Thursday, October 31, 2013


We woke to an eerily foggy Halloween morning here in Wisconsin, followed by a fairly steady downpour-a good thing our little ghouls and goblins here in Sherwood were out last Saturday, instead of tonight like many of the surrounding communities. 

It seemed the pumpkin ravioli we picked up at Trader Joe's in Milwaukee on our way back from our trip to California would be a tasty choice for dinner on All Hallows' Eve.  William-Sonomas' suggestion to serve it with browned sage butter encouraged us to use some of our recently harvested, dried sage.

Williams-Sonoma's Pumpkin ravioli with sage butter

Here is the classic ravioli of the city of Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna, although the city of Mantua, in Lombardy, also claims the dish. It is best served with a simple sauce of lightly browned butter and fresh sage, which heightens and contrasts with the sweetness of the pumpkin in the filling.

1 lb.        piece Cheese or Sugar Pie pumpkin, calabaza or butternut squash, seeds and strings removed
1             egg yolk, lightly beaten
2    T.     grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana padano cheese
1/4  t.      freshly grated nutmeg
1/4  t.      fine sea salt
1-2 T.     dried bread crumbs
1 1/4 lb.  egg pasta (see related recipe at left)
5 T.        unsalted butter, clarified (see tip below)
12 large fresh sage leaves
2 T.       kosher salt
             grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

To make the filling, preheat an oven to 400ºF.
Prick the pumpkin with a fork before roasting to help evaporate the moisture. Place the pumpkin directly on the oven rack and roast until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 45 to 50 minutes.
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the peel; transfer to a food processor and process until smooth.
Transfer the pumpkin puree to a bowl. Add the egg yolk, cheese, nutmeg and sea salt. Mix well, adding the bread crumbs as needed to bind the ingredients into a cohesive mixture. Cover the filling and set aside.
Using a pasta machine or a floured rolling pin, roll out the pasta dough 1/32 inch thick, then fill and cut the ravioli (see related tip at left)
Pour the clarified butter into a small fry pan and place over low heat. Add the sage leaves and heat until the butter is saturated with the flavor of the sage, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
In a large pot over high heat, bring 5 quarts water to a rapid boil. Add the kosher salt, gently drop in half of the ravioli and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, uncover and cook, stirring gently occasionally and reducing the heat as needed to prevent the ravioli from knocking against one another and breaking. The total cooking time should be 3 to 5 minutes. To test for doneness, transfer a single ravioli to a cutting board and cut off a corner with a paring knife; if the pasta looks cooked through and the corner tastes tender, the pasta is done. Using a large slotted spoon, lift out the ravioli, allowing a little of the water to cling to them so they remain moist, and transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl; cover the bowl to keep the ravioli warm. Repeat to cook the remaining ravioli.
Drizzle the sage butter over the ravioli and serve immediately. Pass the cheese at the table. Serves 4.
Tip: To make clarified butter, in a fry pan over low heat, melt the butter. When it stops sizzling and the solids begin to separate and rise to the surface, skim off and discard the solids. The clarified butter should be golden in color. Watch it carefully to prevent it from getting too dark, which can happen in an instant; turn off the heat if it begins to darken too much before you have removed all the solids. Pass the clarified butter through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter to extract any solids that remain.

Paula Deen's Brussels Sprouts with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette

10 slices bacon, chopped
3   lbs.    Brussels sprouts, quartered
2   T.      olive oil
1    t.      Kosher salt
1/2 c.      balsamic vinegar
2    T.     brown sugar
1    t.       Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Reserve 1/4 cup drippings in the skillet.
Combine the Brussels sprouts, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Place the sprouts on the prepared baking sheet and bake until tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the vinegar, brown sugar and mustard to the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Pour the mixture over the sprouts, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle with the bacon. Serve immediately.


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