Sunday, May 18, 2008

Going with the grain

Rice and pasta – comfort foods in my repertoire of quick-fix dinners. Pasta to many is an enemy – because of the power of those addictive carbs! Ever have that feeling like you could eat that whole pound of pasta by yourself? I know I fall victim to the carb-curse – it pulls you in wanting more and more. You just have to know when to say enough is enough.

In class, we made a couple of dishes that had me in that carb-crazed daze of eating. We started by making Gnocchi in a brown butter sage sauce. A simple dough made from baked potato, flour, eggs and salt. We mixed the ingredients together and made sure not to over work the dough. We rolled out some dough and shaped it into a long cylinder. We cut that into bite size morsels and had a pot of boiling salted water ready for the Gnocchi. As they cooked we made our brown butter sauce, added some sage, drained the Gnocchi and added them to the sauce to gave it a quick toss in the buttery sauce. Very yummy, light and tasty.

Next we took a hand at making our own pasta dough. We combined all the ingredients and worked that dough for about 15 minutes giving it a real good kneading – here you want to develop the gluten from the flour. Afterwards the dough needs to rest before rolling it through the pasta machine.

Chef made a green pasta dough and a plain dough, he rolled them out cut strips from each and fused them together to make a beautiful stripped pasta sheet that he used to make ravioli. We followed suit and did the same and also prepped a simple tomato sauce. My partner and I had fun working with the pasta, but it was challenging as it dried out very quickly and we had a tough time sticking the colored stripped dough together. In the end we made 4 to 5 raviolis that were tasty.

After our dinner break we made a Saffron Risotto and Rice Pudding. I’ve made risotto a bunch of times before so I let my cooking partner handle it while I made the Riz au Lait (rice pudding). One just needs patience when making risotto – knowing when to add liquid little by little is key. Our rice pudding was made with Arborio rice that simmered in milk infused with orange and lemon zests, and vanilla bean. By the end of the night, I was in a carb-induced coma. I just couldn’t say “no” to the buttery Gnocchi, or the pretty stripped ravioli, or the golden-hued Saffron Risotto, or the melting creaminess of the Riz au Lait. I think I need a 12-step program…know of any?

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