The sweet aroma of lasagna in the oven filled Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s Anchorage penthouse. It was the week before Christmas and it was cold. Trent and Darcey had brought their family to Alaska to enjoy a white Christmas. It was cold but not cold enough to keep the girls of the family from their holiday shopping, though Ivy was heard grumbling about ice and snow as they left.
After he got the lasagna in the oven, Trent lost himself in a tome from the book shelf that included a section on the removal of Chinese gold reserves from the mainland to Taiwan when Chiang Kai Shek led his army and several hundred thousand civilians fleeing the victorious communists at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
When Chiang realized he had lost the war, he secretly began moving his forces to Taiwan. He flew almost five hundred military aircraft to the island along with twenty six naval vessels. He also used several dozen ships to smuggle China’s complete gold reserves from the mainland. Before Mao Zedong realized what was happening, Chiang successfully moved some 135 tons of gold plus several national artistic treasures to Taiwan. It was that huge cache of gold that would serve as the basis of Taiwan’s future commercial success.
Trent was vaguely familiar with the story. His interest was stirred the previous weekend while on a family trip. As it was unseasonably warm then, Trent took Darcey, their daughter Kelli, Darcey’s mother Betty, and Ivy, Trent’s surrogate mother, on a drive through the mountains south to Seward.
While the women explored the shops along the water front, Trent strolled along the dock looking at boats. One in particular attracted his attention. It was an old boat. He thought it came from the first half of the twentieth century. The name, written in faded paint on the bow, said “Chuan.” it seemed somehow familiar to him.
He learned in his research that day that Chiang used many ships and aircraft to spirit the gold away from the mainland. Eighty or ninety of those ships eventually defected back to the communist government. One sank. And one simply disappeared. The Chuan.
It wasn’t known if the Chuan was carrying gold when it vanished. With 135 tons of gold moving to Taiwan there would certainly be a temptation.
Trent closed the book and looked thoughtfully out the window, his gaze following Cook Inlet. Perhaps another adventure was shaping up.
Trent Marshall’s Lasagna
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
2 pounds canned tomatoes
8 ounces tomato sauce
6 ounces tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon sugar
Creole seasoning & pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 pound mozzarella, grated
Saute the onion in olive oil until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the ground beef. Stir to mix well and continue cooking until the meat is browned.
Add all the remaining ingredients except for the cheeses and noodles. Gently simmer the sauce for at least an hour and up to four hours.
Create layers in an oven proof pan beginning with a thin layer of sauce. A glass dish is best.
Next cover the pan with noodles. Trent uses pre-cooked noodles. Then make layers as follows: a thicker layer of sauce; crumbles of ricotta; sprinkles of parmesan; a layer of mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with sauce and then mozzarella.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Terrific when snow is on the ground!