Thursday, November 25, 2010

no one ate the turkey

Years ago on Thanksgiving, I really screwed up! I was working at Chez Panisse at the time where I mastered pasta making. I was making about 40 pounds a day at that point and getting really good at it. I thought I'd show off with friends, so for Thanksgiving I made butternut squash ravioli. They came out perfectly. The butternut squash was sweet with a hint of honey, nutmeg and orange. I was so excited.

I boiled a big pot of water, dropped the ravioli into the water and got everyone to the table. I took the ravioli out of the boiling water and put them on a hot platter and topped them with nutty brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, crispy prosciutto, At the table, I grated Parmigiano Reggiano onto the top. The ooooohs and ahhhhhs were laudable down the street.

My good friend Max was there to spoon them into everyone's bowls. They loved them. "Can we have seconds?" they said.

"Of course," I said proudly.

Pretty soon, all the ravioli were gone. Well, I guess you know the end of the story? When it came time for the turkey, no one ate the roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, fall roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry with zinfandel I'd slaved over for days.

Needless to say, I didn't make ravioli again on Thanksgiving. That's why I didn't give you the recipe earlier. This way, you won't be tempted.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Lots of love to everyone.


2 lb. butternut squash
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Nutmeg to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut into 1/4" strips
1 teaspoon walnut or hazelnut oil
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lb. egg pasta dough

Preheat an oven to 350o F. Cut squash in half, place on an oiled baking sheet and bake until easily skewered, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove the seeds and skin and discard. Mash the pulp with a potato masher or by pulsing a few times in a food processor. Place the squash, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, honey, thyme, rosemary, sage, orange zest and nutmeg in a bowl. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Cook the prosciutto until light golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve. Add the nut oil and hazelnuts, and cook, stirring occasionally until light golden, 3 minutes. Remove from the pan. In a saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and cook it until it turns brown and just begins to smoke, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove immediately from the heat and add nutmeg.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Using a pasta machine, roll the pasta until you can almost see your hand through the dough. Place the sheet of pasta on a well floured work surface. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of squash filling at one end of the dough, just below the center of the dough. Continue to place mounds of filling all the way down the dough leaving approximately 1 1/2" between each mound. With a spray bottle filled with water, spray the edges with a very light mist of water. Fold the top half of the dough over the squash filling to encase the filling and seal around the edges. With a zig-zag roller, trim the long side close to the edge and discard. Cut in between each ravioli.

Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook until tender 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Toss carefully with the brown butter. Garnish with prosciutto, hazelnuts and Parmesan. Serve immediately

Serves 6 to 8


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon water

In the bowl to the food processor, pulse together the flour and salt. Add the eggs and water and process until the dough forms a soft ball but is not sticky. If so, add more flour a tablespoon at a time until it isn't sticky. Remove the dough from the food processor bowl and knead on a very lightly floured board until soft and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest wrapped in plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes.

Makes approximately 1 lb. pasta

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

sinful crepes

Today is the second day of a weeklong class I'm teaching in my kitchen called "50 Techniques in 5 Days." Not sure why I named the class that? It actually sounds like real school and kind of intimidating. But I think when we began the first tester crepe today, the intimidation began. But as you soon realize, it's all about texture. The crepe batter should be the consistency of thick heavy cream. We definitely had to add a little extra milk to get it just right.

When I was in France a few years ago visiting my friends at Mauviel, they gave me a beautiful heavy copper 8-inch crepe pan. We used it today but I remember when I worked at Chez Panisse, the pastry chefs made three crepes at a time. I worked in pastry too for a while but I never had to do that, thank God. I'd watch David Lebovitz as he flipped crepes, every one coming out perfectly. It's all about trial and error and practice, isn't it?

Today, we filled the crepes with creamy wild mushrooms and prosciutto. Everyone was swooning, eyes rolling back in their head. Absolutely amazing!

I promised you the recipe... Here you go!


1/2 ounce dried wild mushrooms
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1/2 pound fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 recipe Crespelle or Crepes
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs

Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let sit 30 minutes. Drain well and reserve the water. Chop the mushrooms coarsely. Filter the mushroom water through a paper towel-lined strainer and reserve the mushrooms and mushroom water separately.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 7 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have evaporated their liquid, 10 minutes. Add the chopped soaked wild mushrooms and continue to cook 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom water, turn the heat to high and simmer, stirring constantly, until almost dry, 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the prosciutto, and continue to cook 2 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook until the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 X 12-inch baking dish.

Place a crepe flat on the work surface. Spread half of it with a few tablespoons of filling. Fold in half, then quarters. Stand the triangles in a baking dish, overlapping one another with the curved side up. Repeat. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush on the tops of the crepes. Combine the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the top. Bake the crepes until golden on top, about 20 minutes. Allow crepes to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 crepes to serve 6


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
4 eggs
4 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and add the milk slowly, a little at a time, mixing vigorously with a fork to avoid lumps. Add 1 egg at a time, beating rapidly with a fork after each addition. Let batter rest 30 minutes.

Oil the bottom of an 8-inch crepe pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter to start. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir the batter, pour 1/3 cup into the pan, and rotate to completely cover the bottom of the pan. As soon as the batter has set, loosen the crepe with a spatula and flip the crepe. When the other side is firm, remove the crepe and place it on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the batter, stirring the batter occasionally and adding butter to the pan as needed. Crepes can be stacked on top of one another until ready to use.

Makes 12 crepes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

let me tell you about my provencal students

I'm back from my classes in Provence and Tuscany but not without a couple of hitches. "What? My suitcase is too heavy?" I said to the Luftansa ground staff at the Florence Airport.

Must be bottles of Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva and La Bastide of Chateau Campagne Baccus olive oil I'd wrapped in bubble wrap, a thousand layers of plastic secured with packing tape and bundled inside dirty clothes. Or could it be the dozen plus knives I'd carried from SF for my students to use. Maybe it was the handmade boots Carlo Fagiano made for me in Panzano, Tuscany? Or was it the apron given to me by Dario Cecchini, the one he tied securely around my waist one of the last nights I was there?

Oh come on! What's wrong with a suitcase weighing 39 kilo? That's only 85 pounds!

Well I made it home but my suitcase didn't. It got stuck in Frankfurt and finally, 2 1/2 days later, it arrived. You'll be happy to know that no one stole my new black boots, the olive oil hadn't leaked and the red wine hadn't broken in transit.

I know a lot of you followed my trip virtually on facebook as I ate and drank my way from Provence to Tuscany. Thanks for all of your comments!

But you really have to come on one of my trips sometime to get the full "flavor"of one of these weeks. I've been teaching in the South of France, Italy, Spain and Australia for the last 14 years and I can tell you that every single week long course I have ever taught takes on a life of it's own.

Sometimes the students meld and sometimes they form cliques. I've had weeks where one or five of the students drink too much and burn out by day three. And then there is the occasional students that develops a crush on my assistant and a few others who have had the quintessential Italian affair right under all of our noses.

Years ago, one of my students missed her 1 1/2 year old baby so much she went to the emergency room after suffering a panic attack and was on liquid valium for the rest of the week. Another student fell the night before she arrived and for the full week her leg was black and blue from toe to hip. One Tuscany trip, I had three cancer survivors. And last year, one tipsy student skinny dipped off the boat I'd hired for the day in the icy Mediterranean waters off the Cinque Terre coast.

I've had two sets of three generations of cousins. And then a couple years ago in Spain, there was the couple who thought they were going to Club Med and brought nothing but bathing suits, suntan lotion and flip flops. One group in the Piedmont drank 73 bottles of wine in the first two days of the trip. And in the Veneto, I've had the young, handsome, cocky next-wanna-be Guy Fieri. I could go on and on!

And every once in a while I get a group like I just had in Provence and it's simply magical! Let me give you a rundown of the cast of characters.

Lynn- Little did I know until the end of the week that her husband was Secretary of State. She exuded that wonderful kind of Southern charm and hospitality. Ya gotta love that accent too. I could have listened all day.

Kristen- Daughter of Lynn who kept us all entertained and laughing with her stories about her more-than-proper Southern grandmother.

Joan- Sweet, kind and a great listener. We need a Joan in every group!

Judy- Roomed with Joan. Judy takes the cake for the most ambitious cook in the group. She probably could have taught the class.

Vic- I'm not sure how old Vic is but he must be nearing 80. You'd never know it. Vic cried the last night when he gave a toast and said to his wife, "Sorry Florence, that was a great honeymoon 52 years ago but this past week in Provence has been the best trip of my life!"

Florence- Has roomed with Vic for the last 52 years. Laughed at every single one of Vic's jokes. Maybe that's the secret!

Elizabeth- She left her doctor husband and two adorable tiny daughters in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the next village over, to join us for the week. Elizabeth, her husband and daughters drove down to Provence from Germany where he is stationed. She brought every single one of my books with her to be signed and was the only one lucky enough to be able to buy as much wine as she wanted and take it back home to Germany in her car. Move over kids!

Nancy- What a fantastic week for me! Nancy is my sister and a wonderful one at that.

David- My brother-in-law helped with the dishes. I've known him since I was in high school so he's like a brother, a great brother. He never complained. I'd kill him if he did!

Peggy- Peggy deserves a punch card for all of the trips she's been on with me; Tuscany, Umbria and the Piedmont to name a few. She's going through a messy break-up and this week was very rejuvenating for her. Lots of late night heart-to-heart talks.

Rebecca- OK, she deserves a medal. This is Rebecca's second week long trip with me this year. She and her husband spent a week with me earlier this year in the wine regions of South Australia. This time she brought her aunt.

Martha- Rebecca's aunt is just 6 years older than Rebecca. Martha had a birthday during the week and her speech brought tears to everyone's eyes. She was a gift to the trip.

Deborah- She could very well be a professional shopper. She and Susan were so excited about the St Remy outdoor market that they never slept the night before.

Susan- She came with Deborah and these two could give lessons on how to shop. Susan bought so much that rumor has it she had to wear one of the Provencal quilts home on the plane.

Martie- Martie gave herself a birthday gift of a week of cooking with me in Provence. My trip was recommended to her by her nephew, Khalil, assistant food editor at Ladies' Home Journal. Thanks Khalil!

Rob- Traveled with his wife Brett and helped David with the dishes. When he walks, he runs and has the best laugh in the whole group! Hats off to Rob and David!

Brett- My friend and assistant extraordinaire in the kitchen. I've known Brett since I moved to Boston in 1976. We both studied cooking with Madeleine Kamman. When Brett went on to be chef to the President of Wellesley College, I moved to San Francisco.

Carla- My assistant on the ground in France and Italy and concierge for the students during the week. Carla and I have worked together for the last ten years very happily. We have a word that we say when the sh*&%$t hits the fan,- "Perfect!" And Carla always makes it so.

Joanne- And then there's the teacher who keeps a smile on her face even when things are crazy, chaotic, and utterly out of her control. That's when she looks to Carla and they say in unison, "Perfect!"