It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. And by a long time, we’re talking like almost two years long time. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking — I have. I cook almost every night. I just never document or take pictures or something gets in the way, and that food never ends up here.
I make no promises that I will change that with any regularity, mind you. However, I made a meal tonight that I was really proud of, so I thought I would share. Plus, a friend of mine wanted the recipe, so it gave me a good excuse.
At the beginning of 2013, I made my first New Year’s Resolution in many many years. It was thus: 2013 for me would be the Year of No Recipe. What does that mean? It means that while I may draw inspiration from other places, none of the food that I cook this year will come from someone else’s recipe. I wanted a way to push my own creativity and boundaries. It’s now February 19th, and I’m still going strong on that.
Tonight is the closest that I’ve come to borrowing from somewhere else. This recipe was inspired by an e-mail that I got last week from the James Beard Society where they linked to some sort of lobster stuff pasta (tortellini, I think?) in a spicy lobster vodka sauce. I didn’t even click on the link (I’m trying not to read recipes too much), but it went into the depths of my brain. When I was doing my grocery shopping for this week, FreshDirect had wild Patagonian shrimp on sale, and my brain started churning: could I do something like the Beard recipe with that shrimp? We’ve had them before, and they’re very lobster-like, so why not?
From there I had to figure out what I wanted to do with the filling. A mousseline seemed like the best option (a mousseline, at its most basic, is 8 parts meat or fish, 4 parts cream, and 2 parts egg, and then it’s basically blended together to make a mousse-like consistency), but what other flavors to complement the shrimp? I ended up with sautéed leeks, minced thyme, salt, and some toasted and ground fennel seed.
From there, the rest was pretty easy. Make some pasta dough (or in this case, have Alex make some pasta dough) and some vodka sauce, stuff some pasta and cut into ravioli (way less time consuming than tortellini, and it gives more filling, in my opinion), and cook. In truth, the whole thing was surprisingly easy, albeit somewhat time consuming. We had originally planned to make this for dinner last night, while we were home all day doing nothing, but our nothing doing turned into nothing cooking, hah!
12 oz All Purpose flour, unsifted
4 lg eggs (which should be 8 oz of eggs)
Salt, to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
8 oz peeled and deveined shrimp
4 oz heavy cream
1 large egg (approximately 2 oz)
1 cup very thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup marinara (I had leftover sauce in the freezer and used that)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt, to taste
Make the pasta dough first. In a large bowl, mix flour, eggs, and salt until it just comes together. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
Make the filling. Make sure that all of your ingredients are cold and that your shrimp are patted dry. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the shrimp with the egg, thyme, and fennel. With the processor running, gradually drizzle in the heavy cream. Once it is all incorporated and light and whipped in consistency, turn off the processor. Don’t over-whip. Fold in the leeks, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Roll the pasta. When the filling is made and the pasta has had some time to rest, turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until it has a firm but elastic consistency. Roll into long sheets according to your pasta roller’s instructions. Hang on a drying rack or the back of a chair until you’re ready to make the pasta.
Make the pasta. Cut sheets of pasta into lengths that will fit on your board. Pipe a single, unbroken line of filling from one end to the other about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom. Brush the top edge with egg wash and fold the bottom over the pasta filling. Press along each side edge and the top with your finger to seal. You can use a ravioli cutter or a pie dough crimper to cut each piece. Cut any excess dough off the top edge and fold over and crimp like an envelope. Pictures to follow. Place each individual ravioli on a floured tray and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Make the sauce. Heat a non-stick sauté pan and add the olive oil when warm. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in the pan being careful not to let the garlic burn or it will be very bitter. When fragrant, add vodka. Let the alcohol cook off entirely. I did this by lighting the vodka on fire and waiting for it to go out. This is a fine method, just be very careful because it’s seriously flammable and a 1/2 cup of booze burns for a good bit of time. Once the flames are gone, add the tomato sauce and stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Using a rubber or plastic whisk, whisk in the heavy cream and season to taste.
Bring it all together. Boil a large pot of salted water. When at a rolling boil, add the ravioli. Cook for about 5 minutes. It will float right away, but don’t take it out immediately, as you want your filling (raw shrimp and eggs!) to cook through. Also, be aware that often fillings like this puff up, so don’t be alarmed by that (but don’t let them cook too much at that point, either, or they’ll explode). Once the ravioli are cooked through, strain and add to vodka sauce. Toss to coat and serve immediately.
Notes: I also cooked about 4 oz of shrimp in the sauté pan before adding the garlic. I sautéd it for about 2 minutes on each side then removed it from the pan and put it in the fridge until I was ready to make the sauce. I cut it into bite-sized pieces and tossed it in the sauce. I think this is a wholly unnecessary step and next time probably won’t bother.
Pictures of the Ravioli Making