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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Southern Ravioli, Y'all!

By Mango.

Panda and Mango's Southern Ravioli.
Recently we had been to a great restaurant with a group of friends. Stellar food, fantastic service, but really small portions. One of our friend's dishes included a cubic inch of pork belly, a scattering of carrots,  and a single ravioli. One. I can understand the minimalist approach taken by some restaurants, but unless the ravioli is the size of my head, do not serve just one. I was determined to right this horrible wrong (one!), and was itching to make ravioli. Panda and I decided to make a 3 course meal for our buddies, and wanted to give it a Southern twist. You know how spinach and ricotta is a common filling for ravioli? I decided to use Southern-style stewed collard greens instead. I wasn't sure if ricotta would pair well with it, but after Panda showed me some articles on the interwebs, it seemed like it would be fine. So here's my recipe for Southern collards, this is what I usually make for Thanksgiving. I apologize for not having a complete set of pictures, I forgot to take pics when I first started the dish.

One fennel bulb, chopped
Half a large yellow onion, chopped
4-5 big cloves of garlic
1 bunch of collard greens, leaves washed and drained well (discard stalks or freeze for making stock!).
Smoked ham hocks (3) or smoked pork neck bones (4-6, since these can be cut smaller).
10 black peppercorns
10 white peppercorns
6-8 cloves
Cinnamon stick (about 1 inch in length)
Half tablespoon of butter
2 pints of chicken stock (we usually make ours and freeze it)
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar (or honey)

Sweat the fennel and onions in cooking oil on medium heat until translucent and slightly browned. Add the garlic, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, some freshly ground pepper and a tiny pinch of salt. Fry for a couple more minutes. I add the butter at this point too. Throw in the smoked ham hocks or pork neck bones (adds so much flavor!) and stir around with the onions, garlic etc for 5 minutes or so. Then add the chicken stock and washed collard greens. Add the sugar, some freshly ground pepper, and a little salt to taste. Use a pair of tongs to mix the collards greens with the broth, it will start to wilt fairly quickly from the heat. Cook covered on low heat for 2-3 hours, occasionally gently mixing the greens. It should look like this after it's done;

I removed the hocks (save these), strained the collard greens (the broth was also saved to make a sauce for the ravioli) and pulsed them in a food processor to make it a little smoother, but not a complete paste because it should still have some texture. I added about 2 and a half tablespoons of ricotta to the pulsed greens and mixed well with a spoon. This will be the ravioli filling.

Stewed collards, drained and pulsed.

With ricotta. Doesn't it look just like spinach and ricotta?
I use Anne Burrell's pasta dough recipe. Panda had given me a ravioli mold that I had not used yet, so I was excited to break it out. I rolled out pasta sheets using setting #7 thickness on the Kitchen Aid pasta attachment.

Place pasta sheet over mold (note that the mold will either need to be floured or lightly sprayed with oil to prevent sticking). Add filling (1 heaped tsp) in pockets. Brush all the edges with water to help the next pasta layer stick.

Layer a sheet of pasta over the filling. Use a rolling pin to firmly but gently press the two sheets together. Use gentle pressure to press out any air, and then roll again to press pasta against the mold's sharp etched design.  

Gently flip the mold over, and separate the ravioli from each other.   
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add some salt, and then cook the ravioli for 1 to 2 minutes maximum. Remember the broth from the stewed collards? Panda used that to make a sauce for the pasta. He reduced it in a pan, added corn milk (corn kernels scraped from 2 corn cobs and run through a food mill), and about 2tbsp of cream, with salt and pepper to taste. The cooked ravioli was tossed in this sauce, together with bits of the stewed ham hock meat that were previously pan fried to make them a little crispy.

Southern Ravioli.
This was the first course. The second course was Panda's heavenly coffee and red-wine braised short ribs dish, with parboiled fava beans (found fresh ones at the market!), sauteed oyster mushrooms and pickled onion.
Fall-of-the-bone shortribs by Panda. We served this with crusty bread.
We ended the meal with a dessert course - red velvet cake, to keep with the Southern theme. I used Alton Brown's recipe. The two changes I make are that I used 2 tsp of red food coloring instead of an entire fluid ounce (or you could try beet juice) and I cut down on the brown sugar (just a personal preference, not a fan of super sweet cakes, especially if there's sweet frosting involved).

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.
I hope you try out and enjoy the ravioli recipe :) It's a great way to use up stewed collards if you have any left over from making a huge pot, plus it's a nice change from traditional spinach.

Mango: Can you taste this broth and tell me if it needs anything?
Panda: *expletive* That is good.
Mango: Thanks!
Panda: An Indian making Southern collards.  That's not right.  You shouldn't be able to do that.