"I've had three kitchen jobs, and they've all been really short because they were in the summer before going back to school. None of them were bad, but I felt like they could have been better," says Entre:Underground's Chef John as he cooks in his small south-city kitchen.
"I'm a pretty personable guy. I always made it a point in our kitchen to make it a lot of fun. Ultimately it's just food. You've got to be able to enjoy this kind of thing. If the folks in the kitchen love what they're doing and it's a healthy atmosphere, I can't help but think that the product that comes out of the kitchen and everyone eating is going to be affected by that."
The fulfillment John gets from cooking makes his egg-yolk ravioli with lardons and mustard greens shine brighter than something that's "just food." He makes the rich pasta dough, ricotta cheese and lardons by hand. Home cooks can substitute store-bought cheese. If you don't cure your own lardons, substitute slab bacon. Chef John recommends the version made by G&W Bavarian Style Sausage Company.
The ravioli resemble yellow poached eggs, especially when the diner sinks a fork through the dough and soft-cooked egg yolk drizzles out, blending with the lemon-butter sauce. The spike of citrus and verdant bitter bite of wilted mustard greens give the dish balance, while the salty, chewy lardons provide body. Further in, the homemade ricotta is light and soft, lacking the grainy texture of manufactured versions. It provides a vehicle for whatever seasonings you prefer. Chef John uses chives, lemon zest, Korean chili powder and a little bit of white pepper.
Ricotta Cheese 1 quart buttermilk 1 gallon whole milk
Combine milks in a large pan and heat to 170-180 degrees. When curds form, scoop them out with a slotted spoon, set into cheesecloth in a colander and let drain. Season with salt.
Once the ricotta has drained, you can mix it with lemon zest, chives, salt, white pepper, pepper, piment d'espellete, or really anything you want.
Pasta Dough 1-3/4 cups flour dash of salt 5 egg yolks 1 egg 1 tbsp milk 1 tsp olive oil 1 tbsp water
Put flour and salt in a stand mixer. Add liquids and mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 5-8 minutes.
Add flour or water as necessary to achieve a homogenous dough, neither too wet or too dry. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to hydrate for at least an hour.
Egg Yolk Ravioli Pasta dough Seasoned ricotta cheese Eggs, separated 1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2" cubes and cooked, rendered fat reserved. Wilted Mustard Greens (recipe follows) Lemon-Butter (recipe follows)
Roll dough through a pasta roller, not so thin it will break, and not too thick either. If using a pasta attachment for a KitchenAid mixer, finish on the #4 setting.
Once rolled out, use ring cutters, one large and one slightly smaller. With the smaller cutter, cut the pasta.
Put a spoonful of the ricotta mixture in the middle. Make a well in the center with the back of your spoon. Lay the yolk of one egg in the well.
With the larger ring cutter, cut another circle of pasta. Whisk the egg white until frothy and dab a bit around the edge of the smaller pasta circle. Carefully lay the large circle of pasta over the cheese and egg-filled pasta, pressing down on the edges. It's best to work from the back of the raviolo to the front. As you seal, make sure you press out all the air.
Drop the ravioli into salted water at a rolling boil, and cook for 90 seconds.
Mustard Greens 1 leaf per serving Rendered bacon fat
Cut off fibrous stems of mustard leaves, wash. Dry, then rough chop.
In a medium sauté pan, wilt the greens in the bacon fat. Remove from heat while still slighty crisp.
Lemon Butter Scant amount of water One lemon, zested and juiced 8 ounces butter, cubed
Heat lemon juice and water in sauté pan until it simmers. Turn down heat. Whisk in butter, slowly adding one or two cubes at a time until an emulsion forms. Be careful with the heat -- keep it low or the sauce will break.
Plating Put the wilted greens on a plate, and dot the plate with the lemon butter and lardons. Place the raviolo on top of the greens. Shave a bit of Parmesan on top and a few grinds of pepper.
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