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Saturday, May 22, 2010

A French-Italian-American Remix

Our Buitoni pasta dinner went through a lot of revision and "winging it" as I would say. We came up with the tentative menu one night which sounded like a unique spread of Italian-American inflected fare. We (Americans) have a way of turning every cuisine we get our hands on into a kind of morphed offspring. Take Chinese carryout restaurants for example; all around the country they serve food to please the customer which is nothing like what you see them eating if you happen to walk in during their meal time. But, the surge of change causes some helpful and some detrimental alterations, the key being to find the glimmers of beauty in the offspring that looks nothing like the parents but more like a completely different cuisine.

Back to the revisionist theme I began with, I did some research and wanted to use all California wines with dinner to highlight the way Italian immigrants impacted the way California wine is produced today. Instead, after I struck out on the majority of the wines from California we both decided plan B would consist of French wines. I found it rather intriguing when I was looking through George Locatelli's stunning book "Made in Italy" that originally the cuisine consumed by Italian aristocracy was prevalently French for the first few hundred years. The combination of refined French wine to highlight the hybrid rusticity of Italian fare and freshness of American cuisine turned out very well. It was quite an enjoyable evening, and thanks to Buitoni an evening that was not as stressful as it could have been had we handmade all the pasta.

Pasta Nests with a Garlic and Herb infused Olive Oil, paired with Les Jamelles Savignon Blanc.
This is a nifty play on bread used to dip in herbed oil. Instead the crispy pasta stands in the place of the bread. The slight char on the pasta adds depth to the dish makes it harmonize with the acidity of a sauvignon blanc.

For the Herbed Oil
1 pint good Italian olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
5 sprigs thyme
4 garlic cloves halved
1 T salt
3 grinds black pepper
Add all the ingredients into a carafe without the lid and heat for a minute and a half in the microwave to heat the oil to prod infusion of the herbs. Let rest at least two days for the flavors to become prevalent.

For the Pasta Nests
2 packages Buitoni Fettuccine
olive oil
3 T salt
Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook longer than suggested, about eight minutes, so that the pasta becomes very sticky. Drain the water off and do not rinse in cold water. The starch will help the nests stick together. Bring a heavy skillet to an extremely high temperature and smash a small handful of the cooked pasta as flat a possible to achieve an almost pancake shape. Pour a drop of olive oil into the middle and cook until the noodles are slightly charred. Flip to cook the other side. Remove and repeat to make about 12-15.

To Serve, pass around a platter full of nests and a carafe of the herbed oil. Pour glasses of the chilled sauvignon blanc, and begin enjoying the meal. The Les Jamelles we choose had a particularly tart  acidity with a long lemony finish. The tartness balanced the slight char on the nests particularly well, and the lemony aftertaste really made first the fruitiness, and then the herbed taste of the oil come through.
Sweet Pea and Prosciutto Pasta Salad paired with Drouhin Laforet's 2008 Chardonnay
The vibrant green colors of the salad and light, fresh taste of the pasta, pesto, and buttermilk cheese really made this a refreshing, colorful, and easy to prepare dish for our guests to enjoy.

For the Assembled Salad you will need:
1 Large Package of Buitoni's Whole Wheat Chicken and Prosciutto Ravioli
1 Recipe Sweet Pea Pesto (recipe below)
1 Recipe Buttermilk Ricotta (recipe below)
2 Cups Fresh Spinach
1/2 Cup Fresh Arugula
1/2 Cup Chopped Prosciutto for Garnish

for the Sweet Pea Pesto:
2 Cups Green Peas (frozen works well)
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Loose Fresh Baby Spinach
3 or 4 Leaves of Fresh Arugula
 Zest from half of one Lemon
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar (white wine vinegar would work well also)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1. In a medium sized saucepan, simmer peas in water until thoroughly warmed and they begin to soften. Remove pan from heat. 
2. Add 1/2 cup peas, spinach, arugula, lemon, olive oil, and balsamic to blender and puree until smooth. *Always be careful blending things that are warm.* When smooth, add reaming peas and blend again, adding some of the water the peas were cooked in, 1 tbsp at a time to achieve desired consistency. 
3. When the pesto is thick, but not chunky, remove from blender and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. Can be prepared a day ahead. 

for the Buttermilk Ricotta:
1 Gallon whole buttermilk
1/2 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 T sel de gris salt
Pour milk into a large thick bottomed pot and heat, stirring constantly for about an hour or until milk just boils and has reduced about one third. Add lemon juice and take off heat, stirring for about three minutes. Pour into cheesecloth over a colander over a bowl. The whey can be saved to make some excellent bread or pancakes or many other uses.  Let the ricotta drain for three hours, after which time you can squeeze the ball to wring out any more juices and place in a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth. The ricotta will keep between three and four days.
This fresh cheese will add some zing to a wide range of dishes from an accompaniment to dessert or wine, to salads, or a willing topper for crostini. But, if not preparing your own Ricotta, add Juice from 1/2 Lemon to the Pea Pesto, and substitute with traditional ricotta.
To Assemble Dish: Prepare Chicken and Prosciutto according to package directions. Once drained, quickly toss pasta in Pea Pesto to coat. Place a handful of spinach and a few leaves Arugula on each plate. Top with a few raviolis, prosciutto, buttermilk ricotta. Open chilled Chardonnay, and serve. Be sure to choose a Chardonnay that is not overly sweet and fruity. A Burgundian style Chardonnay like Drouhin Laforet's paired nice as it was rich, but not heavy, and lightly fruity. A few of our guests who weren't big fans of Chardonnay in general really enjoyed this particular selection. The flavor profile matched the earthiness of the spinach, the buttery flavor of the ravioli, the tang of the cheese, and the hint of sweetness in the pesto exceptionally well.

Blistered Corn and Roasted Tomato Soup with Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli, paired with Chateau du Donjon Minervois wine, a Grenache and Syrah blend.
One thing that distinguishes American cuisine from the Italian and French influences shaping our dinner, is our use of the many versatile flavor profiles, uses, and textures created using corn. As a play on this, we came up with this dish as a sweet and slightly spicy pairing with Buitoni's spicy beef and sausage ravioli.

For the Assembled Soup you will need:
2 Packages Buitoni Spicy Beef and Sausage Ravioli
Roasted Tomato Soup (Recipe Below)
Blistered Corn Soup (Recipe Below)
1/2 Lb Mild Italian Sausage

for the Roasted Tomato Soup:
1-1/2 Lbs Fresh Tomatoes
1/2 Small Onion
1/2 Cup Water
1 Roasted Red Pepper
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Use Canola Oil to coat large cast iron skillet. Place skillet over moderately high heat. 
2. Core and quarter tomatoes. Quarter onion half. Once skillet is extremely hot. Place tomatoes and onion in skillet, stirring occasionally. Continuing cooking until tomatoes and onions are covered in brown and black spots. 
3. Working quickly, remove tomatoes and onion from skillet and place in blender. Before skillet cools, place 1/2 cup water in, scrapping blackened remains of tomato and onions. Reserve liquid. 
4. Once tomato and onion mixture has cooled slightly, add roasted red pepper, and blend thoroughly, adding reserved liquid to achieve desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Can be prepared the day before and reheated before serving.

for the Blistered Corn Soup:
6-7 Ears Fresh Sweet Corn
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
2 Tbsp Minced Onion
1/2 Cup Water or Vegetable Stock
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Remove kernels from corn and place in bowl.
2. Use Canola Oil to coat large cast iron skillet. Place skillet over high heat. 
3. Once skillet is extremely hot, add corn, stirring quickly initially to coat for 1 minute. 
4. Add a dash of salt and pepper and minced onions, and continuing stirring every 3-4 minutes until corn develops brown and black spots.
5. Working quickly, remove corn and onion mixture from skillet and place in blender. Before skillet cools, place 1/2 cup water in, scrapping blackened remains. Reserve liquid. 
6. Once corn has cooled slightly, reserve 1/2 cup corn kernels for garnish. Blend remaining corn and onion mixture until smooth, adding reserved liquid to achieve desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Can be prepared the day before and reheated before serving.

To Assemble: Brown mild italian sausage while bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Once water is boiling, prepare Buitoni Spicy Beef and Sausage per directions. Meanwhile, once sausage has browned, remove skillet and place on paper towels to drain. Once you finished cooking the pasta, drain, and toss with browned sausage. Reheat tomato and corn soups if needed. Spoon a few tablespoons each soup base on bottom of the plate or bowl. Top with three or four raviolis, a little extra sausage, and reserved corn. Serve with a bold but fruity wine that pairs well with smoky mildly spiced dishes, such as a grenache or a syrah. We choose a Minervois wine for our French wine theme, which was a blend of the two with charred wood and blackberry notes that complimented the pasta and sauces quite well.
Roman Oxtail Ragu paired with La Bastide Blanche Bandol 

The richness of the oxtails play well with the braised veggies and mushrooms to become a silky whole laced with red wine sauce and juices from the meat. 

Roman Oxtail Ragu
5 lb oxtails
4 pieces thick cut bacon, cut into one inch squares
1 bottle cab/ Merlot wine (the blend works well here, but a 100% Merlot would work)
1 can tomato paste
1 carrot peeled and diced
12 oz. cremini mushrooms and stems, caps quartered and stems halved
2 stalks celery finely diced
1 medium yellow onion finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 large bay leaf
1 chuck of carrot peeled and studded with 10 whole cloves 
4 T hickory smoked sea salt
2 Packages Buitoni Fettuccine  

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Saute the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and bacon in a large thick bottomed pot until the onions are translucent and the bacon had rendered its fat. Scoop out vegetables and leave as much bacon fat as possible to brown the oxtails all over, sprinkling some of the salt on them. Spread the removed ingredients back over the oxtails and spread the tomato paste all over the tops of the vegetables. Pour the bottle of wine over all the ingredients and add the rest of the salt, cinnamon stick, the clove studded carrot, and bay leaf. Move the pot to the oven and cook covered for three and a half hours, checking one hour into the cooking time to add the mushrooms. Pull meat from the bones with a fork and serve with the juices, vegetables, and mushrooms. Discard the bay leaf, clove studded carrot, and cinnamon stick. This dish improves overnight, and can be refrigerated and reheated over low heat.
To serve, prepare Buitoni Fettuccine per directions. Divide preheated ragu in bowls and top with fettuccine. Add an additional sprinkle of smoked sea salt if desired. Serve with a rich, robust and dry red that can stand up with the flavors of the ragu and the buttery noodles.

Frozen Savory Duet featuring Fried Four Cheese Ravioli, Garlic Sorbet, and a Cab Shallot Granita, paired with Pierre Chermet's Beaujolais.

This was an exceptionally fun dish to prepare, and one that I have no doubts will surprise and delight your guests.  

For the Assembled Dish you will need:
1 Package Buitoni Four Cheese Ravioli
Garlic Sorbet (Recipe Below)
Cabernet Shallot Granita (Recipe Below)
Oil For Frying 

For the Garlic Sorbet
Cloves from 5 heads of garlic (60-70)
1 Cup Water, divided
8 Tbsp Simple Syrup
1/4 Tsp Salt
Zest from 1/2 Lemon
1. Alternating between two pots of boiling water, blanch garlic 6 times. To blanch the garlic, once water is boiling, add garlic, and allow to cook until water returns to a boil. Immediatley remove, drain, and submerge into ice cold water. Drain again, and repeat. 
2. Place garlic and 1/2 cup water into a blender and puree until smooth. Pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids. Add remaining water, simple syrup, salt, and lemon zest and mix well. 
3. Refrigerate 2-4 hours until thoroughly chilled. 
4. Add to ice cream maker and follow directions.  

For the Cab Shallot Granita: 
2 Bottles (750 mL) of a Cabernet Sauvignon. 
3 Shallots,  chopped
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Cup Simple Syrup
1.  Heat oil in bottom of heavy bottomed large saucepan or stockpot. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are browned. Add enough of the wine to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrap the bottom. Remove from heat.
2. Add remaining wine to pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once mixture reaches a full boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about an hour, until the wine is reduced by half.
3. Once reduced, remove from heat, and pour through a strainer, reserving shallot pieces. Add the simple syrup to the wine mixture, and stir to incorporate.  
4. Puree shallot (using some of the wine mixture if needed), until smooth. Add to wine mixture and mix thoroughly. 
5. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before covering. Once cooled, cover, and place in a freezer. 
6. Check every 2-3 hours, using a fork to stir and break up frozen pieces. Continue until frozen throughout, about 12 hours.

To prepare: Heat oil for frying in electric fryer. While oil is heating, remove Buitoni four cheese pasta from package, and using a fork prick at least once, all the way through the pasta to prevent them from exploding (trust me on this one). Once oil is heated between 350 and 375 F, begin adding pasta, leaving enough room for them to move around. Once pastas are a rich brown color on both sides, remove and place on paper towels to drain. Place two or three generous spoonfuls of the granita, and one or two spoonfuls of the garlic sorbet in a dish. Add three or four raviolis, and serve. You have several wine options with this particularly dish. An easy pairing would be a cab that would compliment (or be identical to) the one used to prepare the sorbet. We chose a beaujolais to pair with it since we would be transitioning to a dessert course next, and thought the beaujolais would be a fun pairing to complement the play of flavors and textures going on in this dish.  

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta paired with Caves De L'Angevine 2009 Rose D'Anjou

Although we briefly considered leaving the previous course as our dessert, in the long run we decided the sharp salty cheese edge to the ravioli, and our "trick" in the garlic sorbet may not be the best ending. Or, we just wanted to have another dessert. And open another bottle of wine. Since we had given our guests quite the carb heavy meal, I choose a vanilla bean panna cotta as the light tasting finish to the meal.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry and Cherry Sauce
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
4 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2/3 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans
1 Pint Fresh Strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 Cup Fresh Cherries, stems removed, pitted, and halved.
1. In a small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat  mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved and remove pan from heat.
2. In a large saucepan bring cream, half and half, and sugar just to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring.
3. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture. Divide cream mixture among ten martini glasses or other dishes, and cool to room temperature. Chill dishes, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. 
4. Place rinsed strawberries and cherries in saucepan over medium low heat. Once strawberries and cherries begin to soften and give up juices, using a potato masher, begin to mash (carefully) in the pan. Allow to continue to cook until juices begin to reduce and thicken. Remove from pan, and allow to cool to room temperature. Place in covered container, and refrigerate until ready to use.

To Serve: Remove panna cotta from fridge, top with a spoonful of strawberry cherry sauce, and serve. The panna cotta was a perfect, refreshing ending to our meal, and like the rest of the meal, required minimum time in the kitchen and could all be made in advance. The strawberry cherry sauce added a very lightly sweet fruity note to the dessert that was brought out even more by the rose we chose to pair with the final course. Unlike many of the roses you find, the Rose D'Anjou was not overly sweet and even our non-Rose fans in the room approved, and enjoyed.

Using Buitoni's pasta and choosing dishes that were prepared almost entirely in advance helped make our dinner a relaxing evening. Other than having to boil water before they arrived and plate a few dishes during the meal, we were able to spend the majority of our time with our guests and willing taste testers. 


**Legal Disclaimer; as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program, we received coupons to create dishes using Buitoni's pasta. All opinions reflected in the post indicate our personal opinions and those of our guests of both these dishes and wine suggestions.


Monet said...

If only I had friends that could cook as well as you do! This meal looks absolutely amazing, and you had me drooling from the very first photo. Thank you for sharing!

Magic of Spice said...

This is all so stunning! I must try the pasta nests...

Belinda @zomppa said...

Great meal! The pasta nest is AWESOME.

Rick said...

The only other place I have seen so much pasta has to be Macaroni Grill.

Drick said...

very, very impressive - the food is stunning as is the wine selection, not sure which is my favorite, oh why choose .. like the Buttermilk Ricotta, could use it with many things and the Blistered Corn Soup sounds just awesome. The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta probably is the best, but again, everything is just overwhelming….

Megan said...

I love wine pairing dinners like this and I loved your post! I gotta try that pasta nest.

Joanne said...

I would have adored to be at this dinner! I am so impressed with everything here...the buttermilk ricotta, the ravioli, the panna cotta. It all looks glorious. Well done!

grace said...

what an incredible feast! to tell you the truth, it all excites me--pasta nests, sweet peas, blistered corn, and creamy, luscious panna cotta. my mouth, it does drool. :)

Stella said...

Yum! There are so many delicious looking things here! I really like the pasta bread that was to be dipped in herb oil. I always have extra pasta that I put in an omelet, but I bet that would be good! Your raviolis look too good by the way...

Fresh Local and Best said...

What a beautiful and extensive dinner! Where do I begin? The bread nest is such an intriguing concept. The pea pesto is something that I'm looking forward to recreating in my kitchen, it looks fab! I also like the idea of adding blistered corn with pasta, it must add a nice toasty flavor. Cab-shallot granita? Sensational! And finally I really liked the presentation of the panna cotta. Great job!

Anonymous said...

What a great party! Amazing pasta dishes and terrific wine pairings!

sweetlilfe said...

great party and such wonderful food, I must try those pasta nests, they look excellent


Juliana said...

Wow, everything looks so delicious...nice presentation...what a feast :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

So many delicious options here but for me, a no-brainer, I will pick the pasta and the salad and wine!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

OMG Dawn and Daniel!!! I am gobsmacked!! Really - what a spread. I'm lost for words. Everything looks magnificent and so many things I love are featured.

The star dish for me though, for sheer imagination and creativity has to be the Frozen Savoury Duet. Words fail me! This is the sort of thing kitchen Gods come up with.

Love the red and pink wine selections! Wish I had been there *sigh*

Conor said...

The Frozen Savoury Duet dish is inspired! Wow! I've got MasterChef on the brain, and I can imagine judges gushing all sorts of verbose adjectives with that :)

The pasta nets look like they'd be heaps of fun to eat too!

Abby said...

What an amazing meal! I wish I had friends to make all those goodies for me!

Cleo Coyle said...

Love this post, the photos, the thoughtful wine pairings. Belissimo! Such a fantastic feast and some wonderful ideas here that I am excited about trying (buttermilk ricotta, pasta nests, and garlic sorbet to name a few)! Also - You are so right about the American morphing thing. Part of the melting pot, I guess - which even sounds like a culinary metaphor, come to think of it. Also interesting point about the history of Italian cuisine, which (again, come to think of it) is as diverse as the US regional cuisines when you consider the entire boot. (Happily, I am following your wonderful blog now!)

Cheers to you both!
~ Cleo

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I just have one word - EPIC!!! WOW - you guys went all out on this dinner :-)

A Thought For Food said...

I'm not a huge fan of Chardonnays but I really enjoy the Joseph Drouhin Laforet Chardonnay. Great choice!

And this meal looks incredible!

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