Lately there are forces at work that try to upset my little happy world; I have been kicking real hard not to let them. Today, however, I am walking around with a Cheshire smile on my face and nothing and no one can dampen my mood no matter how hard they try. It is no secret that travel makes me the happiest and that while I am in a trip planning mode I go into my own Zen world and do not want to come out. I finalized my summer trip to Italy today and now I get to immerse myself in the details. I get to dive into travel books and websites and plan site seeing and food experiences with obsessive vigor. I get to live and breathe the place I am going to long before I get there and for me this is almost as good as finally getting there. If you immerse yourself in trip planning you can extend your trips for month ahead… and of course every trip last a lifetime in your memories.
Most existing, for this blog, is that I may actually get a chance to cook abroad, which is something I always wanted to do. Walking around great markets of London and Spain I almost cried because I couldn’t buy anything that would not lend itself to suitcase travel. How I wanted to bring home some of the most beautiful wild mushrooms or gorgeous cheeses or freshest seafood, but I don’t believe that a hotel kitchen would mush appreciate my cooking aspirations. This time around I am booking rental properties instead of hotels and will have a full use of my own kitchen, so hopefully I will get to experiment a bit with the local ingredients. This would really add a nice touch to my usual” travels and tastes” blogs.
In anticipation of the great Italian trip I am going to do this year, I am making one last meal of pasta that can be qualified as “winter comfort”. One last fatty, starchy, creamy, before the sun comes out and the trees fully bloom. One last decadent entry before I have to put on the bathing suit and switch to light Rose wines and salads. Let us eat Ravioli!
With a few leftovers and some fresh ingredients here is a new Italian favorite.
Duck and Mushroom stuffed Ravioli in creamy brown butter and sage sauce.
You can find my ravioli pasta recipe at this link: http://infooditrust.blogspot.com/2011/11/venison-and-chanterelle-stuffed-ravioli.html
For the filling:
½ lbs of leftover duck meat chopped (I had some leftover cooked duck meat, but any other leftovers such as a roasted chicken or beef roast will do. You can also omit the meat altogether.)
½ lb of button mushrooms chopped
1 cup + ½ cup for garnish of chopped shitake mushrooms
1 large shallot chopped
½ cup of chopped spring onion ( or sweet Spanish onion)
Handful of fresh thyme
1 tbs of fresh sage chopped + 6-7 strands for the sauce
½ cup of shredded assiago cheese or parmesan
A pinch of sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the sauce
1 stick of butter
6-7 strands of fresh sage
½ lb of fresh mushrooms sliced (you can use any kind of mushrooms that are not too strong flavored)
¼ cup of dry white wine
2 tbs of Marsala wine
1 cup half-and-half
3 strips of plain or duck bacon
½ cup of shitake mushrooms chopped or julienned
Few leaves of fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the filling. In a large skillet preheat a few tablespoons of olive oil, sauté the mushrooms on medium-high flame until nicely browned. Lower the heat to low, add the shallot and the onion and sprinkle with sugar. Cook on low heat until the onion is soft and begins to brown. Add the chopped meat, herbs and seasoning. Cook until the mixture is nicely browned. Let it cool slightly and transfer to a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Let cool, and then stir in the cheese.
Fill the ravioli and seal them, feel free to make them as large or little as you want. I wanted slightly larger shapes for this recipe as I wanted to taste more of the filling; in hindsight I will make them a bit smaller next time.
If not using right away, you can freeze your pasta on flat boards lined with wax paper. Once frozen transfer to the zip-top bag and store in your freezer. When ready to use, just drop them still frozen into the boiling water and allow an additional cooking time (usually no more than an additional minute)
Prepare the garnish. Chop or julienne the bacon into thin strips and fry on medium heat until crispy. Set aside. In the same skillet using the bacon fat (you can discard some of it if you feel there is too much), brown the mushrooms until fairly crispy. Toss together with bacon, season if needed and let cool. Chop some sage and toss to combine.
When ready to assemble, make the sauce. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter, add the sage strands and cook on low heat until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Turn off the heat and let cool without taking the sage out, you want to infuse the herb flavor as much as possible.
In a large skillet, add a few teaspoons of olive oil and brown the mushrooms without salting them. When nice and brown add both wines and let the mixture cook out on medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Add cream or half and half and seasoning. Discard the sage leaves from the brown butter; slowly whisk the butter into the mushroom sauce. Cook for a minute on low heat whisking continually. Adjust seasoning if needed
Boil a large pot of water, salt it generously and drop your ravioli. Cook to aldente ( exact time will depend on size and thickness of your pasta). With a slotted spoon transfer to the mushroom cream sauce and cook on low heat additional 30-40 seconds.
Serve with sauce and garnish with bacon, mushroom and sage mixture. Add a bit of assiago or parmesan cheese on top as well.