Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Soupy Homage

Then there was the question as to what to do with the rest of the squash. The stew itself had used slightly less than half the squash. I had sated my desire to do something unexpected (at least for me) with the squash – so this time the decision was easier. I found a recipe for butternut squash ravioli in a cider broth.

I have always been a big fan of soup and dumplings in all its incarnations. Wontons, tortellini, throw any of these in a steaming bowl of broth and you’ve got me. In all fairness, I am a bit promiscuous in my love for things in soup in general (I’m talking delicious things here, not bug-like things or inedible things in general) – I have an equal soft spot for noodles, especially udon (so enjoyably squishy) and meatballs and matzoh balls as well.

This was more of a first-course recipe than a main course, and it called for only a bit of broth to flavor the ravioli, but nonetheless, I couldn’t resist. The flavors were pure fall, the perfect treatment for a butternut squash. It was just meant to be in a dish such as this, where all of the flavors seem to pay tribute to the same brisk feel and spicy air. It deserved nothing less than this – a bowl of pure homage, where all the flavors and elements seem to bow down and gladly take supporting roles.

In late-November and early-December, there is absolutely no going wrong with a recipe starring squash, apple cider and maple syrup. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an incredibly sweet recipe. The broth was a bit sweet, but there was more chicken broth than cider in it, along with a great deal of butter and scallions, so it wasn’t overpoweringly so. A whole bowlful of the broth would have been far too much, though, so the ladle and a half I used was more than enough. The ravioli themselves were delicious, and would have been fantastic plated beneath a brown butter and sage sauce – the combination of squash and brown butter combination as complimentary as bread and butter. There’s really no going wrong there. One of these days I’ll tackle fresh pasta, but not with finals lingering.

The squash was first roasted and then mashed with ricotta cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. It was all shockingly easy – no doubt attributable to the use of wonton wrappers. The recipe suggested pot sticker wrappers, but I didn’t feel like making the trek down to Chinatown, so wonton wrappers from the grocery store were going to have to do. This made my ravioli a bit smaller than I think they were supposed to be. Since the wrappers were square, I used the cap of a cocktail shaker to cut out circles.

A nice dollop spooned into the center of each wrapper was packaged inside after I wet the edges with a damn paper towel and pressed them together between my thumb and forefinger. I made a whole bunch of these, but instead of being tedious and tiring as I had anticipated it would be, the whole process was surprisingly calming, much like getting a knot out of a necklace, which I also find oddly entrancing.

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Cider Broth
From Bon Appetit, December 2000
Recipe can also be found here

1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded
2Ts brown sugar
1/8 t ground cinnamon
1/4 C pure maple syrup
3 T butter
1/2 C water

1 C ricotta cheese
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
3 t chopped fresh parsley
1/2 t chopped fresh thyme

Wonton wrappers, cut into circles

1/3 C chopped shallots
1 1/2 C chicken brother
1/2 C apple cider

Shaved Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place squash, cut side up, in baking pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with syrup; dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Pour 1/2 cup water into bottom of pan. Bake until squash is tender, about 1 hour. Cool completely.

Scoop out squash from the shell and mash in a bowl. Place 3/4 C squash to medium bowl (reserve remaining squash for another use). Add in ricotta, 1/4 C grated Parmesan, 2 T parsley and thyme to bowl and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Lay the wonton wrappers on a flat surface and place a dollop of filling in center of each, trying to judge how much will fill the wrapper without overflowing (I guess I used about 2 teaspoons or so per ravioli – it took me a while to get the measurement right). Wet the edges of the wrapper with water (I didn’t have a pastry brush or anything, so I just used a damp paper towel); fold in half and press the edges to seal them.

Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for a minute, until the shallots begin to turn translucent and soft. Add the chicken stock and cider and simmer 8 minutes. Add a tablespoon of parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook ravioli a few at a time in salted boiling water. Remove from water gently with a slotted spoon and place a few in each bowl. Bring the soup to a simmer and spoon a bit of broth over the ravioli.

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