This was the main course of the Valentine's Day dinner I made for Mark last weekend. I know I've neglected you for a little while, and I wanted to post something good, so I skipped right to the main event. The other components of the dinner were good, too, but the ravioli... once it was seriously tweaked... was the best part of the meal in my opinion.
Now, I say that this recipe was tweaked, and boy was it ever. The reason being that the first ravioli dough recipe I decided to follow was HORRIBLE and SO WRONG. It was a recipe that called for an ungodly amount of eggs, producing a YELLOW DOUGH that had the strength of bathtub caulk! I could have boiled that ravioli for 10 years and it wouldn't have become tender. It was tough, chewy, and didn't taste good. Now, you'd think since I live with an Italian man that grew up on his 100% Italian grandmother's cooking, that of which included homemade pasta and ravioli, that I would have listened to him when he said, "That sounds like too many eggs." But NO... I said I had heard of such a dough and that it was just a different way of making it, so I was going to try it. I figured it would be richer than regular dough, which was fine since it was a special dinner. IT WASN'T. IT WAS JUST WORSE.
So what happened was this. I spent an amount of hours in that kitchen that I don't even want to confess to you to produce this four course meal for my Valentine. He was such a good Valentine because he waited patiently for it to be prepared, never asking once when it was going to be done or why it was taking so long. He knows me by now and he realizes that I like to learn things the hard way sometimes. This was one of those times. The amount of time spent in the kitchen wasn't due to the bad ravioli dough, at least not entirely. It was mostly bad planning on my part. I should have done way more prep cooking the few days before that day, but I decided to do it all that day. In my head it went a way different way... but alas, that's not what was meant to be. So since I had been cooking long enough for my feet to start hurting and my eyes to start closing, only to be perked back open with swigs of sugary Coke, I was in NO mood to find out that the ravioli that was to be the star of this dinner was a big fat DUD.
Now, the lamb shanks themselves were spectacular, right from the get-go. They were braised low and slow in a mixture of port, red wine, and homemade veal stock, so they were very good when they came out of the oven. However, I didn't season the meat enough, the dough was all wrong, and the sauce (which was really just the jus from the braising pan) didn't have the depth and consistency this dish really needed to come together and make you go MMmmmmmmm.... So that night, I had to serve my Valentine a dinner that I not only wasn't proud of, but was actually ashamed of. I really wanted to make him something special; something that from the taste told him that I put real time and love into what I cooked for him. Well, I sure put in the time... and the love, but it wasn't obvious thanks to the taste.
So we went to bed and I was still bothered by how the dinner turned out. The next day was supposed to be his Valentine's day gift to me, which was supposed to be taking me to the movie "Definitely, Maybe". I REALLY wanted to see that movie, but I asked him if he minded if we didn't go and instead I would make the ravioli again for him, but this time making it all that it could be (AND taking his advice and using his grandmother's ravioli dough recipe). He said "sure" (probably not too disappointed that he got out of watching a chick flick) and we went to the market together to get a couple more things I would need for the dinner, part II.
I am happy to report that the second time was a charm and I was able to produce a good tasting and special ravioli dish for the man I love. He liked it, I liked it, and the leftovers were even better. I have a little more of the shredded lamb meat left over and will be enjoying it tonight in sandwich-form as a matter of fact.
So, without further adoo, here's how I made this ravioli...
I started with 4 beauuuuutiful looking lamb shanks. This was probably double what I needed, but don't worry, it's getting eaten.
I seasoned the lamb with salt and pepper, then seared it on all sides in some hot canola oil.
I removed the browned lamb shanks from the pan and poured off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. I then added my shallots and garlic and cooked for a couple minutes.
Next, I added the port and red wine to deglaze.
Then the veal stock...
Then returned the lamb shanks back to the pan, along with some fresh thyme and bay leaves. Just look at that. Mmmmmmm..... I brought the liquid to a boil, then covered with foil and poked a few holes in the top to allow some of the steam to escape.
After three hours in a 350 degree oven, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious.
I removed the meat from the liquid to allow it to cool so that the meat could be easily pulled from the bone and shredded.
As the meat cooled, I caramelized the onions in some olive oil. I seasoned the onions with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.
I reduced the jus from the pan by about 1/3.
I then took a can of diced tomatoes, pureed them, then stirred them into the jus. A little salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and it was just right. It had a deep, rich flavor that really gave the dish the heartiness I wanted.
After shredding the lamb meat, I chopped it up into little pieces, added most of the caramelized onions (saving some to garnish the ravioli with at the end), about 5 tablespoons of the jus reduction, salt, pepper, and plenty of fresh thyme.
To make the ravioli dough, simply add 1 egg to 1 cup of semolina flour. This made enough dough for two people. If you increase the flour to 2 cups, you'd use 2 eggs, and so on...
Using your hands, combine the egg with the flour, then add water a tsp at a time until the dough holds together enough to be kneaded.
knead the dough until soft and somewhat elastic (even though it's a fairly strong dough).
Divide the dough into two parts, roll out until thin enough to feed through a pasta machine and feed it through until it's as think as you'd like it. I took it to setting #4, but I think next time, I'll try #5 to make it just a bit thinner. Either way is fine, though.
Cut one of the pasta dough sheets in half, and on one half, measure out tablespoons of the lamb filling and space the mounds of filling out enough to press the top portion of the dough down between them. Be sure to brush egg wash all around each mound of filling so the dough will adhere to itself to form the ravioli.
Using a knife, separate the ravioli, then press and fold the edges until they are secured.
They're now ready to be boiled!
I boiled the ravioli in two batches, for 20 minutes per batch. Usually homemade pasta takes less time to cook than dried pasta, but the ravioli pasta was thicker, so it apparently needed a bit longer.
To plate, ladle some sauce onto the plate, top with some ravioli, drizzle some more sauce, and top with caramelized onions and grated Parmesan cheese. After eating the leftovers, I would alternatively suggest boiling the ravioli first, then adding them to the sauce and letting them soak in some of the sauce before serving, because they were good that way too.
This recipe was a good amount of work, but worth it in the end. The most time spent was actually just allowing the meat to braise in the oven, so if this was the only dish I was making that night, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal work-wise. If you love lamb, and I know many of you that visit FOODIE do, give these a try.
Braised lamb shank ravioli with caramelized onions, lamb jus and shaved Parmesan
2 pounds lamb shanks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole cloves garlic
1 cup ruby port
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef or veal stock
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
7 sprigs thyme tied in a bundle
2 cups semolina
Pinch of salt
A few teaspoons water to bind
All purpose flour or Semolina for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Trim excess fat from lamb shanks and discard. Sprinkle both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high. Sear shanks for five to seven minutes or until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Pour off all but two tablespoons fat from the pan and decrease the heat to medium. Add shallots and garlic, and cook for two minutes. Add port and wine, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add stock, thyme, bay leaves and browned lamb shanks, and bring to a boil.
Cover Dutch oven with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and use a knife to pierce five or six holes to allow steam to escape. Place in the oven and bake, turning meat occasionally, for three to four hours or until meat is falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow shanks to cool in the liquid for an hour. Reserve cooking liquid to make ravioli jus.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan on medium. Sauté onions and thyme until onions are soft and transparent. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent burning, for eight to 10 minutes or until onions are caramelized. When onions turn dark brown, remove from heat. Discard thyme. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow onions to cool, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
Reduce the jus by 1/3. Then chop up the shredded lamb, then combine with 3/4 of the caramelized onions, about 5 tablespoons of the jus, and season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme to taste. You want the flavor to be very vibrant so it stands out once stuffed into the ravioli.
Puree a can of diced tomatoes and combine it with the remaining jus. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. This will be your sauce.
To make Ravioli:
Combine the semolina with the two eggs and a pinch of salt until you get a course meal. Add the water a teaspoon at a time until the dough stays together and can be kneaded. Knead the dough until elastic and a bit soft.
Divide the dough into two portions, roll each portion out enough to be able to run it through your pasta machine. Take the dough down as thin as you'd like.
Measure out tablespoons of the lamb filling and space the mounds of filling out enough to press the top portion of the dough down between them. Be sure to brush egg wash all around each mound of filling so the dough will adhere to itself to form the ravioli.
Using a knife, seperate the ravioli, then press and fold the edges until they are secured.
Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it's al dente (up to 20 minutes).
To plate, ladle some sauce onto the plate, top with some ravioli, drizzle some more sauce, and top with caramelized onions and grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh thyme.
Makes about 40 ravioli