Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Last night I pulled the wonton wrappers out of the fridge in heady anticipation of a new culinary treat — home-made ravioli. I had a recipe, and all the ingredients. Heck, getting the wonton wrapers was a story in itself, but I have other pasta to cook here.

The first step involved boiling water. Experienced cook that I am, I know the secret to boiling water: It takes days. So I poured a “generous two quarts” of water into my deep skillet and turned the burner on “high.”

I then began preparing the filling, for which I’d bought plenty of cheese. Actually, way too much cheese. At least four times the cheese I needed. Ah well; I grated about half a block into a medium bowl, then added the spices, and finished up with a raw egg.

Some people react to raw eggs the way they react when allowed to pet a snake. They’ll do it, but they’ll scrunch up their face as much as possible. I don’t have this problem. While raw eggs do have an unpleasant intestinal consistency, I can crack ’em open and mush ’em around with abandon.

It’s good, too, since I had to mix the raw egg into the filling. I could have whisked it or used a fork, I realized afterwards. Ah well; hindsight is always 20/20. I mashed in the egg.

Meanwhile, the water was boiling. Good; I added some salt and oil per the recipe, then proceeded to lay out the wonton wrappers.

That’s the genius of this recipe: rather than making pasta, you just use wonton wrappers, which are already the perfect size. So I laid out several on wire racks, plopped some filling in the center of each, ran a wet finger around the edge of the wonton, and laid another wonton on top, pressing it down a bit.

The recipe was clear that ravioli is very fragile, so you have to be very gentle with it. But I noticed that the wontons on top weren’t sticking well; I couldn’t press them down firmly. Oh well, I figured, better to keep them from breaking, right?.

I finished four ravioli, and the water was still boiling away. I worried about all that water steaming out of the pan, and added a bit more just to be safe, then finished another four ravioli.

I dropped the eight completed ravioli into the water, then went back to assembling the other eight. This was pretty easy; drop filling, run finger around edge, add second wonton….

Then I glanced back at the pan. The water seemed…cloudy. Sure, boiling water is usually a bit opaque, but this was almost whitish. Odd. White, just like the ravioli filling….


The filling had seeped out of all the ravioli, so that I was now cooking plain wonton wrappers in cheese-flavored water. I sighed, pulled out a spoon, and poked through the wreckage; a few ravioli were still intact. I decided to let them finish cooking.

I picked up the in-work ravioli and firmly pressed all the sides down. They were strong and firm. No breakage problems. Ah well.

It was around this point that I read the recipe more closely, and discovered that ravioli is supposed to cook in simmering water, not boiling water. Ah. Great.

I pulled out the two surviving ravioli and tossed them onto a warmed plate, then dumped out the entire contents of the pan into the sink. I re-filled the pan with water, salt, and oil, brought it to a simmer, and tossed in the remaining ravioli. As they cooked, I tasted the first two ravioli; they were actually quite good. They had a good, robust taste, though they were a bit too salty. I’ll try putting less salt into the pan next time.

I cooked the remaining ravioli and tossed them into the refrigerator. I’ll taste them tonight, to see how they keep over time.

Overall, the experience was a good lesson. The ravioli was easy to make, really; my problems were due to misinterpretations. Cool. I can’t wait to make them again.

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