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.

Pizza Crust

I am convinced that you can put almost anything (or almost nothing) on pizza, as long as the crust is perfect, and it will be great.  Let’s face it, that’s the focus: the crust.  How thick, how thin, how crisp, the flavor, the chewiness, the bubbles… a great pizza crust doesn’t need an excessive amount of cheese or toppings.  Proportion is the key, and the crust is the foundation, focal point and probably the hardest thing to master.

Pizzas are, of course, diverse creatures.  How must a pizza be?  If you’re from Chicago, deep dish is the only way to prepare the pie.  If you’re from New Haven, CT, or New York, it’s thin crust all the way.  A lot of Italian restaurants, gastro pubs, and so on are doing flat bread pizza.  They are all great.  But, because I am from southern New England originally, I am going to stick with thin crust.  But no matter what you choose, the crust recipe is the same.

Before we get into the logistics of making a good crust, I want to mention that using a pizza stone in your oven is critically important.  It holds the heat of the oven, providing an even-heated cooking surface.

Pizza dough is, of course, bread dough.   Its leavener is yeast, and the longer the fermentation, the more developed the flavor.  It’s very similar to baguette dough.  My recipe calls for 00 flour, which is a finely ground high gluten flour.  It can be expensive and hard to find, so subbing with a very good quality high gluten flour will work.  I also cut it with fine ground semolina, which add fantastic flavor and texture in the end.  Give it time, let it slowly rise and develop over night.  With a great crust, you won’t need to mask the flavor with a lot of greasy meats and cheeses.  The crust speaks for itself.

Pizza Crust

Prep time: 2 hours
Inactive cook time: 18 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 large pizza crusts

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups 00 flour (or bread flour) + 1/2 cup for finishing
1 cup fine ground semolina flour + 1/2 cup for finishing
1/2 tbsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp double active yeast
1/3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups luke warm water

Method:

Place the flours in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  In a small bowl, whisk together the water, sugar and yeast.  Let stand until foams appears on the top.  Add the liquid to the flour, turn the machine on low and run for about 30 seconds, or until the water is just barely mixer.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 20 minutes.  After the 20 minutes, uncover, add the salt and olive oil and turn the mixer back on, medium speed until highly elastic and smooth (about 10 minutes).  Lightly oil a mixing bowl with a little more olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl.  Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator.  Let sit over night.

About 2 hours before baking, remove the dough from the fridge.  Gently work the dough down, cover and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size.  Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Dunk each piece into a little flour and semolina mixed together (the reserved flours) and work into a circle using your knuckles.  You can also use a rolling pin.  This step takes practice and patience.  Take the time to really stretch the dough, without breaking.  Form a nice crust, make sure it’s even, and thin.

Heat the over to 475 with a pizza stone in the middle.  Sprinkle some of the semolina/flour mix on a pizza paddle.  Place the stretched dough on the paddle.  Shake it a little to make sure it’s not sticking.  Garnish the pizza dough in whatever way seems best (cheese, tomato sauce, basil, and so on).  Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake until bubbling, the crust is crunchy, and it’s completely cooked through in the middle.  Remove, let cool slightly, and slice.  Serve.

My absolute favor pizza is smoked duck, brie, roasted red pepper, arugula and white sauce.  Food for thought it guess, but it’s the suggestion that counts: be creative.

Enjoy.