Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Simplicity Itself

On the Metro home from work tonight, I was reading Bill Buford's book Heat, which is all about his adventures working in the kitchen of Mario Batali's restaurant Babbo, and his description of a mushroom sauce for ravioli rang my bells. So I rode the train a stop further and went to Whole Foods, caught the bus home, and had myself a wonderful little feast for dinner.

Meez: a handful of fresh wild mushrooms, sliced/diced/chunked as necessary (Whole Foods had a special on some huge bright orange chanterelles); a minced shallot; leaves from three or four branches of thyme; olive oil; butter; ravioli (tonight it was actually ricotta tortelloni, but this recipe will shine with some really good pumpkin ravioli).

Start your pasta water in a big pot with plenty of salt. It should taste like the Atlantic.

While your water is coming to boil, heat the pan for your sauce over high heat, then add your olive oil, which should instantly go all runny and maybe start smoking. Add your shrooms. Toss them a little, then leave them alone until you smell the woodsmoky, distinctly autumnal odor that tells you they're starting to caramelize. Add your shallots and the thyme leaves. The leaves will swell and pop in the hot oil, giving up their rich aromatics; Buford tells of the kitchen staff at Babbo staring at him as he puts his face into the pan, eyes closed, and inhales the thyme fumes.

Throw a couple of spoonfuls of water from the pasta pot into the pan to stop the cooking and set it aside. Your pasta water will boil, you'll add your ravioli. Remember you have a lot of flexibility with fresh pasta; al dente isn't an issue. As the ravioli are beginning to rise to the surface of the water, put your sauce pan over low heat and swirl two or three tablespoons of butter in until it's a sauce. Toss this with your cooked pasta, pour yourself a glass of wine, and dig in.

On this cold, dark Tuesday night, it was just about the best thing I could have eaten.

4 comments:

T said...

Oooh, I know what book I want to read over the holidays! (Jenny says she has taken note ;-)

An Briosca Mor said...

That is a great book. I read it a year or two ago. Too bad he didn't have a camera crew follow him around while he was doing it. It would have made for a great TV show, kind of a cross between Hell's Kitchen and a Bourdain travel/cooking show.

Di said...

That sounds delish. Did you see the Post food section today - about the woman who is going through a very complicated cookbook this year?

(Yes, I am too lazy to look up the link and get the name of the woman and the cookbook. Whatev.)

Rob said...

Yep, Alinea at Home. I've already got it linked. Carol previously cooked and blogged her way through the French Laundry cookbook. She kicks ass.