Monday, November 15, 2010

Ricotta Gnudi

When talking about food, words from many different languages are often used. This can cause quite a lot of confusion, especially when the speaker doesn't understand the language that they using to reference a food item (What is this? I wanted the Tiramisu!). What it really comes down to is a need to define terms. However, because I didn't grow up using certain words, like gnocchi, I only understand them from a limited point of view. Therefore, right or wrong and for the purpose of this recipe, I understand "gnudi" to refer to a naked ravioli(filled pasta, pierogi, jiaozi, maultasche?), that is to say, lacking a pasta outside.
Drained ricotta
Now that definitions are out of the way, I will now provide some further ideology behind this recipe. The nakedness of the filling makes it difficult to cook and shape. If the filling is not stable enough it will fall apart when moved and during the cooking process. On the other hand, making the filling too durable turns the delicate gnudi into something hard and undesirable. Adding something like egg will thin the initial filling, but thicken it when cooked. Adding something like flour will thicken it initially, and further thicken when heated. I wanted my naked filling to be as delicate as possible. I came to the conclusion that the best way to maintain a moist and supple texture, while still achieving mobility, was to have a very thin protective layer on the outside. Basically, it is the thinnest, tightest fitting ravioli you can make; a dough forms directly around the filling.
Piped filling before drying
250g drained ricotta
25g egg yolk
2g salt
12g grated Parmesan
8g ap flour
8g lard
40g swiss chard, stems removed
1qt ap flour
2qt water
Balls buried in flour
Get a large, dry pan hot over high heat, but not so hot that when you add the lard it burns immediately(still pretty hot). Add the lard, let it melt for 2 seconds, tilt the pan to coat, and then throw in the chard. Stir over high heat for 1-2 minute until the chard is completely wilted and it is starting to look dry. Remove from the pan and let cool on a cutting board. Chop the chard very fine.  Add the chopped chard to the eggs, salt, parm, and flour and whisk briefly. Pass the ricotta through a fine tammis and stir it into chard mixture.  Place the ricotta mixture into a piping bag and pipe into piles(I tried to make them the height of a quarter, see below) on a flour dusted silicon mat or piece of parchment paper.  Let sit, uncovered, in the fridge for 6 hours. Remove from the fridge and gentely shape the slightly dried out ricotta into balls. Place them into the bottom of a roughly 1 foot by 1 foot baking pan coated with .5cm of the ap flour. Once all of the balls are sitting in flour, cover them with the remaining flour and return to the fridge for 2 hours(as seen above). Bring the 2 quarts of water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add the balls in small batches. Cook for about 5 seconds(just enough time to gelatinize the flour starch and let cool on a plate. Return them to the baking pan lined with flour as before and cover again with flour. Let rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Bring the water to a boil again and blanch a second time until the middle is warm.

The picture below shows the nudi in a very delicate state, the only reason they are able to hold together is because the middle is still cold.
After the first(5 second) blanch in water, before re-flouring
Ricotta and swish chard gnudi with celery root puree, okra-tomato sauce, brown butter mushrooms, and kumquat zest
The middle of these is very soft. However, if you blend everything together(and omit the flour) until very smooth the end result is a burst of cheesy, milky liquid in your mouth, but shaping them is a nightmare. This recipe is a good balance of stability and suppleness.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hot Sauce

Non-usable pepper part
I picked out the hottest peppers I could find; a mix of habanero and scotch bonnet. About 2/3 were red varieties and 1/3 yellow or orange.
800g hot peppers
60g sugar
50g garlic
50g apple cider vinegar
8g salt

Pepper flesh
De-seed and de-vein the peppers so that you have a pile of just their flesh. Blend this with the sugar, garlic, vinegar, and salt.

This recipe relies on removing all of the parts of the pepper which contain capsaicin but no flavor. They make the sauce hotter and dilute the flavor. I think about it like this, using just the flesh means a higher ratio of flavor molecules to capsaicin molecules.


Plate that hot sauce!
Fried stuff (fritto misto) with firecracker sauce (mayo+hot sauce)