03 February 2010

Ragu re-runs

A no-frills food post:

Uninspired to be creative this week, I pulled the frozen duck ragu out and stretched it out for 3 nights.

Fist up was duck lasagna. I made some chestnut pasta and alternated layers of duck ragu or béchamel enriched with just a little mascarpone. It was going to be 2 nights' worth, but I'd ridden and not eaten lunch, so screw it-- I made it twice as deep, and we ate the whole thing. I'd kind of hoped I'd get some of Karen's, but when I reached over for a little supplement, she growled and bared her teeth. Don't mess with Funny Girl's dinner!

Next was a more traditional use of ragu, with wide noodles. This time chocolate. I've struggled with getting the right proportion of cocoa in my chocolate pasta, and this one was (a lot) closer: a teaspoon of cocoa per 2 servings (2 eggs' worth of pasta). A little short, maybe, but better than the overkill of previous efforts. I still like the slight sweetness of the chestnut pasta with duck more than the slight bitterness of the cocoa, but Karen liked it.

I only had a little ragu left after splurging on the lasagna, so a stuffed pasta seemed the best way to stretch it. I had planned to go to the Italian coop here in town for some of their amazing ricotta, but after having to wash my bike after a wet ride today, I recalled seeing sweet potatoes at the local produce vendor. So it was a mad dash to get the potato cooked, get it pureed with mascarpone and butter (everything's better with mascarpone and butter) and turned into agnolotti in time for dinner. Served with some orange-peel-and-garlic-scented sauteed spinach, just because we've been a little light on greens this week. Not really Italian, but there're no real Italians here to report us.

OK, so these weren't leftovers. We had a little unexpected celebrating to do tonight, and I recalled we'd bought a dessert red wine at the on-the-boat salon des vins in Nov for our Thanksgiving dinner, specifically for the opera cakes (almond, chocolate, coffee) we'd intended to buy, but couldn't because they'd sold out. So with the one egg I had left, I faked a chocolate cake recipe made with ground roasted hazelnuts instead of flour, espresso instead of vanilla, and a boat-load of butter, cocoa, and good chocolate. I can pretty much put together any pasta at the last minute, but I don't bake nearly enough to have ratios and methods memorized. And so it was no surprise that whereas the 3 individual cakes looked beautiful coming out of the oven in their ramekins, once unmolded, they collapsed in the center. This runs in the family. When we lived in Austria many moons ago, the only cooking I remember of my mom's (aside from bringing home a chicken with the head most definitely attached) was the first chocolate cake she made that came out of the oven with 3 fist-sized indentations in it, the same as mine tonight. Like hers back then, these little cakes were delicious even if saggy, and more importantly, they served as a perfect excuse for a fabulous half-bottle of wine.

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