Wild Mushroom and Mascarpone Ravioli with Marsala Sauce

We recently took a little break from LA and spent some time up north.  Monterey peninsula and Carmel/Big Sur to be exact.  What a perfect part of the world.  The mountains crash to the sea, the scent of flowers and lavender are always in the air, and you find giant redwood groves in the forests not far from cactus grows.  As a chef, it’s like a breath of fresh air.  The land meets the sea.  It makes me once again realize that sometimes the simple things are best.

Carmel by the Sea

So I decided to post one of my more elaborate and favorite projects:  wild mushroom and chicken liver ravioli.  It’s such an amazing combination and is really a step back to the basics.  Simple ingredients, simple technique, done right.  This recipe will give you all the tools to make incredible fillings, incredible and versatile pasta dough, and step by step instructions how to make raviolis, and a simple but fantastic marsala sauce.  It’s a long process, but great if you’ve got the time and family members who enjoy being in the kitchen with you.  The end result is pure love, and you can taste it when you eat it.

For the Pasta:

1 pinch saffron
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tbsp whole milk
3/4 lb OO or semolina flour
1 tsp kosher salt

Beautiful Carmel by the Sea

For the Filling:

1 cup assorted wild mushrooms (oyster, chantrelle, crimini, shitake, etc)
extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken livers
2 tbsp brandy
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only, fine chop
1/2 shallot, fine chop
2 organic egg yolks
1/4 cup brioche or excellent quality challah breads
1 tbsp mascarpone cheese

For the Sauce:

1/2 cup marsala wine
1/2 shallot, minced
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cold

Method:

For the Pasta:

Crumble the saffron with your hands over the milk.  Place the milk in a microwave and heat for about 20 sec (just enough to warm).Place the flour in a food processor, add the eggs and salt and pulse.  Add the milk and pulse until crumbly.  Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and very dense.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.

For the Filling:

In a heavy bottom saute pan, begin heating the olive oil.  Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper and sear on both sides.  Remove the livers and let drain on paper towel.  In the same pan, begin sauteing the mushrooms with the olive oil and butter.  Season with salt and pepper.  When the mushrooms begin to caramelize, add the thyme and shallots and return the livers back to the pan.  Saute for a few more seconds, remove the pan from the flame and deglaze with the brandy. Be very careful, this ignited easily.  If you choose to flambe, make sure all vents are, this will create a momentary fireball.  Otherwise, let the pan slightly cool, turn the flame down, and carefully evaporate the brandy.  Turn the flame off and let everything temper down.  Transfer to a food processor and pulse several times to break everything down.  You do not want to create a puree.  Transfer the mix to a mixing bowl and add the mascarpone cheese and egg yolk.  Work in.  Add the breadcrumbs and continue to work until well bound.  The filling is ready.

For the Ravioli:

Roll the pasta out using a pasta machine.  You want the final sheets to be the thickness of linguini and rolled into flat even sheets.  Arrange about 2 tbsp of filling in the middle of the pasta sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each mound.  Egg wash around each mound.  Place another sheet of pasta over the top and seal tightly by pressing the two pieces of pasta together.  Using a ring mold, punch out the raviolis.  Place the raviolis in a pan of flour to hold until you are ready to cook.

Preparing raviolis

For the sauce:

In a medium straight sided saute pan, begin reducing the wine with the shallots.  When the wine reduces to the consistency of a glaze, add the chicken stock.  Reduce by 3/4.  Add the cream and reduce until it will coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat.  Sauce is ready.  The butter is to be reserved for finishing.

To finish:

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil.  Add all the raviolis.  Once they boil, cook for about another 2 minutes and then drain well.  Add the raviolis to the sauce, swirl in the butter.

Serve.

Best with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy.

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Chimichurri

Every country, so it seems, has its own ‘national dish’, and in many cases, many.  These dishes are influenced by many things, but are supposed to be indicative of a nation’s own culture.  A culinary representation of its people, their heritage and history.  And it’s these dishes we usually look for when we have ‘international night’.  If I go out for Mexican, I want carnitas, rice and beans and tacos.  If I go out for Chinese, I want some sort of dim sum dumpling and stir fry.  Japanese?  Sushi or something grilled with a wonderful miso dipping sauce.  Italian?  You got it.  Pasta.  But what about the lesser – known, but equally magnificent international dishes?  It’s an interesting and usually very rewarding path to walk down.  Here’s why:

Lesser  known cuisines tend to retain their identity more than those cuisines that we (Americans) have adopted.  When cuisines are ‘adopted’ into our, or anyone else’s culture, we tend to modify it.  We change it into a hybrid.  Chinese food becomes American – Chinese food.  Italian becomes American – Italian.  And so on.  But the cuisines that have avoided the mainstream tend to stay authentic.  If you were to walk into an Indonesian restaurant, your food would most likely be very authentic.  Why?  Because we haven’t adopted Indonesian food into our everyday palates.

Here in Los Angeles, trendy restaurants open and close all the time, and one trend that never seems to grow old is South American fusion.  Peru/Japanese.  Brazilian/Thai.

And then there’s Argentinean.  A cuisine unto its own.  When people think of Argentinean, immediately thoughts of wonderful grilled meat, full bodied wines and food of the earth come to mind.  Yucca, potatoes, quinoa.. And rightfully so, REAL Argentinean food is a marvel to behold.  It’s truly food of terrior (food from the earth); simple ingredients stand out.  And blow us away.

Chimichurri is an essential part of any Argentinean dinner, and with its vibrant and bright flavors, has adopted itself very well into American cuisine.   Grilled steak or chicken slathered with chimichurri immediately conjures thoughts of perfectly seasoned food, perfectly cooked food, and wonderful flavors.  It lies halfway between a sauce and a condiment, and is a great gateway to Argentinean cuisine.

Chimichurri

Prep time:  10 minutes
Inactive cook time: 12 hrs
Yield:  about 1 cup finished product

Ingredients:

1 cup flat leaf parsley, leaves only, rough chop
1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves only, rough chop
1/2 cup oregano, leaves only, rough chop
juice of 2 limes
1/4 good quality red wine vinegar
2 tbsp small dice red onion
6 cloves garlic, fine chop
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp flaked sea salt
dash of ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Method:

In a food processor, add 1/2 the parsley, 1/2 the cilantro, half the oregano and the olive oil.  Blend until well incorporated.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add all other ingredients EXCEPT the lime juice, vinegar and salt.  Mix well.  Let sit covered in the refrigerator over night.  Just prior to serving, add the lime juice, vinegar and salt and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar only if necessary.  The flavor should be bright and vibrant.

Spoon over fresh grilled meats or chicken.

Enjoy.

Apple Cider Sauce

I have been getting a lot of requests recently for sauces.  They aren’t so much as requests, but more like pleas for help.  Help me!  Flavor balance, thickening, getting it right… how do I do it?  My answer, in my humble opinion, is that it’s complicated.  Unfortunately there is no formula for sauces.  Each sauce is specific, unique, and requires its own discipline.

Sauces are difficult, complicated, and require a tremendous amount of skill and experience.  Please remember, sauces are technique driven!  They take practice and patience.  In the beginning, it’s easier to make reductions than making truly composed sauces.  For example, reduce 1/2 gallon of orange juice to a syrup, add honey, rosemary, swirl in a couple of pieces of butter you have a very simple orange/rosemary sauce, perfect for fish or light chicken sautes.

So, to simplify things, the best route for making a sauce is to have a plan.  A battle plan.  Determine what your end result should be, and make a plan to get there.  And keep it simple.  A simple reduction.  Simple ingredients.  A few basic flavors that classically work.  Being that it’s fall now, I am going to go through a simple apple cider sauce, that seems to work with a lot of dishes.  It’s only a couple of reductions, easy ingredients, and hard to get wrong.  This sauce really works best with roast chicken or roast pork, but will also fit with beef or other red meats.

Apple Cider and Cinnamon Sauce

Prep time:  2 minutes
Cook time:  about 45 minutes
Yield:  1/2 cup finished sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon local unfiltered apple cider
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp whole unsalted butter, cold
1 cup homemade chicken stock

Method:

In a medium sized non-reactive sauce pot, begin reducing the cider with the cinnamon sticks.  Reduce until almost thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the vinegar.  Return to a boil and add the chicken stock.  Again, reduce until slightly thick. Add the heavy cream and reduce until just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.  This finishes the sauce and gives it a little more richness.

The sauce is now ready.  Best served with roast pork or chicken.

Enjoy.

Slow Roasted King Salmon with Golden Borscht Sauce and Dill

It’s been a while now since I last posted a blog.  Summer has come to a subtle end in southern California,

and I’ve had the privilege to spend some time back in New England, where life seems to make sense in some way.  I feel torn, and the home I know resides in the old streets and beautiful waterfront landscapes that shape the city that I swore I’d never return to.  I’ve been gone for a while now, and returning was like breathing again.  Life is back in me, and I feel surprisingly inspired and confused at the same time.  Of course, Los Angeles is my home now, and I won’t be leaving any time soon, but spending time back east was good.  Very good.  And it made me think about the seasons, more so than before.  As a chef, seasons are important.  To people, the change of the seasons are so important.  In southern California, summer is still in full swing, but in Boston, it’s a different story.  Fall is in the air, and my mind (as a chef of course) is turning to fall dishes.  It’s time to hunker down, build a fire, open a wonderful red wine, watch the Pats and love food.  To be inspired affects everything we do, and right now, I feel like giving you a wonderful recipe.  It’s an inspired fall dish.  Not classic, not traditional, but completely in the spirit of fall.

To be honest, I don’t particularly care for many of the heavy eastern European dishes.  I find them to be just that: heavy.  Heavy and bland.  In particular, I’d like to single out borscht.  I have never liked borscht.  Red beets cooked in a beef stock garnished with- that’s right- more beets.  Add cabbage, potatoes and sour cream, and you have a traditional eastern European meal.  But so many people love it.  I have to wonder, what can I do to make it mine?  How can I transform it into something I like?  And if I make it into something I like, how do I make it into something I love?  So, since this post is about inspiration, let’s call this an inspired borscht.  A dish for those of us who don’t particularly care for the heavy crimson dish that borscht traditionally is.

This borscht is made from golden beets, fennel, sour dough bread and aromatics.  It’s light, sweet, complex in flavor and absurdly delicious.  The flavors come from proper cooking techniques, proper development of flavor, great ingredients, and a great concept.  I love to serve this with slow roasted king salmon and garnish with dill and salmon roe.  The flavors by themselves are dynamite, and together it’s nothing short of spectacular.  This borscht is exceptional.  And easy, which is important.  You will find it’s enjoyable to make.  It’s not as heavy as traditional borscht, and you will probably want to have some bread or starch on the side, unless you’re going light.  It’s a gem of a dish, and I hope you like it as much as I do.

Slow Roasted King Salmon with Golden Borscht Sauce and Dill

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  appox 1 hr
Inactive cook time:  1 hr
Yield:  4 portions


Ingredients:

For the Borsch:

5 medium to small golden beets, trimmed of any leaves and washed
1 tbsp unsalted butter
kosher salt
fine ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 rib celery, rough chop
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup day old torn sour dough or crusty french bread, torn or cut into pieces
1 tsp apple vinegar
1 small carrot, peeled, rough chop
splash of white wine
1 bulb fennel, core removed, thin julienne
3 cups vegetable stock

For the Salmon:

4 6-7oz pieces wild king salmon, skin on
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
3 springs fresh thyme, leaves only, fine chop
kosher salt
vegetable oil
black pepper

Garnish:

Several sprigs of fresh dill
4 tbsp fresh salmon roe

Method: (make the borscht and thyme butter first)

For the Salmon:

Work the thyme and butter together to make a compound butter.  Let sit 1 hour in a cool spot in the kitchen.  Heat an oven to 400.  Liberally season the salmon with salt, pepper and a small amount of vegetable oil.  In either a cast iron pan, or heavy bottom oven safe pan, begin heating the oil over medium high heat.  When hot, slide the salmon into the pan, skin side down.  Cook until skin begins to crisp, place the thyme butter on top of the salmon and transfer the pan to the oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the salmon is still slightly pink but warm on the inside.  Remove the salmon from the pan and let rest for about 3 minutes.

For the Borscht:

Begin by cooking the beets.  Place the beets in a small sauce pot and cover with water by about 1 inch.  Add the butter, thyme, a heavy pinch of salt and the sugar.  Simmer until fork tender.  Remove the beets, let cool, peel and cut into quarters.  Meanwhile, reduce the cooking liquid by 2/3, add the vegetable stock to the pot and reduce by another 1/3.  Strain the liquid and reserve, keeping hot.

In a large sauce pot, begin sweating the onion, carrot, celery and fennel in the vegetable oil.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until the onions and fennel are translucent and begin to smell sweet.  Add the splash of wine and let cook until almost dry.   Add the beets and the reserved stock and bring to a low boil.  Cook for 10 minutes, and then add the bread and vinegar.  Cook for another 10 minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Let sit for 20 minutes.

In batches, puree the soup in a bar blender, making sure it’s as smooth as possible.  Do not strain.  Return the soup to a clean pot, bring back to a very low simmer, and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and sugar if necessary.  The flavor should be sweet, vibrant and very complex.  Reserve.

To finish:

Ladle the borscht evenly into the bottom of 4 hot shallow pasta bowls.  Place 1 piece of salmon into the center of each bowl, slightly submerged in the borscht, skin side up.  On top of each piece of salmon, directly in the middle, spoon 1 tbsp of the salmon roe.  Garnish the caviar with dill.  Serve right away.

Best served with sour cream on the side.

Enjoy.