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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Think Like A Chef - The Best Laid Plans...

There is a phrase that goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  That should be amended to include wanna-be home cooks.

So let me start at the beginning.  I decided in the Think Like A Chef book to skip the chapter on artichokes.  If I’m being honest, I don’t like them…not even on pizza.  So I decided to move to the next section which is entitled “Trilogies.”  The basic idea is to use three ingredients and create different dishes using all three.  Sounds good to me.

The first entrée is “free-form” cheese ravioli, with a ragout of asparagus, morels, and ramps.  The idea behind the ravioli is to create pasta sheets, and then free-form them into a little package.  I don’t have a pasta maker, and I don’t want to buy one.  My kitchen isn’t really big enough to roll out enough dough if I wanted to just roll it out by hand.  So, I needed to figure out how I was going to do this dish.
I thought, “I could use gluten-free lasagna noodles, boil them, put the filling at the end, and then roll them up once.  One noodle should give me two ravioli.”  Made sense to me.  I did a “test” ravioli based on the cooking instructions, and it wasn’t bad. 

Next step is to go buy the ingredients.  I went to Whole Foods and bought some nice looking asparagus.  I could not buy ramps as they are out of season.  From the research I did, they taste like a combination of leek and garlic.  I bought both.  As for the morels, I found them in a container.  Three quarters of an ounce, and I need four ounces.  The cost of one jar?  $19.99!!!!!  So I bought shitakes instead.

Okay, time to cook.

The first thing I did was boil the noodles.  The box said to boil them 13-14 minutes, but a minute or two less if you were going to bake them.  So I boiled them about 10 minutes.  While I was doing that, I was heating over a very low heat some skim milk ricotta cheese, and some parmesan.  Right at the end, I mixed in some fresh Kale that a coworker had given to me from her garden.  I added about a teaspoon of the mixture to the lasagna noodle, and then folded it over twice, and then put it on a baking dish that I had put a bit of olive oil on, then put it in the oven at 350 degrees.

Now, as for the ragout, the first step was to create a buerre blanc.  I’m not one for sauces…there are some I like, but in general, I don’t use them.  However, I went ahead as this would be a good chance to learn some technique, and it actually sounded pretty good.  So I melted about a third of a cup of butter product (mistake!!) piece by piece into about ½ cup of water.  Then once it was all incorporated, I added the mushrooms, let them cook down, then added the leeks and garlic.  While this was happening, I was boiling the asparagus, which I had cut on the bias into 2 inch pieces.  I added the asparagus to the ragout, seasoned with salt and pepper, and added some dill and tarragon, and mixed it all together.

Looks good...

To serve, I put the ragout in the bottom of a pasta bowl, then took the free-form ravioli out of the oven and put 5 pieces on top of the ragout.  Then I garnished with more dill and tarragon.

Tastes good...not so much.

The taste?  Well…this ended up not being an overly successful dish.  The ravioli itself ended up a bit tough, although the filling was actually pretty good.  The ragout?  Not my favorite.  First, it was kind of greasy because I used the butter product instead of straight butter.  Again, it didn’t taste bad, but I couldn’t get the greasy feeling out of my mouth for a couple of hours.

But I did learn some technique with sauces.  I also learned I have the ability to get multiple components ready all at the same time…that was pretty cool.  And I’m not unconvinced that the idea behind the free-form noodle using a lasagna noodle was a bad idea.  Perhaps I will work on that sometime in the future.

1 comment:

  1. I know that you are calories conscious, which is a good thing (*not everyone likes to eat a bacon cheeseburger between 2 Krsipy Kreme donuts a la Paula Deen), but I've said it before: Sometimes using real butter is a must as "butter product" just wont cut it. I'm also all for substitutions (for dietary reasons or if ingredients aren't readily available), but with all of the subs going on here, a red flag will pop up for you next time---because sometimes it's not worth "hoping things will work out", and instead go for a different dish. Take a look at your notes and see how many times you subbed out (mushrooms, butter, etc.)...and you'll avoid doing this again in the future. never learn without experimenting and experience, so I applaud your efforts! Keep on cooking!