Our friend Chris declared one Sunday, over mimosas, bloody Marys and assorted brunch foods at a jazz joint in Boston, that he does not belive in guilty pleasures. If you like something, there should be no need to apologize for it in his mind, and frankly, I’m inclined to agree with him–you like what you like, and why should you apologize for that?
One of these not-guilty-pleasures is making biennial trips to the Olive Garden with Michael’s family to celebrate birthdays and indulge in toasted ravioli, breadsticks, pasta e fagioli, and the OG’s house red. For a national chain, it’s a decent restaurant; they offer fare to fit a wide variety of budgets and diets, and they are gloriously consistent–they even know how to make a decent Manhattan if you ask for one. When I tell people this, especially if they know that I am a food enthusiast, they’re usually shocked, but compared to some of the dreck I’ve had at restaurants charging twice the price, I’ve come to depend on the Olive Garden for a reliable, if not adventurous, meal.
During one of these outings, my sister-in-law was determined to order the shrimp mezzaluna ravioli dishes they were promoting at the time, but they had already taken it off the menu when we went for the round of August birthdays, much to her great disappointment. We pledged to her that we’d figure out a way to make them, but until I found this excellent post on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, I had no idea on how to start. His simple shrimp moussalina technique (adapted from his new book Ratio which I really want to check out) was designed to have a variety of applications, and with some additions made to his basic mix, a weekend project was born.
Want to know more? Join me after the jump:
We added 2 cloves of garlic and half a shallot to Ruhlman’s foundation, blended until smooth (using an immersion blender), loaded the mixture into a freezer bag (attached with a wide pastry tip, available at Chef’s or your favorite restaurant supply store), and piped each into 2-3″ squares of fresh pasta that Michael dutifully made. Instead of flouring the work surface, we used cornmeal instead and it worked well–the cooking water wasn’t innundated with instant starch. I bought a pastry cutter that day as well and used the rippled edge to make little mezzalunas (though I may try to make them smaller the next time we try this), and sat at the kitchen table, filling, sealing (with water instead of egg wash) and forming mezzalunas. Lots and lots…and lots…and lots of mezzalunas:
I wasn’t in the mood for a brown butter and sage sauce, so I charged Michael with creating a sauce from shallots, vermouth, and butter. Vermouth is a heavenly liquor to cook with (even if it is tough to drink on its own if you’re not used to it) because it infuses any sauce, as well as your kitchen, with such an intense mixture of aromatics that can only be found in a fortified wine, and in this instance, it led to a sauce that paired well with the raviolis. That said, this dish requires some tweaking before we go and post recipes. In the meantime, I highly suggest trying out moussalina–I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.