To some people holidays are nothing more than a source of stress. Gift buying and get togethers don't mesh with their busy schedules. I am not one of those people. Every holiday, for me, is an opportunity to shower those I love with cards and gifts and more importantly, every holiday is cause for a feast; at least in my house. Growing up in a mostly Italian family we treated births, deaths and any holiday as an occasion to eat. And I mean eat! Come to dinner without your "eating pants" on and you won't make it to the entree course. Seriously.
Holidays take on a slightly different meaning when unemployed, however. Gifts are harder to come by when you're scraping to make ends meet. So when faced with Valentine's Day and nary a gift for Doug in sight (nor funds for said gift in wallet), I figured I'd do what I do best - feed him. Honestly, what says love more than a full belly and a sated smile?
Ok, ok, now I know what you're thinking. "Second recipe and this is what she's throwing at us? Homemade pasta and crazy French terminology? Beurre what? Demi who?" Simmer down, the former is nothing more than a brown butter and the latter a simple sauce thickened and reduced to a glaze...they just sound fancier in French, don't you think?! Admittedly, this recipe is a touch more ambitious, but having said that, I've broken it down into 2 parts for you. If you're not ready to tackle the recipe in it's entirety just yet, simply stop at pulled pork, add a ciabatta bun, some slaw or a salad and a pickle and you're set. For those of you who want to take the plunge and attempt the finished product, I promise you it's so worth it, whichever sauce you choose!
Remember when I told you about our occasional splurges? The beurre noisette is most definitely one of them. So much so, that I'm not even going to calculate the nutritional information for fear of instant cardiac arrest. The BBQ demi glace is slightly less caloric, but still counts as a splurge in my book. This decadent recipe not only makes a fair amount (I used only half of the pulled pork and yielded 30-35 raviolis), it's quite filling, so feel free to halve the entire recipe if there are only a couple of you.
Pulled Pork Ravioli Two Ways
1 2lb boneless pork tenderloin
We love pulled pork. The only complaint I have about it is that it can be really fatty and that just ruins the whole smoky, barbecuey, tender love-filled experience for me. So, when making my pulled pork, I like to use a leaner cut. I find that if you cook it "low and slow" in a crock pot it falls apart and shreds nicely. Best part is, no hunks of fat to contend with!
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
cooking oil spray
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
Cut the pork tenderloin into 1 1/2 - 2 inch cubes and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine cayenne, salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and brown sugar. Drizzle the pork cubes with olive oil, add the spice rub mixture and toss well to coat. Really get in there and massage the pork so that all your little cubes get some spice loving.
Spray the inside of your crock pot evenly with cooking oil spray and transfer the seasoned pork cubes to the crock pot. Set the pork for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. While it's cooking, your house will take on the smell of a Memphis barbecue pit; the savory garlic, warm cayenne and paprika and sweet sticky molasses aromas dancing through the air. It's amazing!
Once your pork is done cooking, transfer the cubes to a cutting board using a slotted spoon and shred them using 2 forks. I find it easier and less messy to transfer the cubes in small batches rather than all at once and add my shredded pork to a separate bowl until I've finished shredding it all. After you've shredded all the pork, return it to the sauce in the crock pot and give it a good stir.
At this point, you've got the makings of a fantastic meal. A good bun, some salad or slaw and a pickle (or 4) is all it takes to make me deliriously happy. If you're zealous enough to try the rest of the recipe, then read on. If not this time, (trust me, you'll be back), bon appetit!
This recipe has been in our family for easily over 100 years. It has been used by my grandfather's sisters and my mother alike and has never failed. It makes a tender pasta dough that can be cooked immediately or formed, cut, dried and frozen for later use.
2 cups all purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
3+ tbsp water
Mix together flour and salt. On a clean, dry surface pile your flour mixture. Make a well in the flour and add your liquid ingredients (starting with 3 tbsp of water). Using a finger, break the egg yolks and begin to swirl the flour little by little into the wet ingredients. Then, knead by hand, on a lightly floured surface, until ingredients are fully incorporated, adding more water by the tablespoon as necessary.
There are 2 options for rolling your dough - pasta cutter or by hand; both work equally as well. Whichever method you choose, roll out sheets of dough about 3 inches wide by 18 inches long and no thicker than a won ton wrapper or a penny. Always work on a lightly floured surface and dust your dough with flour as needed if it becomes sticky.
2 cups pulled pork
1 1/2 cups finely shredded fontina cheese
In a mixing bowl, combine pulled pork and shredded cheese and mix well.
Assembling Your Ravioli
Lightly flour your work surface and lay out one length of dough. Using a teaspoon, drop filling onto dough, equally spaced, in small mounds. Place another length of dough on top of the first and stretch to completely cover your filling mounds. Lightly press down on the dough along the edges, then, using a ravioli stamp, stamp out the raviolis along the length of the dough. Gather the scraps of dough after stamping out raviolis, knead and re-roll to minimize waste. Repeat this process until you have used all of your filling.
Boil ravioli in moderately salted water for 3-5 minutes until tender.
Sage and Toasted Walnut Beurre Noisette
Beurre Noisette literally translates as "hazelnut butter" even though there are no hazelnuts used in the preparation of this sauce. My best guess is that this name came from the nutty quality the butter takes on when prepared this way, as opposed to simply melting it. A simple beurre noisette can be used in a variety of ways, from a sauce such as this to a dressing for winter vegetables to the base for many baked goods. Once we get an oven, I promise to post a recipe for a brown butter poundcake...I'm drooling just thinking about it! Ok, on to the sauce...
1 stick of butter, cut into pieces (I told you this was decadent)
10-15 fresh sage leaves
Place 1/8 cup of walnut halves in a small saute pan over medium to medium high heat. The walnuts will start to release a warm, nutty aroma and take on a toasted brown color as they cook. Cook, stirring frequently to avoid burning for about 5 minutes. Remove from pan, cool and give them a rough chop.
In a separate pan, melt butter over medium high heat and add the sage. After the butter melts it will start to separate - the clarified liquid will rise to the top and the little bits of milk solids will sink to the bottom. These bits are what will cook and ultimately give the butter the browned color and nuttiness. The butter may foam a bit as it browns, this is normal, but keep a close eye on it and stir it often since there is a fine line between browned butter and burned butter. Once your butter is browned, stir in your walnuts, pour over cooked ravioli and serve.
BBQ Demi Glace
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add flour to melted butter and whisk until combined and slightly browned. This forms a roux, which is a classic method of creating a thickener base for sauces.
Add beef broth and barbecue sauce to the roux and whisk. Bring to a boil (stirring occasionally) and reduce by half. The sauce will thicken as it boils.
Drizzle lightly over cooked ravioli and serve.
What Valentine's Day dinner would be complete without hoards of sinful chocolate for dessert? I found these adorable heart shaped chocolate dessert cups and decided to fill them with a thick fluffy chocolate mousse and serve with chocolate covered strawberries. Here's how the finished product turned out...
For the chocolate mousse recipe, I have Alton Brown to thank!