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Make your own pasta. Go ahead, try it.
Woops, we did it again.
We wasted another entire Saturday cooking. This time, my friends and I cooked a rabbit. Lulu had stopped by one night recently with a rabbit, frozen in a grocery sack. This is the sort of thing Lulu is wont to do - stop by with frozen yard animals. (In seriousness, she got it an an Asian Market in Overland Park - not out of her yard. But I wouldn't put it past her - Girlfriend's got chickens out there - who knows what else?) So when Adam and I were discussing our next cooking adventure, I mentioned casually that I had a rabbit in my freezer.
"RABBIT RAVIOLI!" he shouted, before I could even finish my sentence. Alright, rabbit ravioli it is.
This was actually an excellent choice, because I have long wanted to learn to make pasta, so this was my opportunity to make pasta and to cook a rabbit, which in and of itself is a fascinating prospect. Plus, we were going to get to use a meat grinder. BONUS!
Since I am prone to starting at the end and working backwards, I'm going to tell you about the pasta first, even though our first order of business was to debone a rabbit and chop a lot of vegetables for filling.
Making perfect pasta is actually quite simple, if you're willing to cope with a mess. And because my kitchen floor is nothing if not already a mess, this was not a problem for me.
First, clear a decent-sized work area. We used my kitchen table because I am counterspace challenged. Also, you can sit.
Onto a surface you've dusted with flour, make a little mountain of flour. Adam likes King Arthur's brand flour especially for this. I'd say he put about two cups on the table, and then created a little well in the middle. Into the well, he cracked 6 egg yolks (and reserved the whites for another use - merengue cookies!), one whole egg, and a pinch of salt. Then he took a fork, and started to incorporate the flour into the eggs. By stirring around gently, the eggs will begin to pick up flour, and then more flour, and more, until it starts to become doughy and there's no liquid left. At this point, it's time to use hands to mix in more flour and start to knead until, as Adam says, "It has what it wants" meaning the mixture has become dough and is dry enough to not feel wet to the touch, but not crumbly. There will be flour leftover, and that's okay. The dough took what it wanted.
Knead the dough by sort of pinching and stretching it between your fingers for about five minutes. Do not fold and turn it like you would with bread dough - it won't reincorporate like that kind of dough does. When you're finished, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.
When you're ready to make noodles, get out your handy-dandy pasta maker. I love a good kitchen gadget and although I try my darndest to avoid owning uni-taskers, the pasta maker is a pretty nifty thing, and let's face it - I'm not rolling out pasta dough by hand.
Use your palms to sort of flatten your dough as best you can into an oval, and then begin running it through the pasta maker. Starting at the largest setting, crank it through, and keep cranking it through on a smaller and smaller setting each time. You might want to run it though the tiniest setting more than once. The cool thing about the pasta is that is is really resilient and almost acts like fabric. I was afraid to mess with it, thinking it would tear and stick and be a mess, but it doesn't. It's thin and delicate looking, but really holds together well and doesn't get holey or gooey.
For ravioli, you just need the large, wide sheets that the pasta maker creates. If you wanted spaghetti or linguini, you'd need to run the sheets through a secondary slicing attachment, which we did a little of just to see the results. Miraculous!
To make ravioli, though, you just need to lay your gorgeous pasta (so yellow and vibrant in color! Nothing like what you see in the store) out on a sheet of wax paper or parchment, and start putting in filling on the side of the pasta closest to you. Leave half of the pasta sheet empty - you're going to fold it over the top. Adam is fancy so he used a piping bag but depending on what you were putting in, you could just spoon it on. Leaving a couple of inches in between dollops, run all the way down the sheet of pasta.
Next, whip up an egg with a fork for a wash, and with a pastry brush, paint all the way around the filling and up to the edges. Then fold the rest of the pasta over the top of the filling, and press around and between each pile of filling. Adam had a medium-sized pastry cutter that he used to create perfect circles. You could probably use a round cookie cutter or a biscuit cutter to the same results.
Remember that your pasta is resilient, but it's not made of steel. We tossed the raviolis into a casserole dish as we finished, and were able to pile it several layers high. When it was time to cook,Adam poured some duck and rabbit conssome (more on that later) over the top with a few cooked carrots and baked it at 350 degrees.
You could boil it, and that would be traditional, but fresh pasta needs so little to cook, boiling would be overkill and really would risk exploding fillings, and we just can't have that.
The pasta, when finished in such a flavorful broth, made me feel like I was in a French restaurant in some provincial town, all cozy and rich and full of comforting warmth and taste. I began to think of making pasta and cooking it in broth every day. And then I looked at my kitchen, and reminded myself that this is, indeed, a special occasion thing and not to be trifled with too regularly. Still, one can get carried away when she's eating the equivalent of food made at Chez Panisse right in her own house.
Soon, I'll tell you about the rabbit (we ground him up in a grinder attachment on my KitchenAid! Finally, it's getting it's proper usage!) and the consomme, but for now, just go think about making pasta. Adam gave me his pasta maker, so I have it, sitting in a place of honor on my kitchen table, and I know how to use it. Come over, and we'll whip up some spaghetti. Damn, I feel cool.