Potato, Leek and Bacon Ravioli

This week I figured it was time to try making something new.  A chance to expand my skills and push the edges of my comfort zone.  The new Everest to summit: ravioli.

Last October was my first attempt at making pasta, using my handy Kitchen Aid mixer pasta roller attachment.  It was easy enough… a little bit of work but the end result was well worth it.  What I really wanted to try, though, was raviolli.

After our wedding reception at Lidia’s Kansas City, the first restaurant of Italian chef Lidia Matticchio (of public broadcasting fame), we were given a copy of her cookbook “Lidia’s Family Table” as a thank-you gift from the restaurant.  Thumbing through the recipes after returning to Krungthep, I came across one for Potato, Leek and Bacon Ravioli.  Just thinking about that combination of flavors made my mouth water.

Since I had guests coming over for brunch on Sunday, I decided this might be just the thing to serve them and prepared a midweek test batch to familiarize myself with the process.

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The ingredients:

3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (our potatoes here aren’t identified, so I went with a waxy one that looks similar to a Yukon)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces bacon, cut into small pieces
2 medium leeks, finely chopped (I used a locally grown “Japanese onion” that looks like a leek but has a slightly stronger flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese

The first step was to boil the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a pot of unsalted water until they were just cooked through, about twenty minutes.  After pulling them out and letting them cool a bit, I peeled them then sliced them into approximately 1/4-inch slices.

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Next up, I heated the oil in a skillet then cooked the bacon for a few minutes until most of its fat had rendered.  Then I added the leeks and cooked a few more minutes until they were wilted and sizzling.  Then I arranged the potatoes in the pan, seasoned them, and stirred them around, breaking the potatoes into smaller pieces but still keeping some chunks.

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After the mixture was softened and starting to caramelize, I pulled it off the heat.  Then, deviating from the recipe (because I can’t seem to resist improvising), I added some frozen green peas and a bit of ricotta cheese.  I also shaved in some Parmigiano cheese then tasted and corrected the seasoning.  It needed a bit of a bite, so I added several generous pinches of dried chili flakes.

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While letting the filling cool, I started the pasta making process, making one pound of pasta dough with a two-egg recipe that combines both semolina flour and all-purpose flour.  The goal is to get the pieces about five inches wide.

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Laying out the strips, I dropped heaping Tablespoons of filling about four inches apart.  Lesson I learned: better to work with only a quarter or half the total batch of dough at a time, keeping the rest of it wrapped in plastic so it doesn’t start to dry.  By the end of this process, I was suffering from some cracking dough.

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Brush with egg wash between the mounds of filling, add the second layer, press to seal and then cut with a pasta cutter or a knife.  The end result looks like a ravioli, right?

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I was going to make a butter and sage sauce but didn’t have sage, so instead did a butter and olive oil sauce with sauteed mushrooms.  Again, improvisation seems to be the name of my game when I’m in the kitchen.

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Boil the pasta for just a few minutes until done.  This was a pain as I couldn’t boil enough of these big ravioli at a time, so then I couldn’t sauce enough at a time, so if I had to serve more than two people at once, some of the ravioli would sit on the plate, cooling, while the others were being cooked.  I’ve got to get my timing down better.

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Sauced them up with the butter and olive oil, added some Italian herbs and pepper flakes along with the mushrooms.  These were really tasty.  I also prepared some with a traditional tomato sauce (from a jar!) which were also very nice.

Satisfied with my test run, Saturday afternoon I prepared two more batches of dough as well as some more filling.  For the dough, I made one batch with the basic dough and a second batch with beet root that produced a lovely magenta hue.  I wrapped the dough in plastic and let it rest in the regrigerator overnight.

Sunday morning I was up early and amidst a thunderstorm rolled out and filled the ravioli.  Everything looked to be coming together nicely and I laid the ravioli on wax paper sprinkled with semolina flour, wrapping the trays with plastic and setting them out to await cooking.

Sadly, something went terribly wrong.  Maybe it was because they were out for too long (about three hours before cooking) or maybe the filling was too wet (I don’t think so, though, as it seemed very dry) or maybe the dough had been refrigerated too long (although it seemed to have a good body to it as I rolled it), but my ravioli started to disintegrate before cooking. 

While sitting on the trays, the dough around the filling literally came undone, turning gummy and tearing when I tried to remove the ravioli from the tray.  I discovered this after my guests had arrived and already enjoyed an appetizer of white bean and olive bruschetta and were well into the Bloody Marys. 

Sadly, I had no Plan B.  There was no dry pasta in the cupboard and nothing else I could whip together as a main course.  Sadly, I had to apologize to the guests, who were all very understanding, and Tawn called Pizza Mania to have some pies delivered.  While waiting for the pizzas, we continued with the salad of oven-roasted vegetables and feta cheese accompanied with homemade bread.

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In fact the bread, which I also used for the bruschetta, is kind of a pleasant surprise.  On a whim, I decided to use my baguette pan again.  You’ll recall that a year ago June, I had a terrible experience where my loaf of bread stuck to the pan, expanding through the thousands of perforations and taking a good hour of manual labor to remove and clean up.

Suddenly, while preparing these loves and shaping them, I realized what I had done wrong.  Out of the blue, the light went on in my brain: the mistake I had made was putting the dough in the pan for its final rise, giving the dough the opportunity to rise into the perforations.  Instead, I covered the pan with a well-flowered tea towel and let the dough rise on the towel.  Then, when it was time to bake, I just lifted the dough off the towel and back onto the pan.  The result: the loaves baked in the baguette pan without a hitch.

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The four-hour brunch ended up a success, despite having to order the pizzas.  The company was wonderful, including Doug’s brother Alex, who had kindly spent a day showing us around his neighborhood in Tokyo when we were there this past Spring.  Bob joined us as did Benji, so we had a really interesting mix of people.

The roasted vegetable salad was a hit – I was pretty pleased with it, myself – and the bruschetta and bread were well-received, too.  For dessert, I made a mango and blackberry clafoutis, pictured above.  I really like clafoutis but I need to revert to my original recipe, which was lighter than the one I used.  The addition of some baking powder would be helpful to give it some lift.

So the cooking experience this week was mostly positive, but with a nice dose of humility kicking me in the teeth, just to keep me honest.

 

0 thoughts on “Potato, Leek and Bacon Ravioli

  1. Your blog should be called “Cooking with Chris” I concede to any chef that labels their containers! I also wanted to add how well you were able to recover for your guest. I doubt if I would have been able to remain composed. I guess it shows that that the company is just as important as the food.

  2. Marvelous! I agree, ” Cooking with Chris ” would be a great blog/book name. You amaze me with your talent Chris. Have you tried covering the rolled out pasta with a damp towel instead of plastic? That helps me keep my phyllo leaves supple to work with, and there is no drying effect.

  3. I’m sure “Cooking with Chris” will be a hit, how about starting a B&B! LOL. I went for a tasting menu course at Orris, and seems to me your presentation of the ravioli is much better! The green peas add more colour and crispiness to the filling, I suppose?

  4. I am salivating!What I find most amazing is the sudden insight you got!Lessons learned from past mistakes!I bet it will come to you what went wrong with the ravioliin no time! ^^

  5. Not sure if this is helpful, but my mum (who is Italian) makes her own Ravioli and she freezes them.   She brings them out just in time for when she needs to boil them.   That might be an idea or helpful to prevent them breaking or tearing.  Btw – love your cooking class.

  6. I vote for “Cooking with Chris” too! Too bad that it didn’t come out right for the brunch, maybe next time.Anyway, since I love eating good food but can’t cook- I have decided that I should date only fab cooks! Sounds like a great plan right? haha

  7. sorry to hear that the ravioli didn’t turn out when you wanted them to, but it sounds like your brunch worked out ok anyway. hmm… i’ll have to go back and try to make bread again; my attempts sometimes come out ok and sometimes not.

  8. oh no! I think your mistake was refrigerating instead of freezing them. A lot of consumer-grade flour nowadays have chemicals that can break down the gluten if given enough time, rendering it mushy and sticky. And sticky dough well….sticks to almost anything. Freezing them will prevent any of that from happening. Nice save with the pizzas though, always a great plan B

  9. @caihwei – Actually, I didn’t refrigerate them.  Left them at room temperature for about three hours.  I’ve received several suggestions for freezing them, although the cookbook’s author specifically recommended against.  But I’ll try it again and put part of the batch in the freezer and see what happens.  Thanks for your suggestion!

  10. @ElusiveWords – Your perspective on me remaining composed is based entirely on how I’ve written the entry.  Reality may have been a bit different…  @ZSA_MD – Yes, the towels I was covering the dough with should have been dampened, a mistake I realized after the fact.  Thanks for suggesting it.@CurryPuffy – We considered a boutique B&B idea when I moved here as Bangkok didn’t have much in the way of B&Bs or boutique hotels at that time.  Four years later, they are everywhere.  Guess I didn’t get in soon enough…@ZenPaper – I’m always fascinated with how the brain can turn a problem over and over until suddenly the synapses fire in a particular way and an answer materializes.@venice – I appreciate that advice.  While the cookbook author specifically recommended against freezing, clearly leaving them at room temperature wasn’t the right answer.  Next time I’m going to split my batch into three and test room temperature, refrigerator and freezer and see what the results are.@TheLatinObserver – “Like Fish Sauce for Chocolate”  LOL@marshmellowTM – There you go… multicultural cooking tips!@Dezinerdreams – You know, many years ago I went out on a few dates with a chef – someone who actually had his own restaurant.  I had these great visions of us in the kitchen together and I’d learn all these great techniques.  Of course, the only thing he didn’t want to do on his days off was cook!@kunhuo42 – This book I’ve been using, “Kneadlessly Simply”, has some great recipes.  I’d be happy to send some to you.  They are the best (and easiest) recipes I’ve ever used.

  11. Your recipe, as always, sounds and looks amazing. One trick my grandmother always taught me when making ravioli (or any other stuffed pasta) is never use egg for sealing the pockets. Her dough was always perfectly pliable and she would use a fork to seal the edges. She did very large batches, with what I remember to be a much wetter filling. She would leave them out, uncovered, while she finished all of them so the pasta would start to dry on the formed ravioli. This was the desired result, she said, to have slightly dry pasta before boiling.I hardly think you will need any suggestions, though. Your technique looks to always be perfect and you adapt quickly to your environs. Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Chris – I just asked my aunt to confirm how Nana (my grandmother) did this in such large quantities. You are right with how you are storing your pasta dough. Working in batches is the way to go. She also said Nana would lay the completed ravioli on counterspace sprinkled with semolina with a fan blowing lightly in the kitchen and on the ravioli to keep the air dry. Hope that helps!

  13. @christine24666 – You know, I thought about the idea of just doing a meal that was all different types of bruschetta.  Maybe even a dessert bruschetta using a slice of cake as the base and a fruit mixture on top?  No garlic on that one, of course!

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