Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A most esteemed guest of Honor

I've double checked my cabinets, selected an ideal wine, picked a recipe from the season that is tried, true, and the most popular by a longshot. I've dotted my "i's", crossed my "t's", and justified every shortcoming in the preparation. The menu has been reviewed more times than I can count. I've attended to every possible detail in the manner of a true kitchen savant... so, why are my palms still sweating?

The Answer: Shane is coming for dinner.

As the co-conspirator in the shenanigans of this blog, one of my longest-standing and best friends, and (most important for both aforementioned facts) an amazing cook, I felt more than a little pressure to get things right. I may have exaggerated the details surrounding this pressure a bit. As a matter of fact, I think we decided on the menu last minute the day before and I went grocery shopping with only an hour before his arrival. But you get the idea, there was pressure.

Shane has been one of the more outspoken critics of my diet, and so I decided it would be best to prove that I don't mind shaking off the healthy eats occasionally. After some discussion, I made the suggestion for butternut squash ravioli. I'm glad this dish was the winner because I had made it a few times this year and invariably, it has gotten rave reviews.

I like ravioli because for an intimate gathering it can be a main dish and for larger gatherings it can be an hors d'Ĺ“uvre eaten with toothpicks. Anyone who knows me or continues to read this blog understands that versatility in food is very important to me. I like the freedom of being able to adapt a dish to the specific logistical needs of my guest list. In this case, the meal was playing out to be a "Greatest hits of 2009" sort of meal. Summer Salad, Good white wine, and great ravioli.

Now, butternut squash ravioli is great, but in this dish, the sauce is center stage. The flavor is unparalleled, thanks to my favorite ingredient to put in, well, almost anything: Butter. To ensure that the dish doesn't disappoint, I personally make sure there is a hefty amount of the stuff in this dish. To take it a step further, it's clarified to ensure that we're dealing with only the tastiest, most artery-clogging part of the heavenly spread. The original, Galloping Gourmet version of Graham Kerr would be so proud. Pair this with the aromatic and savory flavors of toasted pecans, sage, portabellas, and Parmesan cheese and you have a meal that is nothing short of Food Therapy.

To make the dish, I start by toasting 4T of chopped pecans in a sautee pan with a pinch of Kosher salt. right when you can smell them, remove from the heat and set aside. Then, melt about a 1-2T of salted butter in a sautee pan and brown at least a cups worth of portabella mushrooms and set these aside as well. then in a wide-bottomed saucepan or skillet, melt 1c of salted butter. once melted, and before the butter begins to boil, remove from heat and gently skim the whey protein off the top to clarify the butter. Add at least 6-8 perforated sage leaves and 1/4c hot water and place back on med-low heat for a minute, and then simmer over low heat to keep the mixture warm. Prepare enough ravioli to serve the number of guests (Average is about 6-8oz per guest). When the ravioli is ready, serve the ravioli on a heated plate. Add the pecans and mushrooms to the butter sauce only shortly before serving. Spoon the sauce over the ravioli, and garnish with fresh sage leaves. Top with a healthy (or unhealthy if your glass is half-empty) amount of shaved parmesean cheese.

Now if you're inclined, you can make the pasta yourself, but I find that my pasta is only marginally preferable (if not a second place) to those I've found in little mom and pop groceries in Bloomfield, or at the West Side Market in Cleveland. In this case, the store-bought version was what we used.

If this recipe is to be the main dish, you might want to add a little Lipitor to your dessert. In this case though, we had the Caramelized Bananas at City Square Steakhouse downstairs from my apartment... the next day, I had to reacquaint myself with the treadmill; which is a price I was more than happy to pay.