You saw that huge butternut squash in our CSA share, right? Well, we decided that we’d take a riff off one of our favorite chef’s recipe and make up some butternut squash filling for ravioli (or tortelloni, which we’ll show you how to make on Monday). While we’ve never eaten at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants — one day — we have made a number of his recipes from various cookbooks. Every single one turns out. And turns out perfectly. Read that again. Turns. Out. Perfectly.
Yep, provided we follow the directions, each and every recipe turns out exactly as stated and is uniformly great, making us feel as if we’re really accomplishing something wonderful in the kitchen; so, while we’re really going off the rails with this recipe (it’s based on a Sweet Potato Agnolotti with bacon), we’ll accept all responsibility if it’s a failure. Let’s start scratchin’ and see if this will ever end up on the menu at The French Laundry (we think not, so we won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t).
Think The French Laundry when you select ingredients. The place with $300 (minimum) dinners. So, select the best that you can. Splurge on organic butternut squash from the farmer’s market. Get fresh shiitakes if you can (we used dried that we re-hydrated). And use a high quality unsalted butter. No matter how much you spend on the ingredients, it’ll still be less expensive than one of chef Keller’s restaurants (maybe not as good, but, hey, we can hope, right?); after all, he said (paraphrased from one of his books), “If you start with better ingredients than I do, you can make a better dish.”
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Divide squash, butter, and wrap. Cut the butternut squash into manageable pieces, then wrap each piece in a double layer of foil, along with 4 tablespoons of butter, divided among the packs. We used a double layer of foil to hold in the butter while baking.
Bake. Place the packets on a baking sheet (in case there are leaks) and slide into the oven. Bake until very soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. If you want, you can bake other things at the same time.
Scrape. Once baked, carefully unwrap the squash, and, while still hot, remove the skin and discard. We had better luck by scraping out the pulp into a small saucepan.
Simmer. Place the saucepan over low heat (to help dry the squash a bit) and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
Add flavors. Stir in the remaining butter and liquid smoke, add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste, and continue to simmer until the butter is completely melted and mixed in.
Add shiitakes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the shiitake mushrooms.
Chill and fill. If you have pasta dough ready to go, you can use this filling in ravioli; otherwise, refrigerate while you make the pasta dough. If you want, you can wait until Monday and we’ll show you how to make tortelloni (large tortellini).
This filling is very mild when made with butternut squash. Mild, but very rich — all that butter — so we suggest a very light sauce to go along with whatever filled pasta you make. We’re currently thinking of a white wine and sage sauce, and then topping it all with a touch of Parmesan cheese. Being so mild, we’re glad we added the extra bit of flavor from the mushrooms, and the slight smokiness, which makes it taste as if we’d roasted the squash over a hickory fire. We think this filling is good for 4 stars.