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.

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