011


The greatest benefit of chilaquiles is that you can change the recipe around any number of ways. The basic point to it, though, is layering fried tortillas (or, if you're lazy like me, tortilla chips), delicious sauce, cheese, and meat. Given your specifications, it's also useful because it can easily be made with just canned enchilada sauce and spices. The link above doesn't include any meat. These two involves eggs (and, according to a friend of mine, is more traditional). This one has chicken. I usually prefer beef, though.

On preview, jonesor just beat me! But I'm still posting, in order to show the great variety available for chilaquiles. Also to second just how tasty and awesome they are.
posted by meese at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2011

Veal Prince Orloff -- they are not kidding about the "4 1/2 hr" time listed to make it, but it is an interesting recipe. I can't vouch for the veal result as I've only used that recipe to make a vegetarian version, but it was excellent; the fillings are delicious.
posted by kmennie at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2011

Potato gatto.
posted by dfan at 10:23 AM on January 12, 2011

Those recipes for Mexican lasagne sound similar (but different) to King Ranch Casserole. It's sort of a gringo-white-bread version, I guess.
posted by CathyG at 10:30 AM on January 12, 2011

A polenta layered dish that I made up!

First, cook your polenta in a heavy pot--I just use Quaker yellow cornmeal, starting with two cups of water to one cup of cornmeal and adding additional water until it's the consistency of hot cereal. Cover the polenta and cook over the very lowest heat setting possible on your stove for thirty minutes, stirring a couple of times and making sure it doesn't burn. Add salt, butter, olive oil and/or grated parmesan to taste.

Meanwhile, you have prepared several of the following: a pasta sauce of your choice; spinach chopped very fine and sauteed with garlic; sauteed mushrooms; carmelized onions; grated cheeses such as mozarella, provalone, etc; some sort of vaguely italianate ground beef in sauce; sauteed seasoned cauliflower.

Grease a loaf pan. Ladle in a layer of polenta. Add a layer of your choice. Add more polenta. Another layer. More polenta. Another layer. Top with sauce and/or grated cheese and bake in the oven until heated through and the top is browned.

I do this this way (I'm vegan, so substitute as needed): Polenta gets cooked with buttery spread, olive oil and nutritional yeast; I make a red sauce, a sauteed vegetable and a protein, usually crumbled tempeh fried with garlic. I use the red sauce as a layer and as a topping. Since you don't like tomato things as much, you could saute a lot of onions and mushrooms, reserve half of them for a layer and add ground beef and seasonings to the remaining onions and mushrooms for your protein layer. Or you could saute onions, reserve most of them, add spinach to the remainder, and use grated cheese as your protein.
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scalloped potatoes with layers of ham (I call it Irish lasagna)

I've also pretty successfully done meatloaf with layers of potatoes on the bottom. They poach nicely in the fat rendering off the meat, but I usually give the pan with only potatoes about a good 10-15 minute head start before I pile the meatloaf on top to cook. You could probably do more layers, I think (potatoes, meat, more taters or other durable vegetables in the middle, then a hat of meat)

Evidently I should have been a 60s cookbook designer...
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This Lebanese dish, fatteh bel djaje, that I discovered thanks to an old Chowhound thread many years ago, is my favorite layering dish. (I don't know if the dish is traditionally layered, but it is in this version!) The combination of warm garlic yogurt, crispy pita, juicy pomegranate, and spiced chicken really sends me over the moon, and all of my roommates over the years have requested it more than once.
posted by pineappleheart at 10:54 AM on January 12, 2011

Search around for recipes for Maqlooba (or Makloubeh, or about 10 other spelling variants). It's a Middle Eastern dish of layered rice, vegetables, and meat. A lot of the recipes include eggplant or tomato but it can be a pretty flexible dish and you can add whatever veg is locally available to you. Bonus fun: you get to dramatically turn it upside down to serve!
posted by bbq_ribs at 10:55 AM on January 12, 2011

Moussaka freezes well, but it:
a) is very labor-intensive to make right
b) does contain eggplant (or other squash)
There are a bunch of different variations, this recipe is the closest to my favorite as made by a Cypriot friend.
posted by Runes at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2011

Gratin! You can do a gratin basically with anything and the "template" is basically:

- Some sliced root or other solid vegetables. I have used potatoes, turnips, sunchokes, beets, broccoli (esp stem), parsnips, squash, sweet potato, etc.
- Sliced onions or something for "kick". Lots of them as they cook into nothing.
- Optionally ribbons of greens such as chard, collards, etc.
- Minced garlic or shallots
- Other spices if you want (we usually just use salt and pepper)
- Since you want meat, rounds of sausage or even ground work (we're mostly vegetarian and so use "fake" sausage or tofu).
- Some grated cheese
- A creamy sauce. You can make an actual bechamel but just a bit of flour cooked in oil/butter, then some milk added works pretty well. You can add some red chilli flake to this for a little kick

Put it together:

- Little fat on the bottom of a casserole to keep it from sticking
- Then roughly equal layers of the sliced root veggies, sliced onion, sprinkling of garlic/shallots, sprinkling of spices, some ribbons of greens, bit of meat/protein, some of the cheese, a little of the creamy sauce
- At the top, put a bit more onion, pour the rest of the cream sauce on top, put a bunch of cheese on .
- Bake at 350 F or so covered. You can take it off near the end to let the cheese crisp up. Note that it can bubble over.
posted by R343L at 11:02 AM on January 12, 2011

posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2011

The traditional shape for enchiladas in Sonora is stacked. I find that making stacked enchiladas for dinner includes much much less swearing than rolling the fragile corn tortillas. Any enchilada recipe works (I like corn, cooked cubed potato, chopped chilies, pumpkin seeds with a green enchilada sauce and cojito cheese, broil an egg on top).

Moussaka is great. I need to make that myself soon.

I like sliced apples in a potato + parsnip + onion gratin. And I just use straight cream.

Biryani, the Indian rice and vegetable and chicken/lamb dish is wonderful. I don't have a favorite recipe from online.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 1:27 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for all of the recipes/ideas so far, everyone! I'm looking forward to trying most of these over the next month or three. It's only my second winter in the far north, so not only have you provided me with dinner ideas and lunch leftovers, you've probably given me hours and hours of entertainment that'll see me through to the beginning of spring!
posted by mireille at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2011

There's a German dish called Auflauf, which is basically random layers. But usually it involves sausage and cheese, and often potatoes.

Also, if you have never tried Raclette, see if you can beg borrow or steal a Raclette set and have a go some time. It is a little table-top grill that looks like this and has tiny drawers which each guest makes their dinner in. You layer potato, cheese, pickled onion, and various other things into your drawer, push it under the grill, remove when bubbly and eat. Then repeat. Very social, yummy and fun.
posted by lollusc at 3:26 PM on January 12, 2011

Pastitsio! Recipe one, recipe two. My Indonesian roommate who worked at a Greek restaurant for years before going to culinary school made AMAZING pastitsio.

Keep in mind that if tomatoes aren't your thing and eggplant is merely ok, you could experiment with the same technique (pasta + stuff under, cheesy tasty bechamel baked on top) using different ingredients. For example: sometimes I make homemade mac and cheese with a bunch of leftover cheese bits melted into a roux-based sauce. I add caramelized onion, bacon or pancetta, and at least one blue cheese + one green herb (rosemary, thyme...). Put a bechamel on top of that and bake and OMG...
posted by at 3:45 PM on January 12, 2011

Anything involving filo pastry will also involve much layering.
posted by kjs4 at 6:18 PM on January 12, 2011

Try Dorie Greenspan's hachis parmentier. It's a French variation of shepherd's pie meant to give beefy leftovers a better home. You can leave out the tomato paste and it's full of cow.
posted by therewolf at 8:14 PM on January 12, 2011

« Older I WANT MY MAGIC CINNAMON BUN RECIPE!   |   Take things slow? How do people do that? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.