Thursday, January 1, 2009

Homemade pasta, caramelized mushroom, thyme, brussel sprout leaf, white wine sauce

One of my favorite things to make is home made pasta.  It is extremely easy, not as time-consuming as some might think, and it has an incredible texture.  With the proper technique, you can take fairly simple ingredients and turn it into a very classy dish.

For instance, I took the following ingredients:

and turned it into this:

While I'm sure there are a 101 pasta dough recipes (and probably a book with that title), mine is extremely simple with only three ingredients: eggs, flour, and salt.

If you are going to make fresh pasta, the quality of the eggs are the most important.  I use eggs I get from a farmer at the Sunnyside Farmer's Market, but barring access to farmer market eggs I would use the highest quality eggs I could find; meaning free-range and organic.

The recipe is extremely easy to remember:  100 grams of flour for each egg plus a pinch of salt.

Although you could use a Kitchen-Aid, I do everything by hand.  I used to put the flour on a clean work surface, create a well for the eggs, and then slowly incorporate.  I found this method a bit difficult to time and always ended with egg spilling out of the well and onto the floor.  Not pretty.

It might be cheating to pure pasta doughers, but I now do the mixing in a bowl.

Here's the scoop: in a large mixing bowl, add the flour, with a pinch of salt, and create a well.  Beat the eggs lightly and pour into the well.

Taking a fork, start to mix the eggs (as though you are beating them) and slowly move them to the sides of the flour well to pull in a little bit of the flour at a time.  As the flour starts to incorporate into the eggs, add more flour from the sides.  The idea is to incorporate the flour very slowly.  

Eventually the flour and egg combination will be fairly be more difficult to combine in which case you have to give up on the fork and get your hands dirty.  At this point, it might seem that all the flour and egg won't combine, but by pressing and kneading it with your hands it will come together.  If it isn't coming together, you can add a very small amount of water (i.e. just wet one of your hands and keep kneading).  Your hands should be a big sticky-floury mess.  However, keep kneading it.  Eventually, the pasta dough will take shape and it will naturally remove all of the mess on your hands.  

Then, form the dough into a ball and using the heal of one of your hands, punch down the center of the dough and press it outward between the heal of your hand and the work surface.  Recombine and repeat; a lot.  No really, you want to do this for what seems like eternity.  After about 10 minutes or so of this, the dough will get a nice sheen to it and become silky smooth.  At this point, wrap it plastic wrap and let it sit for about an hour in a cool place (you can use your fridge) to develop the gluten in the dough.

After letting it rest you can do whatever you want with it.  You roll it out and cut it into strips, make ravioli, etc.  I use a hand-crank pasta roller, but you could again use a Kitchen-Aid with an attachment or I've even used a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle) in the past.

For this, I just rolled it out into sheets.

Next, I floured each sheet and folded it onto itself repeatedly and then cut thick strips.

Once the pasta has been cut and separated, I bunch it up into a light ball, put in on a baking sheet or large plate and toss it into the freezer until I'm ready to use it later that day.

Next, I chopped all the ingredients for the sauce.  Here's the mise en place:

Brussel sprout leaves, chopped red onion (or shallot but I was out), thick cut mushrooms, de-stemmed thyme, diced leek, chopped garlic, butter, kosher salt and white wine (yes, it's two buck chuck from TJs, which is pretty good for cooking).

Next, using a very hot saute pan, I seared the mushrooms on each side.  The key to cooking mushrooms is to use fairly high heat, don't overcrowd the pan, and don't shake the pan until one side is sufficiently browned.  

Then, add the red onion and thyme.

While these shenanigans were happening, I added the fresh pasta to some boiling water.  Fresh pasta only needs to cook about 2-3 minutes so cook it at the last minute.

I next added the brussel sprout leaves and garlic.

Next, I deglazed the pan with white wine, let it come to a quick simmer and then added the cooked pasta and tossed to combine.

Then I added the diced leek and a little bit of the pasta cooking water and at the end swirled in the butter.

For homemade pasta, the taste is really about the noodle.  You don't want to overwhelm the noodle with a lot of sauce, but rather just coat each noodle with a bit of sauce.  

Lastly, I plated and enjoyed.