Cook the Books: Heat~

2 12 2010

This time around at Cook the Books we read Heat by Bill Buford.  I was kind of tickled by this selection as this was one of the first “foodie” books I picked up to read on my own.  I thoroughly devoured it the first time, so this time I was able to savor it a little more in a different way.  While Bill ricochets from one culinary adventure to another in search of his own culinary niche, studying, soaking up knowledge like pasta takes up sauce, I kept getting pulled back to one thing…”The egg is very important.”

If you study the 3 eggs in the first photo you might wonder if the difference is a trick of your eyes, due to placement of the eggs, or the lighting, perhaps.  No…one is actually elongated.  These aren’t McGrocery Eggs… They’re eggs from my happy hens.  I have Silver Cuckoo Marans and I can’t recommend them highly enough.  They’re grand girls!  Now the picture just above this paragraph shows a McGrocery Egg on the left (once in awhile, even I have to buy eggs if I need several all at one time) and a Happy Hen egg on the right.  The egg on the right is extremely fresh…it might be a day old already.  And look at that yolk…it’s almost orange!  I’ll tell you…that makes the prettiest Lemon Meringue pie!  But…back to eggs…and pasta….

This is my standard egg pasta from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.  Her recipe makes about 3/4 pound of fresh pasta.  This time we’re making ravioli.  I use the regular pasta recipe, because I love the light texture of it.

My ravioli filling is an adaptation of Marcella’s filling for Cappellacci.  I had purchased and baked yams at Thanksgiving…except they were Asian yams and were very pale in color, but much drier and more sweet.   I thought at the time they would make excellent ravioli.  The flesh of the Asian yams was actually so dry that after adding parmesan and romano cheeses, and a bit of Italian parsley for color and a bit of complementary flavor, I needed to add both butter and cream to moisten the yams.  This is one ingredient that didn’t need any binder to take up moisture!

I have to agree that the egg is very important.  The very first time I made pasta, I used my own chickens’ eggs.  At the time, I had a pair of lovely Golden Seabrights, and their eggs were smaller, not Bantam small, but smaller than the large eggs I get today.  They were the absolute perfect size to go with Marcella’s recipe for pasta.  Her 1 cup flour to 2 eggs worked right on with those eggs, every time.  When I lost those hens, and these larger girls started laying, I was intimidated about pasta for awhile.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it work right with larger eggs.  I should know better though…it’s just like making bread.  You just keep working in more flour until you get that correct consistency, and then you stop.

The ravioli are served with a simple sage butter (2 Tbsp. unsalted butter heated until bubbling, drop in 10 torn sage leaves and cook a few moments; pour over cooked and drained ravioli) then sprinkled with kosher salt to taste.  All I can say is make sure you boil enough!  I didn’t and I was so sad!  I was also very glad that the rest were already in the freezer for another time.

Johanna…Great choice!  Thanks so much for hostessing us!  I had a great time with the read and with my dish!  Mr. Buford…Thank you for your insight into the back side of the culinary world.  It was a pleasure to learn at your apron strings…even when the apron was afire!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book!