Sunday, October 10, 2010

butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter + crispy country ham

This recipe is the amalgamation of several I've seen on various menus, both local and far-flung. I've never seen it garnished with country ham, though, and somehow, I think it's what gave this dish a little je ne sais quoi (or, in my own native tongue, a little salty awesomeness).

So, if there's one thing I've learned from TV show cooks, it's that wonton wrappers are your best friend if you want to make quick gourmet-style ravioli. In fact, I just saw a recipe for edamame and ricotta ravioli in the latest issue of Rachael Ray's magazine (she calls it "Green Alien Ravioli," in a Halloweeny attempt to get kids to eat veggies) that I would really like to try. However, in the meantime, I'm trying to use what's fresh, and the only things in my pitiful, dried-up garden that seem to be happy are the sage, the oregano, and possibly the romas. The sage in particular looks crazily robust, though we haven't had rain in forever. Maybe it thinks it's in Italy.

Anyway, while D and I were both cutting into the first test ravioli, neither of us spoke. We each tasted it, and then we looked at each other, and I said, "I like this." D said, "This may be the best thing I've ever eaten." Right after dinner, he was called back to the hospital to see a patient - which makes me happy for the patient but regretful for D, who has been on call all weekend - but before he left, he cast a glance back at the leftovers and said, "Please don't put this up. I want to finish this with you later, when I get home."

For my part, I openly confess: if someone fixed this for me, I really might consent to being his or her slave forever. You should make this for someone you adore, like I did.

butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter + crispy country ham

1 medium butternut squash, cubed

1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried sage
salt and pepper

1/2 stick + 2 tbsp. butter, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp. raw turbinado sugar
15 square wonton wrappers
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 slice Smithfield country ham, chopped
small bunch of sage, chopped
a few tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash with olive oil, and spread it out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with dried sage, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing once, until golden brown. Cool completely and mash well into a paste. (Note: at this point, I refrigerated the roasted butternut squash for several days, so this step can be done way ahead of time.)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add minced shallot and cook for a couple of minutes until it's beginning to turn golden brown. Add white wine and cook for a minute. Add mashed butternut squash and mix into the shallots. It should be fairly dry. Cook for a couple of minutes over medium-low heat. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, grind a little pepper over top, and stir. Cook for another minute or two. Add half-and-half and stir for yet another couple of minutes. Let mixture cool completely. 

Heat a teaspoon or so of olive oil over medium-high to high heat. Fry chopped country ham until it's browned and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain.

To make the ravioli: take a wonton wrapper and put a generous teaspoon-sized ball of the butternut squash mixture onto the middle of it. Dip your finger into a cup of water and run it around the four edges of the wonton until they're all wet. Fold it over into a triangle shape, working from the center by molding the filling into the very middle of the ravioli, squeezing out any air bubbles, and sealing the edges well. Remove to a large plate and lay them out carefully in a single layer, not touching one another, if possible. Repeat for remaining 14 ravioli. (I had about half of the butternut squash mixture left over. If this happens to you, too, you might want to freeze it for a future batch of ravioli.)

Boil a medium saucepan full of salted water. Working in three batches of 5 or 6 ravioli, boil them for 2 to 3 minutes, and then remove to a colander with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle salt on each batch and then continue with the next one. 

In the meantime, melt remaining butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add fresh sage. Cook until it begins to smell a little nutty (and utterly wonderful). Add drained ravioli to the pan and toss gently with the sage butter. Remove to a large platter and sprinkle with crispy country ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

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