So I shove quail eggs into ravioli with extreme regularity. Sue me. Eating yolk ravioli is like having sex with a chubster- you don’t want to admit you do it all the time, but it’s so blubberingly good you can’t resist. Imagine wrapping yourself in warm pockets of pork belly, closing your eyes, and just BEING an orgasm. Remember that Caribbean masseuse who moonlights as a wet nurse and calls you “babygirl” as she rubs you down with aloe dripped straight from the leaf? Eating these ravioli is like tucking yourself into her embrace and testing the motorboat waters in her sticky, shuddering bosom. If you have a hot, fat feeling right now and your eyelids are drooping under the heady weight of pleasure, congratulations- you know one tenth of the extreme satisfaction of yolk ravioli-eating.
I feel that the full admittance of my obsession constitutes tacit cooperation on my part. My singular passion for creating callipygian ravioli (that is, ravioli which possess well-shaped buttocks) is to your advantage since I’m sharing. I have learned a few tricks through trial and error, and also by picking the brains of chefs (not literally, though I would serve brain ravioli if given the chance, just not human.) I recently cruised across Seattle’s great lake divider to “The Eastside” and dined at Holly Smith’s Café Juanita, where Jason Stratton, one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chefs, cut his teeth. I learned that they slip a thin sliver of butter between the egg yolk and the sheet of pasta to prevent the pasta from becoming overly-soggy.
It’s a brilliant trick because the butter melts away as the ravioli boil, revealing a protuberant egg yolk. I used the same pretense but changed the layer of butter to a layer of lardo so as not to completely crib their idea. Lardo is an Italian salumi made from the thick layer of fat just beneath a pig’s skin. It is typically cured with rosemary and other herbs and is very aromatic. The lardo sheets worked well in the sense that they protected the pasta from the excessive moisture of the egg yolk. The lardo itself imparted silken texture and nutty flavor, however it did not melt away as butter might have, and so the yolk was less visible beneath the surface. In a way I prefer it so. This way the egg yolk bursts into your mouth as a surprise.
I went on a cheese-making rampage last week, tackling burrata, cottage cheese, cottage cheese-stuffed burrata, and finally ricotta from all the leftover whey. Ricotta is a great “use the whole animal” bi-product of many other cheeses; it’s a fitting end for way too much whey. There are few tastes on earth more satisfying than self-made ricotta. Tucking said ricotta inside ravioli is an apt tribute to its splendor.
I blended the fresh ricotta with morels and caramelized onions and dotted each raviolo with the cheese base so as to form a cushion for the quail yolk. I slipped thin sheets of lardo over the yolk and ricotta before tucking it all neatly in with the final pasta blanket. I served the ravioli with an emulsion of pea juice and butter both to add color to the plate and to complement the other flavors of spring.
Before you scroll down for the recipe you are surely making for dinner this evening, please join me in congratulating Marisa for winning the Eat Smart precision scale contest hosted here last week. I was too close to many of the entrants so I removed myself from the judging panel and enlisted the help of ten friends who voted without seeing names associated with comments. Marisa won because, as my child’s honorary gay uncle (guncle) put it- “she collected a fan in the comments section, plus she’s pregnant and cooking her way through ‘Ideas in Food.’ She must be a cool chick.” Perhaps when she gets the scale she will let us all know if her boob does, in fact, weigh 11 pounds, as she suggested in her winning comment.
A Very Loose Recipe for Quail Egg-Lardo-Morel Ravioli
- 3 tbsp butter
- 7 morel mushrooms, chopped fine
- 1 shallot, chopped fine
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups ricotta
- One batch of pasta dough (I trust Thomas Keller on this one- try his dough if you’re at a loss)
- 20 quail eggs, separated (easiest to separate them as you drop them in the ravioli rather than ahead of time)
- 20- 2” pieces of thinly-sliced lardo, handle with extreme care as it’s very delicate
- Melt butter in a medium skillet and add the mushrooms, shallot and garlic. Stir for one minute, then add the thyme and salt. Continue cooking until mushrooms have wilted and shallots are translucent, about three minutes. Allow to cool and mix with ricotta. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- Roll pasta dough into sheets two at a time on the thinnest setting of your pasta maker. Do not roll the entire batch od dough as you don’t want the sheets to dry out as you’re filling their predecessors. Starting with the first sheet, spoon ricotta mixture every three inches along sheet. Form each spoonful into a cup shape, deep enough to hold the quail egg yolk. Drop each yolk into the ricotta impressions and gently cover with lardo. Brush egg white wash from the leftover quail egg whites onto the pasta sheet around the ricotta.
- Carefully set an additional sheet of pasta over the dappled original sheet. Cut through both layers of pasta using a 3” round cutter. Pinch the layers together around the edges, which should be easy with the egg wash acting as glue.
- Dry the finished ravioli on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan. Drape a clean, dry tea towel over them as well. They can stay at room temperature for three hours, but 1-2 is ideal.
- When you boil the pasta, test one to check desired level of doneness. I prefer my egg yolks very runny, so 2.5-3 minutes is ideal. You may like them more cooked, in which case you will want to cook them longer.
- These ravioli are so flavorful they are best served in an unfussy sauce. Plain butter or butter and sage would work well. I chose an emulsion of pea juice and butter for this particular dish.