Warning Test Kitchen Experiment in Progress: Chestnut and Acorn Squash RavioliNovember 21, 2006
Experiments are good. However, sometimes you end up scratching your head when you fail. The individual pieces may work, but the combination makes you realize that not all things work together in the kitchen. I’ve been to a few restaurants, most of them leaning towards “fusion” cuisine, where there is such a discord of flavors that you are wondering who in the kitchen is tasting the food before it went out. (My wife and I have a restaurant in mind when we had one of those moments and it always gives a good chuckle to remember it.)
Unfortunately for me, last night, I had one of those moments. Caught in the frenzy for Thanksgiving, I tried to continue my exploration of very fall ingredients and give it some Turkey Day love. Oh, well, so sometimes you learn more from the effort than the results.
The new ingredients were acorn squash and chestnuts. Both are quintessential cold weather flavors and would require some effort to learn on my part. I had never used them. I had tasted both on a few occasions, liked them well enough. Yet, the only thing I was confident about them was that I would need to roast both ingredients before serving them.
It was after the thought of roasting them that my thoughts turned to ravioli. I decided I would make a filling from roasted squash and chestnuts. Then, I decided to serve them with a sauce made from braising a turkey leg. Now before you go “Ewww” too much, both pieces, the ravioli and the sauce, were delicious. My mistake was the combination. The problem was the ravioli’s filing was so sweet from the squash and the chestnuts and the sauce from the turkey was too heavy and too savory.
However, the ravioli are right. And seeing as this is a blog about the food I make and my wife eats, I felt I should share a bit of my work in progress. I don’t want people think everything I make is great. Trust me, my wife has eaten a few embarrassments over the years. Right now, I’m working on a lighter, better sauce to make this work. But until then, advice and experience of my readers could be hugely beneficial. I hope you enjoy and share ideas on my work in progress!
Chestnut and Acorn Squash Ravioli
2 acorn squash
1 dozen chestnuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 clove garlic
Pasta Dough rolled into sheets. I’ve also seen wantons used as a short cut. The dough is salted in wanton skins, so be careful how you salt your water when you cook them.
1. Its time to roast! Both can be done in the same oven at the same time, though different pans. Preheat to 400F.
Peel and cube the squash, then place into a roasting pan. Lightly oil and coat liberally with salt and fresh crack black pepper. Place in oven for 45 min or until the flesh is easily pierce with a paring knife.
As for the chestnuts, you have to do a bit of prep work. Chestnuts are like pecans and walnuts where you are looking to eat the interior flesh. The shiny brown exterior is actually the shell. To roast, you need to score the exterior with an “X.” This allows the steam within the interior of the nut to escape. This actually will make peeling easier as the chestnut will open up. (You have to love the power of steam!). Once scored, place in a pie plate or other small pan. Roast for 30-40 min.
2. Let the chestnuts and squash cool for 10-15 min.
3. Once the chestnuts can be handled, peel the exterior shell off and remove the skin around the meat. What should remain is a very ‘brain’ like meat of the nut. You do not need whole pieces as you are going to break this up into smaller portions in the food processor.
4. In a food processor, lightly pulse the chestnuts until slightly broken. Add the squash a few cubes at a time. Pulse each time until you have a relatively smooth puree with small bits of chestnuts.
5. Add the leeks, garlic, basil, Italian parsley, nutmeg and cheese to the food processor. Pulse until the mix until all the ingredients are integrated. Salt and pepper to taste.
6. Construct your ravioli.
7. Cook in salted, boiling water for 2 min. Drain and serve.