Monday, November 14, 2011

sweet potato ravioli with cheese broth

As my furry correspondent reported, dinner did not go so well the other weekend. You know, biting and all. But it was her first dinner party so I chalk it up to nerves.

It was still fun, however. We drank many gin and tonics and listened to the new Wilco album (very good) and celebrated some great news and marveled at the cuteness of Mabel and ate one of my favorite dishes in all of Brooklyn: sweet potato and sage ravioli in parmesan broth from Frankie's Spuntino.

At Frankie's, you get about half a dozen ravioli floating in a bowl of steaming hot broth that smells like butter and cheese and sage. The pasta is thin and super tender with the bright orange sweet potato showing through. I've ordered this dish many times at Frankie's, so you'd think I would have figured out what was in it by now, but I was pretty surprised when I found the recipe on Serious Eats.

Like, that it is not made with pasta dough at all! The Franks admit to using wonton wrappers! And the Asian influence doesn't stop there, the sweet potatoes are roasted then tossed with five spice powder to make a spicy-sweet filling. Thinly sliced scallions, which are scattered over the whole thing, are another Asian-inspired touch.

Another surprise: the parmesan broth. I figured that the broth was also made with chicken stock because it has such a buttery richness. But no, it's just water and a rind of parmesan that you cook for several hours. Over time, the rind dissolves a bit and morphs into a porous sponge that you strain out and toss. Another strange and delicious trick.
It might seem like a lot of trouble to make ravioli by hand, even with wonton wrappers. But they couldn't have been easier to make, once you get your mise en place all set up. I was a ravioli-making machine for about an hour, cranking out so many little sweet potato-filled crescents that I froze about two dozen in addition to the ravioli I made for dinner.
 
Were the ravioli as good as the restaurant? Frankie's has that whole cozy romantic atmosphere down and no small dogs who pee in the dining room. But the ravioli were pretty damn tasty.



Sweet potato ravioli with cheese broth
From The Frankie's Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual via Serious Eats
(Serves 6 to 8 people)


3 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
A negligible amount of olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
48 round wonton wrappers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 or 6 sage leaves
8 cups Cheese Broth (recipe follows)
4 scallions, white and very light green parts only, cut into long, fine julienne


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slick the potatoes with oil, sprinkle with salt and white pepper and wrap them in foil. Bake for 1 hour, or until very tender. (Mine took about an hour and a half.)

Halve the sweet potatoes and scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Add the honey, five-spice powder, and a large pinch of salt. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust as needed. Let it cool down a little.

Prep your pasta-making station: the bowl of ravioli filling, the pile of wonton wrappers, a cutting board to work on, a small bowl of water (to seal the ravioli), and a baking sheet. Put a teaspoon of filling into the center of a wonton skin, dip your finger in the bowl of water and use it to wet the rim of the wonton skin, then fold the wrapper closed, pinching the edges to seal. Lay the ravioli on the baking sheet and repeat until they are all stuffed. The ravioli can be used right away or frozen on the baking sheet. (Once they have frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag or other container and store for up to a month.)

Melt the butter in a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook them for a minute or so, just until aromatic. Add the cheese broth, season it with a pinch of salt and white pepper, and bring to a simmer.

Drop the ravioli into the pot of salted water; they should bob to the surface of the pot in about 3 minutes. Remove the ravioli from the water and divide among the serving bowls. Ladle a cup or so of the broth into each bowl and garnish with a few sliced scallions.

Cheese Broth
(Makes 1 quart)


Combine the rind of (the dry outer half-inch of or so of a hard cheese -- remove any labels) a good-sized chunk of Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan or any grating cheese) with a quart of water and simmer for 2 hours, or as long as you can. Strain our the rind. Store it up to a week in the fridge or for months in the freezer.

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