about bliss

Friday, November 05, 2010

butternut squash and apple ravioli with apple cider beurre blanc

Last Sunday, I was struck with culinary crafting fever. I wanted a project meal. You know, the kind that takes many steps--none of them difficult--but many just the same.

This was my incentive to grade, grade, grade and tidy, tidy, tidy.

And so it was that at 3:30 in the afternoon I was roasting butternut squash, caramelizing onions and shallot, and kneading pasta dough before the trick-or-treaters arrived.

I toasted walnuts, crisped sage, roasted garlic, made applesauce.

Did I mention the many steps?


Here they are, in rough quantities and approximations because that's the way I cook when I'm inventing a dish the first time.

Pasta Dough
I use a recipe from Lidia Bastiannich, which contains egg and olive oil. You can use your favorite recipe, or, to simplify matters, use wonton wrappers.

Ravioli Filling
My "recipe" made more than enough filling for 14 ravioli. I packaged up the leftover filling and stashed it in the freezer for another meal, when I don't have quite as much time to play.

1 medium butternut squash, seeds and weird stringy stuff scooped out, cut into wedges. Toss with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish for 30ish minutes, depending on the size of your wedges. Allow to cool, and then peel.

3 cloves of garlic, roasted.

Several shallots and part of an onion, caramelized slowly on the stove top. I deglaze the pan several times with wine right at the end.

2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced, simmered with a bit of water until they break down into a rough sauce. Sprinkle with fresh nutmeg.

Combine all of these ingredients in a large sauce pan; season with salt and pepper. Thin with water as necessary, and puree with a stick blender.

Crafting and Cooking the Ravioli
Cut your pasta dough into whatever size squares you prefer. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of half of your squares. Don't overfill. Don't underfill. You need to play around with the filling amount to get it just right, I'm afraid.

Dip your finger into water, and trace the edge of the squares with filling. Place an unfilled square on top and press together. The water should act as a glue of sorts. I like to then crimp the edges with a fork to ensure a tight seal.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt it generously. Add a few ravioli at a time to the bubbling water; don't crowd them. They'll flip and swim and sway. When the pasta seems to have suctioned to the filling, they're done. Remove from the water and place on a platter or baking sheet. Repeat until all the ravioli are cooked.

Apple Cider Beurre Blanc
The day I made this dish, I listened to a podcast of the Splendid Table and listened to a guest wax poetic about beurre blanc, a classic French sauce that combines reduced, flavorful liquid with rich, cold butter for a silky emulsification. I thought of the half-gallon of cider in the fridge, and decided to experiment. I sauteed shallots in a bit of butter, and then added a few generous glugs of cider. I cooked it on medium high until it was reduced, and added a few pats of cold butter, whisking them in one at a time. A bit of salt and pepper completed the sauce.

Toast walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts.

Crisp a handful of sage, on the stove top, in olive oil.

Final Assembly
Add the ravioli to the warm sauce, and swirl around until the ravioli are coated. Plate the ravioli next to a bed of beautiful steamed spinach, and garnish with the toasted nuts and crispy sage.

Sip a lovely Riesling, like my favorite Kung Fu Girl variety, chat and laugh and sigh and smile with your favorite people as you delve into the flavors of fall.

Enjoy! We surely did, after all the ghosts and witches and cows and dragons and ups boys left, their plastic pumpkins or spare pillowcases stuffed with candy.

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