Is it getting cold over there? Wherever you are.
I woke up
this morning today, and even in my post-dormancy haze I could sense the greyish tone seeping in from behind the curtains. I stumbled into my bathroom to finish morning my wake-up routine, went on to open my bedroom door and was embraced by a slight breeze of cold air. I let out a few sneezes, put on a pair of cozy pajama pants (and a sweater on my 12-year-old Maltese whose name is… no kidding, Dumpling) and thought, “I really want a Starbucks toffee nut latte now…”. And just like that, summer is officially over.
There are few times in a year that are more sentimental than the arrival of Fall, isn’t it? It makes me miss New York achingly. I miss the feeling of the city’s crisp air on my face, the aroma of steaming apple ciders permeating in the farmer’s market beyond the crowd, the warmth of the freshly-brewed coffee I hold through my sleeves, and watch New Yorkers parading their cool through their new-season outfits on the pedestrian-runway. I would feel a bit numbness in my ears, and subconsciously stick my fist into Jason’s big warm hand while on our way to a subway station somewhere in a city corner. Fall
is was our favorite time in New York. I hope you don’t find me talking non-sense if home-sickness is not your association with every coming of fall, nor is it your favorite season given it does shout, “Winter is coming!” (I don’t get that show by the way). But I’m sure we can all agree on something, and that it is the season of comfort foods.
There are obviously less-hassled comfort foods out there than homemade ravioli. You could toss some cheeses and butter with macaroni, stick it in the oven and call it a day. But there’s something very rewarding about making ravioli from scratch. There is a bit of joy and anticipation in every kneading, rolling and pinching movements especially done in a slightly chilly Fall-weather with your favorite music (or Barefoot Contessa…) playing in the background. Making pasta dough isn’t as hard as most people would imagine, but time-consuming? Yes. So if it’s something that’s easily purchasable where you live, by all means. I don’t use recipes out there that require 100 egg yolks to enrich the dough, leaving behind 100 egg whites with nothing to do… or be done with. In my experience, as long as the eggs are of high-quality, the Italian ratio of 100 grams of flour : 1 whole egg is really just fine. If I’m using 300 grams of flour in total (which I usually do), then I would add 1 extra egg yolk. I’ve also seen people using Chinese dumpling wrappers instead of pasta dough. I suspect that would work fine as well.
I’ve done my stroll through the more traditional fillings for ravioli such as spinach and ricotta, but I want to try something that’s somewhat
confused with Asian flair that’s close to my heart. It has chopped bok choy and pork as the filling, and is served swimming in chicken broth which closely resembles a similar comfort food in Chinese cuisine, but boosted with a drizzling of garlic and thyme browned butter. You could of course change the fillings to your heart’s content. In fact, I suspect anything that’s dropped into a homemade chicken broth with garlic and thyme browned butter, then showered with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese would taste pretty good. It certainly brought a bit of comfort to my seldom-sentimental heart.
Servings: 7 ~ 8 ravioli
- 300 g of Italian tipo 00 flour, or good quality all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 egg yolks
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 13 heads of bok choy, blanched and shocked in ice water (approx 1 cup)
- 230 g of ground pork
- 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 1/2 tsp of grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 3 tsp of corn starch
- 1/8 tsp of black pepper, or white pepper
Garlic and Thyme Browned Butter:
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 1 grated garlic
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1/8 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 2~3 cups of homemade broth
In a stand mixer with dough hook, or by hand, mix together pasta flour, eggs, egg yolks, salt and olive oil until a dough forms. Add 1 tsp of water if the dough seems too dry to come together. Knead the dough for AT LEAST 10 min on medium speed if you are using a mixer like I did (re-position the dough a few times to make sure it’s evenly kneaded). If you are doing it by hand and didn’t break a sweat at the end of the 10 min, you are doing it wrong. Imagine a fierce Italian grandmother with a mean attitude and channel her in, WORK the dough until it’s smooth, shiny and elastic. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 min.
Wash and trim the bok choy. Blanch it in boiling water with 2 tbsp of salt until it just starts to wilt, then transfer them to iced water to cool completely. In small portions at a time, squeeze the bok choy REALLY HARD to extract all the water you can, then mince it finely (I have approx 1 cup of it). Combine bok choy, ground pork, grated Parmesan cheese, grated ginger, salt, corn starch and black pepper in a bowl. Mix with a fork until the mixture becomes thick and slightly sticky. Set aside.
When the pasta dough is rested. Set up the pasta station whether you are using hand-cranked pasta machine or attachment on a mixer. You will need semolina flour (or fine corn meals) for dusting, and a plastic wrap to cover the pasta to prevent from drying. Cut the dough in half and dust with semolina flour. Set the pasta roller to the thickest increment and pass the dough through the roller, then fold it in half and pass it through again. I do this about 3~4 times (this is a good time to shape the pasta in a uniformed and rectangular shape). Then turn the increment down and pass the dough through the roller once at every increment until you’ve gotten it down to a very thin sheet. My pasta machine goes from 1 (thickest) to 6 (thinnest), and I stopped at 5.5. Dust the dough generously with more semolina flour, cut it in half and stack it, then cover with plastic wrap while the 2nd half of the dough is being rolled out. You would have 4 long sheets of pasta when done.
The recipe only calls for 1/2 of the amount of pasta being made. So you could save the other half for making fettuccine or whatever you like.
Take 1 sheet of pasta and lay it on the counter. MAKE SURE there’s enough semolina flour between the pasta and the counter to prevent it from sticking. Use a ice cream scoop to scoop up the filling, but make sure to press on it hard and pack it as tightly as possible to eliminate air bubbles. Space each fillings on the pasta with 2″ space (5 cm) in between. Brush the pasta dough around the fillings with egg wash, and lay another sheet of pasta dough over the top. Use the side of your palm to press down around the filings until the filings are tightly wrapped inside the dough. Try to eliminate as much air OUT of the filling as possible. Use a round pastry, or a cup to cut out the ravioli. You could recycle the leftover pasta dough, form it into a ball again for something else.
Make the browned butter and heat up the broth before you start cooking the ravioli. Put butter, grated garlic, thyme and black pepper in a small pot. Set it over medium heat until the thyme starts to pop, and the butter has browned. Turn off the heat and set aside. Bring the broth to a simmer and season it with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of water with a BIG pinch of salt to simmer, NOT BOILING (it could break the delicate pasta). Lower each ravioli GENTLY into the water in a slotted spoon. PUT THE LID ON and let the ravioli simmer in the water until they all float to the top, and the pasta turns to a pale yellow. Lift the ravioli out, ONE BY ONE, with a slotted spoon and rest it on a clean kitchen towel to absorb excess water. Place in the serving plates.
Pour the chicken broth into each serving bowl and add 2 tsp of browned butter (or MORE…) to each servings. Shower it with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.