Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday Recipe: Christmas Ravioli Filled with Mushrooms

Yesterday, as always on Christmas Day, I made traditional ravioli. Well, they're a tradition in my family and growing up, I always felt sorry for kids who ate turkey on Christmas Day. How boring! Our Christmas tradition was always ravioli, a tradition started by my great-grandmother who left her tiny village in Abruzzo to make her way in America. Gram's traditional ravioli are filled with cheese and served with a rich, savory tomato sauce, one that is often flavored with a beef shank or some pork ribs or both. [My recipe for that sauce -- which I call Aunt Fulmay's Sauce -- is coming henceforth in a later post.]

Meanwhile, I made my traditional cheese filled ravs as family obligation dictates, but my feeling is that getting the dough right and then doing the assembly of the ravs is the hardest part, so every holiday (Christmas and Easter), I try another filling. This year, I made a mushroom filling and I have to say, for a recipe I basically made up on the fly, they were amazing -- Top Chef worthy ravioli.

In sum, if you're not a huge fan of ricotta cheese (really?) and if you want to try your hand at ravioli, try the mushroom filling. Or, do what I did and just make both. [I strongly recommend this option.]

It took me many years to learn how to properly handle mushrooms, which is to say, don't jam all the mushrooms in the pan at once, or, in the words of Julia Child -- don't crowd the mushrooms. If there are too many mushrooms in your sautee pan, they steam rather than brown. And nobody wants to eat spongey, muddy mushrooms. Trust me.

For the prep of the pasta dough and instructions for the assemblage, go to Gram's Christmas Ravioli Recipe

For the mushroom filling, you will need:
4-5 cups of cremini mushrooms
2-3 cups of shitake mushrooms
dried porcini mushrooms
1 half large yellow onion (or one small one)
about 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
one healthy palmful of good, fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup to 3/4 cups of good ricotta cheese (I use impasta ricotta from Labriola's Market)

The prep:
You can buy packs of dried porcini mushrooms. They have a really strong flavor which I think marries well with the milder creminis and shitakes. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the porcinis. Reduce to a simmer and let those cook for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and thinly slice the creminis and shitake mushrooms. Dice the onion and finely dice three cloves of garlic.

Heat a non-stick sautee pan with some olive oil and add about 1/3 of the mushrooms, onion and garlic over high to medium heat. The 'shrooms will release their liquid and then re-absorb it before they get good and brown. When they start to smell meaty, they're getting to the right spot. Give them a couple of stirs to try to get the mushrooms brown on all sides. When they're good and brown, they'll stick a bit to the pan. Remove them to a bowl, and then repeat this process two more times until the mushrooms are all cooked.

When the creminis and shitakes are done, drain the porcinis and squeeze the extra water out of them. I just did this with my hands. Give them a rough chop and finely dice the last clove of garlic. Sautee the garlic with the porcinis for about 5-7 minutes, then add the porcinis to the bowl with the previously cooked mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and mix them up.

Put all of the mushrooms into a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely chopped up. Remove from the food processor and put into a mixing bowl. Add the impasta ricotta and parm. Test for salt. You might want to add a quick twist of freshly cracked black pepper, too.

And that is it for the filling. Put it to the side until you are ready to start the ravioli assembly. This will keep overnight in the 'fridge, but I wouldn't wait any longer than that because I think mushrooms lose some of their meaty deliciousness when they are chilled for too long.


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