Very recently I was called upon to cook for a couple's 5th year wedding anniversary. They are very new to Seattle (from Chicago), they love to eat, but they have an 8-month-old child. We planned for me to come to their home and cook them dinner while the baby slept and was watched by a sitter. The day of the meal, the wife emailed that the baby was sick, asked if I could come a little early and would I mind if it was a little less formal.
I'm the oldest of 10 children and I can remember most events my parents planned were interrupted by some unforeseen child-related dilemma, so I told them not to worry, and I would make it all work for them.
Since these folks really love to eat, and eat really well, we came up with a nice menu! Now this is what I envisioned when we started this whole business, coming into peoples homes and cooking extended meals for them so they could get a restaurant experience at home.
The menu consisted of seared scallops on a creamy bacon and herb polenta as a first course. Melted leek and ricotta raviolis with brown butter for the second course. A nice little frisee salad with crispy pancetta, steamed asparagus, goat cheese and a poached egg with red wine vinaigrette for the third. Homemade potato and ricotta gnocchi with a leek and chanterelle ragout for the fourth course, I was able to get some fresh truffle to garnish this one to put it over the top. The fifth course was a braised beef short rib served with a puree of the vegetables I braised the ribs with, some crispy marble potatoes with herbs and a red wine demi glace. For dessert, a vanilla creme brulee with just a hint of cinnamon and fresh berries.
The baby slept through the first course and woke up into the second and by the third was at the counter with us. The couple decided to eat at the counter in the kitchen with me, they asked lots of questions and watched closely as I cooked. Often in restaurants the chef just never gets to, or sometimes doesn't want to, interact with his guests, but for me it is the greatest thing to get instant feedback about what you are cooking.
They asked where I had gotten the ravioli and I explained that I had made them and it was super easy. Making ravioli is like making a surprise for someone. And because it was just the two of them I made a very small batch. This small batch recipe is quick and easy. Anyone could make it in just a bit of time, and it would be enough for them and their dinner partner with no problem.
Leek and Ricotta Ravioli
1 whole egg plus one yolk
2 cups AP flour plus some for rolling
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Leek and ricotta filling
3/4 cup ricotta-drained
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper to taste
pinch red pepper flakes
For pasta dough, use a large mixing bowl. This is basically the "well method," popular in many cookbooks and on TV, but will keep your counter clean. Place flour and salt in the bowl and mix well. Make a small hole in the flour and add the milk, eggs and olive oil. Using a fork or your fingers (my preferred method), begin to mix the flour into the wet ingredients. When most of the flour is combined begin to turn the pasta in on itself to incorporate all the flour. You may need a little extra if the dough is too sticky. When all the flour is combined and the dough is just tacky to the touch, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and let it rest.
Cut the root end off the leek and the dark green end. Use only the white and pale green parts. Cut in half length wise and wash out the leek to remove any dirt or grit. Cut into half rounds and set aside. In large sauté pan, over medium heat, add the butter. When it is melted, and before it browns, add the leeks. Stir frequently until they begin to melt. When the leeks are very tender, add garlic and continue to sauté. Cook until garlic is fragrant but not browned, then remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, place ricotta and egg. Mix together completly. Add leek and garlic to ricotta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, the pinch of red pepper flakes and parsley. Set aside to cool.
While the filling is cooling, divide the pasta in half. Dust your counter or cutting board with flour and flatten out the pasta and using a rolling pin, roll out pasta to a thin even sheet. Place pasta over ravioli mold and repeat with the second piece of pasta.
Place a tablespoon or so of filling in each divot of the ravioli mold pushing it down slightly. When all holes are filled cover with remaining sheet of pasta and use rolling pin to seal it. Separate ravioli and either cook immediately or freeze in a single layer for later use. Cook these ravioli in a large pot of heavily salted water and serve with your favorite sauce.