Monday, March 28, 2011

Ravioli, Cinderelli?

Egg Dough Ravioli with Ricotta Filling

Ravioli, ravioli, everyone loves ravioli….
(sung to the tune of "Cinderelli")
(Okay, this is what becomes of a mostly-happily-married older couple with no children who happen to own every Disney movie ever made… we have no one else to blame our silliness on!) J

It was chilly and cloudy this morning, so I decided to take a day to get caught up in the kitchen. Course the whole weekend kinda got blown to Hades when the cold front moved in the day before, and on weekends like this, we tend to kick back, relax and eat very, very well! For lunch Saturday, I kept it light and made a pot of Avgolemono soup, some salmon and rice croquettes and a salad. Then we feasted on Asian food that night – pork and bok choy egg rolls, then a shrimp stir-fry with asparagus, carrots and baby corn.

Yesterday I decided to see if it’s really true that pressure cooking an older chicken makes them more tender (as my friend Jack pointed out years ago, and whose advice I ignored!). I had a 2 year-old red broiler hen that promised to be quite chewy to experiment on. Turns out it really does work! I’ve done a LOT of pressure canning, but no pressure cooking – there’s just never been a need to learn. I must say, however, that I’m surprised more working households don’t do it – it cuts cooking times down immensely and you can even roast large birds and hams in a pressure cooker. I’m definitely sold on it – last time I stewed an older rooster, the dog wouldn’t even eat it! In just 40 minutes, this bird was so tender the meat was falling off the bone. I’m sold!

Curtis loves soups and stews and "all things brothy," so I decided to make a pot of REAL bona fide "Chicken and Noodle Soup" with the tender chicken and stock and homemade noodles. I suppose I’ve never made it before because it sounds boring. And probably because I’ve eaten it from a can before and who would want to eat something like THAT when they had other choices?! But it really was good – onion, celery, our carrots, baby portabella mushrooms and spinach – we almost polished off the whole pot last night. And it was a BIG pot!

I got started about this morning. We don’t have a dishwasher (nor want one), so getting everything cleaned up is always first on my agenda. I forget everything I did today, but I finally got wrapped up around . Of course, the eggs are still a top priority right now. An angel food cake went into the freezer and I mixed up 3 batches of egg noodles. (Twelve cups of flour and 3 cups of egg yolks is a LOT of noodles!) But I wanted to do something a little different too, so I decided to use some of the dough to make raviolis with.

It’s been YEARS since I’ve made raviolis. I have several sizes of the plastic dumpling presses shown in the picture and I often make calzones and won tons and fried pies and such. I’ve also got one of those ravioli trays that looks like an ice cube tray that I don’t think I’ve ever used. (It was a wedding gift.) I wish I had a plain old crimper and I wouldn’t bother with presses or trays at all, but I’ve not gone looking for one. I looked around on the net for a good filling recipe, but didn’t find anything suitable for what we had on hand. I finally settled on a ricotta cheese filling with some herbs.

Let me just say up-front that I rarely find anything THAT challenging needing to be done in my kitchen. A few years ago, I processed some 700+ ears of corn over a couple weeks time and barely batted an eye even though I cut it all off the cob before canning, freezing and dehydrating. That was NOTHING compared to making raviolis completely from scratch! I’m pretty sure I’d not make it for anyone outside my family unless they were holding me at gun-point or paying me at least $40 an hour. (While they held me at gun-point!)

I do have an Atlas pasta press and at least that part was easy. I rolled the noodle sheets out on Setting 1, then on Setting 4, then again on Setting 5. (Those long sheets remind me of a skinned rattlesnake hide!) Then I cut them into circles with a 3” cutter. (All of the trim scraps went into a covered bowl to re-moisten and make regular egg noodles from – I can’t tolerate waste.) Each circle was brushed with an egg wash, then filled. And here’s the hardest part: that little well in the center will only hold about a heaping teaspoon of filling. I suppose it’s just human nature to try and get it fuller, but it just can’t be done.  Believe me, I tried every single time and ended up eating a lot of filling that got squished out the sides. J

I ended up with 32 of the little puppies, which are presently on a tray in the freezer, pending moving them into a plastic bag. Next time I need a convenient meal, I’ll pull out a pound of our homemade Italian sausage and a jar of our home-canned tomato sauce. A smattering of grated "mozzarelli" and it’ll be a 30-minute meal (not including the 8 hours that went into making the raw ingredients for it!). I live for meals like that. J

Simple Ricotta Ravioli Filling
(makes about 32)

7-8 ounces Ricotta cheese (1/2 a carton)
6 ounces small-curd cottage cheese (1/2 a 12-ounce carton)
1 large egg
¼ cup dried Parmesan cheese (yep, the sawdust-in-a-can!)
Parsley and/or Oregano, to taste
Fresh minced or dried garlic to taste


Ricotta Raviolis with Italian Sausage in Vodka Sauce

I knew I couldn't stay out of them! They were delicious. I was afraid the dough wasn't rolled thin enough, but they were perfect. The only problem is now they're half gone and I'll have to make more!

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