Monday, February 9, 2009

Wanton Ravioli: Spinach and Mushroom

Life is hectic. Plan as much as we want, sometimes things come up that throw off an entire day's schedule. Be it the traffic jam driving home from work, the afternoon meeting that goes on waaaay longer than any meeting ever should, and in my line of work, the protocol that normally takes only 2 hours to complete but this time took 5 because someone else used all my reagents (with-out asking mind you) and didn't care to replace them. Either way, the end result is getting home from work around 6.30 and then having to think of what to do for dinner. Most people would either go out for fast food, throw a Lean Cuisine in the microwave, or make up some ramen. But I steer clear of fast food as much as possible, don't do boxed frozen dinners, and try to keep ramen only for emergencies. So what's a guy to do, besides get a wife who'll cook for him starve?

NO! Ravioli! Ravioli are great for a number of reasons, but the most important one in this case is that they freeze wonderfully. All you need to do is make some up one weekend, and on those days when you get home late just boil up a pot of water, throw some in straight from the freezer, and add your choice of sauce. The second reason ravioli is great is the sheer number of different fillings you can use, although this can become a point of intimidation for some. And thirdly, ravioli can be incredibly easy to make. In this case, I found some wanton wrappers on mangers special and snagged them for just this purpose, although I'll probably do a post sometime about making your own pasta dough from scratch.

Spinach and Mushroom Wanton Ravioli:
1 package wanton wrappers
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 package frozen spinach
1 or 2 crimini mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten

1. Cook the spinach according to the instructions on the package, drain very, very well. Add to a bowl with the mushroom, cheeses, and salt. Mix with a fork or utensil of choice.

2. Lay out your ravioli making station (you have one right? no? ok, see mine below).
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You'll notice that I'm using my Silpat on my sheet pan. The purpose is to prevent the ravioli from freezing to the pan. You can also use parchment paper but its a bit of a waste unless you make A LOT of ravioli.

3. Brush the wanton wrappers lightly with the beaten egg, then add small spoonfuls of the filling (about a heavy teaspoon).

4. Take another wrapper and lay it on top of the filling and bottom wrapper. Starting at one end, press firmly with your fingers toward the filling, trying to press as much air out as possible. Seal the ravioli at the far end and go around the edges pressing as firmly as possible starting from the center and going outwards.

5. Optional: I generally cut a bit of the edge off from each side because they often get dried out and don't seal well, you don't need to do this if you don't want/need to.

6. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for at least an hour. After that, slide the ravioli into a freezer bag and store for no more than 3 months or so (mine rarely last a week, but by 3 months you'll probably be looking at freezer burn).

To prepare later, just bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (a little olive oil added to the water will help keep the ravioli from sticking but isn't necessary). When the water is at a rolling boil, add a few ravioli straight from the freezer, no more than 6 to keep the water from cooling too much. When they float to the top, fish them out with a slotted spoon or utensil of choice and transfer to a warm plate or bowl (OK, warm dinner ware is optional, but it will keep your current ravioli warm while making more). Top with your favorite sauce ( a recipe for which will come later) and enjoy.

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Now, I know this isn't the most adventurous recipe for ravioli, or even wanton ravioli, out there. It is however a fairly simple and easy to make recipe that opens itself up to a number of wonderful additions and substitutions. In this instance, I used 1/4 cup of ricotta, and 3 oz. of a chevre I picked up on managers special. The spinach and mushrooms were only chosen because I generally keep both on hand since they're highly versatile. Really, this is just a great framework for anyone who loves ravioli, doesn't want to overpay for store bought or restaurant food, and wants a quick and simple weeknight meal they can throw together in a matter of minutes. Hopefully it will inspire some of you out there to try your own combinations... and for my foodie purist friends who are balking at the use of wanton wrappers, don't worry, I plan on doing it the "real" way soon.

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