Daily Archives: September 12, 2006

Lune with Butter and Sage

Because I’m a glutton for punishment (or perhaps just a glutton), I made the another recipe suggestion, lune with butter and sage, for this month’s ReadCookEat book club theme. The lune is basically homemade squash ravioli. The recipe initially calls for a pumpkin filling, but says that butternut or acorn squash are also acceptable. I chose to use butternut squash – the sugar pie pumpkins are not in season yet. When I looked at the recipe, I noticed that there was something missing – a recipe for the pasta itself. After some searching, I found it in the archives under the recipe for the asparagus ricotta ravioli. But I decided go with Buford’s suggestions in Heat instead.

I used three eggs and five yolks for one pound of flour (Buford says to use eight yolks, but I only had five) plus a little olive oil, instead of the four whole eggs suggested in the online recipe. It’s been a while, but I’ve made pasta at home before, and there are a few things that I’ve learned. I don’t have the ability yet to mix to eggs into the mound of flour on the countertop without compromising the integrity of the well. I can’t abide the idea of leaving a raw egg crust for any amount of time on my marble board, so I make the well in the flour while it’s in a bowl before turning it out to knead. It works out just fine.

When you knead, like kneading bread, put your back into it. It’ll save your arms. I know of friends who have rolled out their pasta by hand. I’m not that good – I just use a pasta roller. I mean, what can you expect? If it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.

Rolling out the dough takes a bit of space. My kitchen is tiny, so I do it at the table. Also, the first time I made pasta by hand, I somehow thought that you were supposed to roll it though each of the 9 thickness settings (okay, maybe I was um, a little inebrieted). You don’t have to. Now I just roll it through the odd numbered settings. Also, make sure you guide the dough into the roller, and “catch” it as it comes out so that it won’t stretch out.

If you’re using some kind of cutout to punch out shapes, punch the dough out against a wooden board. Because the dough develops plenty of gluten from all the kneading and is rolled out quite thin, it gets pretty elastic-ky, so it can be tricky to punch out. I find that the sponginess of a wooden board is easier to work with than marble. Cutting the pasta into neat squares with a pizza wheel and a ruler instead just might save you some grief.

Per the recipe’s direction, I roasted the squash for the filling at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. It didn’t seem soft enough, so I let it roast for another 15 minutes. At this point, it seemed okay, but still not as soft as squash I’ve roasted in the past. I think that next time, I’ll roast it longer at a higher heat. I mashed it with a potato masher, and briefly considered putting it through the food processor, but decided to just let it be. I mixed with the cheese, nutmeg and balsamic, then piped it onto the cutouts. I’m not sure if I didn’t use enough filling per pasta, but I piped approximately 60 lune… the recipe says it makes 40. Previous experience has taught me that when sealing the pasta, you need to push out the air. Bubbles caught within the filling will expand when heated, which make your pasta fall apart. I was also worried that the seal wouldn’t “take”; instead of using water to seal the edges together (like when I make wontons or pot stickers), I was just pressing the pasta together. Also, because the filling was so wet, I kept having to dust the pasta with flour and turn them in order to prevent sticking. Amazingly, when I slid the pasta into the boiling water, none of them split! I’m not sure how that happened, but I was pretty happy with the results. The sauce doesn’t get any simpler – I ‘ll just add that you should be careful when adding the pasta water to the butter, itt’ll sizzle and splash something fierce! Also, be careful when grating the amaretti cookie over the pasta – it’s a lot more brittle than cheese and the whole thing will implode within your fingers if you treat it as such.

When I make pasta, I usually don’t make ravioli. Making the cutouts leaves a lot of scraps, and after all that kneading and rolling, I can’t bear to waste them (agnolotti wastes less), so I froze them all. I came home late tonight with a sack of my officemate’s homegrown heirloom tomatoes, so instead of picking up takeout, I threw it all together with some basil, parsley and parmagiano reggiano in what I have called a deconstructed pasta dish. Not pretty, but you can’t beat the ingredients.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

In addition to the bouef bourgignon (in keeping with September’s book club themes), I also made Bucatini All’Amatriciana this week. I was already buying beef shoulder for the bourgignon from Cafe Rouge anyways, and their guanciale always intrigued me, so I bought some. I’d never thought of any use for it before, but here was the perfect excuse, for the recipe incorporated it. You can always just use pancetta (or even bacon or salt pork, I suppose), but the first time I attempt a new recipe, I like to follow it to a tee. and experiment with it whenver I try again. If you’ve never seen guanciale before, it’s a flat white hunk of fat dusted with herbs. When sliced, it’s about the width of a slice of bacon and two-thirds the length, with a pink streak of flesh running down slightly off-center. I had assumed it was the same sort of thing as lardo or prosciutto bianco, but as I learned from Heat, there are many different cuts of pork and cured pork products. Guanciale actually comes from the jowl. My butcher sliced it into whisper thin slices, while I went next door to pick up some dry bucatini from the Pasta Shop. When I got home, I tasted a slice and felt intimidated. It was very, very salty – enough so that I would hesitate before serving it on a charcuterie platter to guests. In addition, it just seemed like the recipe called for a lot of it. But since I had already purchased, I figured I might as well continue with the recipe.

I made the tomato sauce ahead of time last weekend, measuring out what I would need and saving the rest. It’s a pretty simple recipe – the only point I would add is that it still seemed pretty loose by the end of its suggested cooking time, so I let it simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes. On Wednesday, I browned the guanciale in two batches, draining the fat in between. It smelled wonderful cooking, and very different from pancetta or bacon. It was more, well, porky smelling – like chiccharones or cracklins. I did not use “half of the fat” from the cooked guanciale to saute the vegetables – there was already an awful lot of cured pork fat in this dish, I have to draw the line somewhere. Also, I was worried that the dish was going to be too salty. I wound up using whatever remained in pan after I poured off the fat. Bucatini, by the way, looks like regular spaghetti in the photo, but really, it’s about twice the diamater of spaghetti and has a small pinhole running down the center. I never boil (add enough salt to the pasta water so it tastes like seawater) my pasta until it’s done – I “finish” cooking it in whatever sauce i’m using. When I added the tomato sauce to the vegetables and guanciale, it seemed pretty dry, so when I tossed the pasta (al dente) into the sauce, I added a ladleful of pasta water.

The verdict? It came out pretty well. Zack loves spicy food and bacon, so he loved this dish. The acid from the tomato sauce really worked to balance out the salt. When you’re adding the pepper flakes to this dish, it smells and tastes like it’ll be very spicy, but as they cook, the pepper flakes mellow, and also balance out the salt. I think I’ll be making this dish again – maybe I’ll try it with pancetta next time.

Next up: The lune!

Bouef Bourgignon

Inspired by this month’s book club selections, Heat and The Nasty Bits, Eric posted recipe selections from Babbo and Les Halles last Saturday. One of the recipes I chose to make last weekend was boeuf bourgignon because I already had most of the ingredients on hand (also, the moules mariniere recipe is basically the same as Reichl’s). I picked up a 2 pound shoulder roast from Cafe Rouge – they’re accustomed to my bizarre requests. A tip about any decent butcher: if what you want is not displayed, ask. They often have it in the back, or they’ll order it for you. As I was cutting up the roast into 1.5 inch cubes, I realized that this recipe was different than any of the other bourgignon recipes I’d used before (my French coworker’s mom’s, MTAFC, Bouchon). Most of them required an entire bottle of wine and only one onion; this one required four onions and only one cup of wine. also, the recipes I’d used before incorporated bacon and mushrooms. But Julia says that there’s more than one way to to arrive at a good boeuf bourgignon, so I figured I’d follow Tony’s recipe. Besides, I reasoned, as I measured out the one cup of wine, I can just drink the rest while I cook! How Julia is that?

A few of the major points I’ve learned from Judy Rodgers in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook is to dry the surfaces and salt your meat generously and early, and also to bring it somewhat close to room temperature before you start cooking. After thoroughly blotting the moisture from the cubes and seasoning them, I let them stand for about an hour. I might have even considering salting the entire roast (before cutting it up) a few days ahead of time if I was planning to make it later. The cubes browned beautifully in two batches in my Le Creuset dutch oven. I realized, though, as I was sauteeing the onions, that I might have miscalculated. I did use four, but two of them were huge. We’re talking grapefruit sized onions. And instead of waiting until the onions browned, I added the flour about two minutes into the saute. When I added the cup of wine, it seemed like a pitiful amount of liquid in comparison to the amount of onions. Oh well, I thought to myself. The vegetables will probably release more liquid, but what doesn’t need more wine, as I poured myself a third glass. (Perhaps *that* had something to do with my miscalculations). Though I couldn’t resist tossing in a couple slices of pancetta, I followed the rest of the recipe, adding carrots and a bouquet garni, water to cover plus a few spoonfuls of demiglace, then skimming, scraping and stirring over the next couple of hours. Despite my level of intoxication by the time the recipe was done, it tasted pretty damn good, though it looks nothing like the picture. It looked (and tasted) more like an onion stew with beef. The onion flavor was pretty assertive – very sweet, and the wine flavor was just a whisper. I can see why this recipe remains popular – you can drink the rest of the bottle (after browning the beef, that is) and it’ll still turn out tasty!