Monday, September 15, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The second filling (Italy)

See the previous post from September 1 for the dough recipe and first filling recipe.

My daughter and I decided to experiment with 14th and 15th century recipes for raviolis.  We had to redact the recipes ourselves, working from the lists given but having to figure out quantities by taste and goal.

We were working from a website that looked like a good class handout for a Society for Creative Anachronism workshop, called "Pasta Class" and found at this link:

We learned from the first filling, Ravieles, #8, that what we needed was enough of something soft and mixable to make the mixture cohesive.  In that recipe we used butter.  In this one, we used softened cream cheese.

Ravioli, #10, from The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, 15th Century Italian

Get a pound and a half of old cheese and a little fresh creamy cheese, and a pound of bacon or of loin of veal that should be well boiled, then chopped; get ground fragrant herbs, pepper, cloves, ginger and saffron, adding in a well ground breast of chicken; mix all of this well together; make a thin dough and wrap the mixture in it the size of a nut; set these ravioli to cook in the fat broth of a capon or of some other good meat, adding a little saffron, and let them boil for half an hour; then set them out in dishes, garnished with a mixture of grated cheese and good spices.

Our Redaction of the Filling

2 1/4 (or so) ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 ounce cream cheese at room temperature
2 slices thick bacon, cooked to slightly crispy and well-drained
1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Poudre Fines*
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh, about 4 ounces raw 
   (what we like; breast would work too, I think)
2 pinches of salt

*Poudre Fines is a medieval spice mix of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise, and saffron, all ground.  Have some fun mixing your own version or use the spices they list in the recipe.  You don't need much unless you want to store it for other uses.

And salt, if needed
Mix the cheddar and cream cheeses well.  Chop the bacon into small pieces and mix with the cheeses.  Add the shallot, parsley, oregano, and spices; mix well.  

Cut the chicken into chunks and saute' in the bacon grease until no longer pink.  

Put in food processor or mortar and process until a paste.  Mix with the cheeses.  

Taste for salt and add a pinch or two as needed.  The bacon and cheese might be salty enough.

After everything is mixed well, put into covered container and refrigerate.   Makes about 3/4 of a cup.

Tasty as is
Filling the Dough

We used half of the pasta dough recipe listed in the previous post.  It was rolled until it was translucent and did not want to stretch any more.  Half was set aside for the top: be sure to cover it with a damp cloth so it doesn't dry out while you are working with the filling.

We scored the bottom layer to show where the filling should go.  

After each lump of filling was placed and seams dampened with a bit of water, the top dough was tugged to fit and tucked in around the filling, pressing out the trapped air.

The flat parts were pressed to seal them and then the raviolis were cut apart.

Cooking the Raviolis

We dropped in each ravioli one at a time into the same broth-flavored, strongly simmering water as used for the first filling.  After two minutes (not thirty!), they were removed, drained, and tasted.

The Verdict

This was really good, too.  Success!  I was surprised the flavors weren't stronger but I liked the cheddar and bacon combination.  The other flavors were in the background, making the overall taste richer in a subtle way.  The shallots, though uncooked like in the first filling, were not too strong.  The chicken didn't add much flavor although I think it added body and texture.

Our modern palates expected a familiar taste from the cheddar-bacon-chicken combination but that is not what we got.  We believe the Poudre Fines shifted it to a more medieval flavor, a subtle spicy depth.

All three of us liked it and one of us thought it was her favorite.

If I were to change anything, I would add more spices so they stood out more.  I would add more bacon, too, just to punch up its flavor contribution.  Overall though, it tasted good; just more subdued than the first filling.

LATER:  The flavors were much improved after reheating.  The bacon-cheddar combination were pleasantly strong.  The raviolis were excellent heated with a little Parmesan cheese and no other sauce.

My daughter's conclusion (and I heartily agree) was that this filling just needed some more cooking to have the flavors really work.  Perhaps having the filling at room temperature before stuffing the dough?  That way the pasta doesn't get over-cooked.  Failing that, reheating is an excellent solution.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Historical Raviolis! The pasta dough and first filling

My daughter and I wanted to make some raviolis because she has never made pasta before.  We decided to utilize this website:  Medieval Pasta: History, Preparation, and Recipes by Dame Katja Davidova Orlova Khazarina of Robakovna, which looks to me like a Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) name.  

Pasta making, Scappi, 1570
Dame Katja offers a variety of historical pasta recipes from authentic books:  lasagna, raviolis, gnocchi, dumplings, pasta pastries, macaroni, and more.  We chose 

Ravieles, #8, from the Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections, 14th Century

Ravioli, #10, from The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, 15th Century Italian

Ravioli ready to serve of herbs fantastic, from the Libro di cucina, 15th Century

and also used the ideas of the sweet, fried pastas to concoct our own, historically-inspired filling.

The next several posts will cover those individually.  We redacted the recipes ourselves using cheeses we had on hand.  We made a double batch of pasta dough and a small amount of each type of filling so we had enough dough to try all four.  

This post contains the pasta recipe and the Ravieles, #8.

First, The Pasta

The recipes just call for a paste of flour and water, sometimes suggesting saffron or sugar to be added too.  We wanted more guidance on it, so we turned to our trusty friend, The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1984 edition). 

On page 213 there is a recipe recommended for raviolis as long as you cut and fill the dough before it dries.  They state that if you are a beginner, do not try to make noodles in damp weather.  The humidity was up for my area (70%) but there was no rain or clouds so we hoped that would work for us.

White or Green Noodle Dough or Fettuccine

On a large pastry board or marble tabletop make a well of:

2/3 cup all purpose flour

Drop into it:

1 egg

barely combined with :

1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oil

The salt made it into the picture this time
Work the mixture with your hands, folding the flour over the egg until the dough can be rolled into a ball and comes clean from the hands.  ...  Knead the dough as for bread, about 10 minutes.  Then let it stand, covered, about 1 hour. 

Our Notes

We made a double batch and mixed it on the counter top by hand.

The egg mixture overfilled the well but it was not a problem
When the dough started forming a ball and sticking more to itself than to our hands, we started kneading it.  *We did have to add a few more tablespoons of flour to get rid of the very sticky aspect of the dough.*  

Almost there
When the dough felt damp but firm and was barely sticking to anything, we put it aside to stand.  Did we knead for ten minutes?  We forgot to check the time!  But we were aiming for a dough that would hold together well when stretched and that is what we got.

Due to a variety of reasons, the dough stood on the counter for about three hours.  It was covered so we didn't worry about it drying out.  The benefit was that the dough was easy to stretch to thin and translucent, just like the "foile" some of the recipes mention.

After that, we wrapped it in plastic tightly and put it into the refrigerator.

Next:  The First Filling, Ravieles, #8

Take fine flour and sugar and make pasta dough; take good cheese and butter and cream them together; then take parsley, sage, and shallots, chop them finely, and put them in the filling. Put the boiled ravieles on a bed of grated cheese and cover them with more grated cheese, then reheat them.

Our redaction

3 ounces of provolone

7/8 ounce by weight of salted butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

Double or triple quantities at will
Chop the provolone into very small pieces.  Cream with the butter until the cheese bits stick together in a clump.  Add the shallot, parsley, and sage, mixing it well together.

A close up:  everything is chopped fine 
Taste the mix!  We got the tang of the provolone balanced with the shallot's oniony zing and some of the parsley flavor.  A few seconds later the sage washed across our taste buds.  The butter is very subtle as it really just acts like a binder.

Pack into a covered container (makes about 1/2 cup) and refrigerate.

Assembling the Ravieles

This is half of the dough
We used about 1/4 of the dough, rolled out thin enough to read through it.  We had to mix in some more flour as it was still too sticky.  Now we have a better idea of how dry the dough should feel in order to make good pasta.  

After splitting the dough into two parts (top and bottom), we lightly scored the bottom dough to mark where each raviele would be and then spooned the chilled filling to fit inside.  

Yes, nine from one fourth of the dough
We felt it was important to leave a wide margin of dough around the filling since we were new to getting the little pillows sealed properly.  There was no need to be conservative here!

Next we rubbed water between the filling piles and placed the other thin sheet of dough on top.  After stretching the top sheet a bit to better fit the bottom sheet, we pushed the dough down onto the filling with the idea to press out the air.  Each pile was sealed all around and then we trimmed them into individual pieces.

Sealed, ready to be cut apart
Cooking the Ravieles

A large pan filled with water flavored with beef broth and a bit of saffron was brought to a strong simmer.  The ravieles were dropped in individually, stirred gently, and cooked for two minutes.  

Afterwards they were fished out with strainer, drained, and placed in a bowl.  Even though the recipe says to cover it with more cheese, we were interested in tasting them just as they were.

The Verdict

Oh wow.  This was really tasty!  Three of us tasted and it was my favorite and the second favorite of the other two.  I liked that the flavor was not distinctly any one of the ingredients but a blend that made it intriguing on the tongue.  It was stronger than I expected and that was a pleasant surprise.  When I thought about it, I could distinguish the sage flavor from the rest and could taste the butter in the creamy, cheesy texture.  But in all honesty, it was just an exciting flavor blend.

Definitely a success.

If I were to change anything, I would have microwaved or otherwise cooked the shallot a bit to reduce its impact.  The few minutes in the hot broth did not cook it enough to remove its bite.  But that was when I was actively trying to find something to change about the filling.  Not bad for a 700 year old idea!