Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Not the filling's fault

Way back at the beginning of the month, when March was coming in like a lion, I attempted to make a dish called "naked ravioli" from a very interesting cookbook, Coast. The book features recipes from chefs in Australia's coastal cities (and if you are mildly obsessed with Australian geography, as I am, you will know that most of Australia's big cities are indeed coastal). I bought the book for Mom when I was in Australia in 2004, and have since "borrowed" it from her. I am such a nice daughter.

Anyway. Naked ravioli intrigued me. Cheeky title, delicious Italian-inspired ingredients, from a chef who runs a restaurant in St. Kilda. How could I go wrong?

Well. Looks and first impressions can be deceiving. Though the photograph in the cookbook appeared quite perfect and enticing, the dish as I made it amounted to little more than a bowl of shapeless ravioli filling. I hemmed, hawed, then stored the remaining spinach/Swiss chard/ricotta filling in the refrigerator until the next day so that I could sleep on it and come up with a way to make the recipe work. But I couldn't. I just couldn't salvage the dish into something I felt was worthy of sharing with you all.

(See what I mean?)

The filling, however, remained completely delicious. It was not the filling's fault that the "naked ravioli" couldn't hold up to moderate heat. It just wasn't fair to take out my frustrations on the filling. And I am so not down with wasting food -- especially yummy food. So into the freezer it went, until I figured out a use worthy of its tastiness. I didn't want to use it as lasagna filling, because March was already scheduled to be quite the lasagna and lasagna-like month. Rather, the answer came to me as I was half-watching an episode of "Good Eats": won ton wraps. Yes, won ton wraps! Such an easy way to highlight the delicious filling without the fuss of making homemade pasta. Not that making homemade pasta is fussy...but it is fussier than opening a package of won ton skins.

I put Husband to work filling the won tons with small portions of the gently defrosted spinach/Swiss chard mixture. Always the obedient sous chef, he carefully sealed each won ton, removing as much air as possible before placing them gingerly on a baking sheet to await a quick dip in boiling salted water followed by a good sear in a pan of brown butter and crispy sage. I served them simply, with a scattering of grated pecorino, a crack of black pepper and a few torn sage leaves. Never let a good thing go to waste.

Even if it starts out a hopeless mess.


Filling adapted from Robert Castellani's recipe, which appears in Coast: Seaside Recipes from Australia's Leading Chefs

3/4 lb. fresh spinach leaves
3/4 lb. Swiss chard, coarse stems removed
1/2 lb. ricotta
3 egg yolks
1 c. pecorino cheese, finely grated, plus more to garnish
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste, plus more to garnish
1/4 t. freshly-grated nutmeg
12-oz. package won ton wraps
4 T. unsalted butter
1/4 fresh sage leaves, torn, plus more to garnish

Blanch the spinach and Swiss chard in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire mesh strainer set in a large bowl of ice water. When cool, drain and squeeze as dry as possible. Finely chop the greens and set aside.

Remove any excess water from the ricotta by wrapping it tightly in a clean tea towel and squeezing it.

In a large bowl, mix the spinach, Swiss chard, ricotta, egg yolks and pecorino. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, or with your hands if necessary.

Place approximately 1 t. of the filling in a won ton wrap. Moisten two sides of the wrap with water and fold over to seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Continue filling the won ton wraps, placing the finished won tons on a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop about 10 won tons at a time into the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes.

While the won tons are boiling, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, until the butter starts to brown (but not burn!). Add the sage leaves and let them fry gently for about 30 seconds.

Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the won tons from the boiling water and place them in the skillet with the butter and sage. Cook until slightly browned and crispy, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the won tons, keeping the finished won tons warm on a baking sheet in the oven. You might need to add a little more butter and sage to the skillet in between batches.

Serve with a grating of pecorino cheese, some black pepper and a few fresh sage leaves.

Makes about 40 won tons, which serves about 4 people comfortably. The recipe also doubles easily if you're feeling particularly hungry.


Anonymous said...

My Husband says that your husband deserves *a reward* for his miserable tasks!



Dianne said...

He doesn't think they are miserable...he likes to learn. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

(I know - we were kidding!)

Dianne said...

Oh, I know! :)

Arlene Delloro said...

I love using won ton wrappers for ravioli. They are delicate, require very little cooking, and can be kept in the freezer for just such "last minute emergencies." The filling looks delish.

Dianne said...

Thanks Arlene! And it's a filling that just keeps on giving....I still had some of it left in the freezer so last night I rolled it up along with a chunk of fresh mozzarella in some leftover spinach lasagna noodles (from today's post), then spooned a healthy dose of marinara over the whole thing, topped it with a little more cheese and baked it. I'm wondering how many permutations of stuffed and baked pasta I can concoct with this one batch of Swiss chard filling?? :)