Butternut Squash, Prosciutto, Toasted Butter Crumbs

It really is a challenge executing a “cheffy” dish with several components that I’ve developed. It’s especially tricky when I usually have one shot at it because, well, it is dinner and I do not normally get to try, re-try and refine before I have a final plated dish. Truth of the matter is that no matter how good I THINK something might taste and look, sometimes it just does not work out at all or works half-way. This dish is a good example of the latter. Most of the flavors and textures worked very well, but it did not look as good or as refined as I had imagined and sketched.

The least successful part of the dish was probably the cured butternut squash. I had seen a preparation like this first on the Ideas in Food blog and it stuck with me. A chunk of winter squash (they used Fairytale squash) is cured as if it was a piece of meat and then thinly sliced. I cured mine with a combination of smoked paprika, sage, sugar salt and pepper. I packed it all together in a FoodSaver bag and let it sit in the fridge for 48 hours. To serve it, I just sliced it as thinly as possible. The taste and texture of the raw squash was just odd, like a weird pickle. Now, it is possible that if I had a proper chamber vacuum machine (to fully push the seasoning into the squash and compress it) and a real meat slicer (to shave it very thinly) that this component would’ve worked.

The central part of this dish were the ravioli and these worked very well. The filling is a basic combination of roasted butternut squash, parmesan ans a dew seasonings like balsamic vinegar and nutmeg. The dough is also a classic recipe that uses nothing more than egg and flour.

The seared butternut squash pieces were first cooked sous vide. So, I bagged them with butter and a little salt and cooked them at 85 C until they were perfectly tender. Right before plating I seared them in a very hot pan to add some nice flavor and texture variation.

For the dehydrated prosciutto, I rolled several slices together into a cylinder shape and froze it. When fully solid I used my Microplane grater to make fine shreds of delicious frozen ham. Lastly I spread them on a pan and allowed them to dry in a very low oven. The almost-fully dry ham shreds now have a very concentrated prosciutto flavor and work great as a topping or base for all kinds of dishes.

Sage is a classic with pumpkin ravioli, so I made sage cream to go with this dish. It’s pretty much the recipe from The French Laundry’s agnolotti dish that I made here. The last garnish is more of those toasted butter solids that I talked about in the end of this post. They work exceptionally well here echoing the traditional brown butter that pumpkin filled pasta is usually tossed in.

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Aerated Scrambled Eggs

Classically, proper French style scrambled eggs are soft, light, fluffy and creamy. They do not much resemble the diner-style scrambled eggs we typically know and cook. They are almost like a slightly curdled custard. Of course they are delicious, but the problem is they require close to 30 minutes of constant slow stirring, sometimes using a double boiler! They are not something I do often and honestly this type of scrambled eggs is not always what I am looking for. Usually the regular “drier” eggs is what I would make for myself and for the family.

With an immersion circulator controlling the water temperature to an exact degree, soft scrambled eggs are very easy to do. Another huge benefit to this method is that while the eggs cook, I am free to prepare the rest of the breakfast. The process involves mixing eggs with salt, pepper and a little milk and then bagging them with a few cubes of butter. They are cooked at 72.5C for about 25-30 minutes. They are done at that point and can be served after shaking the bag for a few seconds to break up the curds. The first time I saw this method was on the Ideas in Food blog and since then they published their book. So I used their procedure and took it to the next level like they did by quickly putting the cooked egg mixture in an iSi canister and charged it with one NO2 charge (Tip:┬áput some very hot water in the canister, leave it in for a few minutes and dump it out before putting in the eggs to make sure they don’t cool down too quickly). That made the eggs very luxurious and light when dispensed warm from the whipping canister.

I served the aerated scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms and asparagus that was blanched and then cooked in butter. The mushrooms and the asparagus stems go in the bowl first, then I dispensed the eggs covering everything. I garnished the bowls with butter-fried bread chunks, asparagus tips and toasted butter solids. Those butter solids by the way are fantastic stuff. I first saw them on David Brazelay’s EatFoo blog (David now runs the Lazy Bear underground restaurant in San Fransisco). They are really the dregs left after clarifying butter, basically the milk solids. To make a bunch of them though a bit of dried milk powder is added to the melted butter and allowed to brown gently. What you end up with is a super flavorful and nutty little bits that add great buttery flavor and a nice texture to all kinds of foods.