Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Sage Cream, Brown Butter and Prosciutto

Nothing says "autumn's here" like 85-degree weather, eh? Here in the DC area, it feels like the middle of July and I'm not happy about it one bit. I'm used to September being warm, but once the calendar page turns to October, I want cool days and chilly evenings. I want to sleep under a pile of blankets because there's a cold, crisp breeze coming in through the open bedroom windows. I want to walk out onto the front porch one evening and smell my neighbor using his fireplace for the first time of the season. I want to wear long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and scarves, fer cryin' out loud. And, I want to wear my awesome new totally sexy leather boots. So, c'mon fall... where the hell are you?

I mostly want fall to be here because as much as I love all the fresh produce that summer is known for, my favorite season for cooking is fall. I love to make a big pot of chili on a Sunday for my football-watching friends. I love when a warm oven takes the chill off the evening as I'm cooking dinner. I love the arrival of squash, root vegetables, and the hearty produce in the farmer's market that means winter is just around the corner. I want to be buying things to roast, braise, stew and simmer so that as I watch the giant, hundred-year old pin oak in my backyard shed its leaves, I can enjoy my very favorite season and all the flavors and smells it brings.

So, let's just pretend it's 50 degrees outside and I'm wearing my new boots -- damn the torpedos and full speed ahead with a fall menu, I say. After the loveliness that was the Linguine and Clams last week, I craved more pasta with a little something more substantive than clams. Something pork-y and salty and good. What could that be? Oh, I dunno... BACON?!!!???!

This dish had so many good things going for it: bacon, sweet potatoes, homemade pasta, bacon, sage, bacon, prosciutto, brown butter, bacon, crème fraîche, bacon. Did I mention there was bacon in this dish? Oh, I did? Good. Because there was, and in all honesty, it could've used more. Bacon is the one thing that compels me to question how anyone could ever be a vegetarian.

Let's talk about the dish because there were a lot of flavors and textures, all of which worked really well together. If you have The French Laundry Cookbook but haven't dared to make anything from it yet, try this dish. The smells alone will make you grin from ear to ear... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first thing I did was put the sweet potatoes in aluminum foil with a little pat of butter in each one:

They baked in a 350-degree oven for about 90 minutes, and when they were done, I peeled them and put them through a ricer into my little Le Creuset pot:

Next, I lightly browned some diced bacon in a skillet:

Hello, lover.

I drained the bacon and added it to the sweet potatoes, and then added a pinch of squab spice, a little salt and pepper, and a few tablespoons of butter to make the agnolotti filling:

I put this in the fridge to chill while I made the pasta dough. By the way, is it weird that whenever I type or say the words "squab spice" I hear it in my head as "Squab spice, squab spice, squab, squab, spice" a la the theme to "Square Pegs"? Oh, it's not weird? Whew. That's good. I was beginning to wonder.

The next step was to make the pasta dough. You will be happy to know I did not resort to store-bought pasta sheets or any other reasonable facsimile thereof. I made this shiznit all by my damn self. Here's how it went down:

Pile of flour with a well in the middle for egg, egg yolks, milk and olive oil:

Some swirly-swirly circular counter-clockwise hand movement action to mix the eggs and pull in the flour as I danced this mess around (hi, CIA textbook editors; I am here for all your technical writing needs; call me!:

Shaggy ball o' dough:

Then, after 20-25 minutes of kneading, the final product:

I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for an hour while I did some work. After that hour was up, I cut the dough ball in two and used half of it for the agnolotti. I put it through the pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, and unfortunately had it on the wrong, way-too-thin setting. I shredded the heck out of it. Not even shredded... just annihilated. Destroyed. Beyond recognition. Seriously, call Northrop-Grumman or something because I could totally take down terrorists with my pasta-roller setting skillz. There are no photos of this screw-up because I was so mad, and swearing was taking up all my energy. But imagine some circa 1981 high school girl's frosted, permed and feathered hair and make it eleventy billion times more damaged than that.

I took the other half of the pasta dough back out of the fridge, let it sit for a minute, cut it into two pieces and fed it through the pasta rollers on the correct setting. I followed all the feeding, folding, turning and re-feeding instructions in The French Laundry cookbook, and it turned out okay. Not great, but okay. Clearly I need practice. I laid it on the butcher block and got the filling out of the fridge:

Using a pastry bag, I piped a line of filling down the sheet of pasta:

I tried to follow the book's instructions for how to fold, pinch, then cut the agnolotti, and mine ended up looking more like ravioli:

You'll see the final cut and presentation of it in photos to come. Making this wasn't difficult, it just didn't look like I wanted it to look when I studied the photos in The French Laundry Cookbook. Oh well, I've got a few more opportunities to get it right. After I cut the individual agnolotti, I put them on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and stored them in the freezer until I was ready to cook them. I had some other things I needed to make before that happened.

To make the sage cream, I blanched one-third of a cup of sage leaves, cooled them in an ice-water bath and blotted them dry with paper towels. You'll see in the photo below that I folded the paper towels inside-out because I'm embarrassed that I accidentally bought paper towels with tacky flowers on them, and I'm already judging myself for the tackiness of said towels, so I figured you would, too, because after all there aren't any wars or famines or serious problems in the world, and I know everyone on the entire Internet is laughing at my impossibly tacky flowered paper towels:

Okay, you can stop mocking my paper towels now. Note to self: Call Bounty and ask them why the hell they can't just make plain white paper towels ONLY, so I won't make the same mistake again. Gah.

I put the blanched sage leaves in the blender and chopped the heck out of them. In the meantime, I heated some crème fraîche, butter and salt over low heat until it was smooth. I turned the blender on low and poured the creamy mixture through the opening of the lid to make the sauce. I poured the finished product through a strainer into a large skillet and let it sit on a low-heat burner:

I let this sit on the stove for a few minutes while I brought the water to a boil for the agnolotti. During this time, I sliced some prosciutto and deep fried some baby sage leaves in canola oil to use in the final plating. When the water came to a rolling boil, I put the agnolotti in and cooked them for about 4-5 minutes.

I took them out of the water with a strainer-spoon and put them into the sage cream sauce. I let them warm in the sauce while I melted some butter and heated it until it was a nutty brown color.

My friends started arriving at this point and everyone who walked in the house was delighted by the smell. My 10-year old neighbor "M" looked at everything and wasn't sure she'd like it. She watched me plate it and nibbled on her fingernail in curiosity.

First on each plate went six agnolotti and some of the sage cream sauce. I drizzled a bit of brown butter on top of that, then topped it off with prosciutto and the crispy fried sage leaves:

If I had been served this dish at The French Laundry, I think I would've jumped up out of my chair, thrown my arms around Thomas Keller, and planted a hundred kisses all over his face. This dish is that good.

It's beyond a certified FrenchLaundryAtHome PlateLicker™ -- it's one of the best things I've ever eaten. EVER. I may have to come up with a new category or designation -- perhaps it shall be called a ThomasKellerFaceKisser™. Is that wrong? If it is, then I don't wanna be right.

The pasta was cooked to perfection and the sweet potato-bacon filling was creamy, hearty (but not heavy) and delicious. The sage cream and brown butter were silky and warm and lovely. The prosciutto added another layer of porkiliciousness to the dish, and I was most surprised at how much I loved the crispy deep-fried sage leaves. I actually toyed with the idea of not making them at all, but I'm glad I did. I haven't always been a big fan of sage because it can be so overpowering in a dish. But here? It was a much-needed and perfect balance to the rest of the elements on the plate.

This is a dish I will add to my rotation of things to make to impress someone, or for a holiday, or hell, just because I want to. And, I'm happy to report that I have a little bit of the filling and some of the sage cream left over, so I'll toss that with some fresh fettucine for lunch tomorrow, or maybe do an omelet filling or topping.

I can't wait to make this again. Who wants to come over?

Wine Pairing: Imagine Chardonnay, 2004; Chalk Hill. This wine makes me happy. It's Chalk Hill's best-kept secret.

Up Next:
White Corn Agnolotti with Summer Truffles (I promise, the beet ice cream and chocolate cakes are coming soon)

Sweet potatoes from Musachio Produce Farm
King Arthur Flour
365 butter and sage from Whole Foods
Antica Italia olive oil
Eggs and bacon from Smith Meadows Farm
Crème fraîche from Vermont Butter and Cheese
LaQuercia prosciutto

Music to Cook By: Annie Lennox; Songs of Mass Destruction for kneading (thanks, Pastrymann; you were right -- it is a great album) and Calvin Harris for cooking. They couldn't be more different from one another, but I love them both equally.


Anonymous said...

*frantically waves hand* Me! Me! I hate sweet potatoes, but damn it if this doesn't look fucking fantastic. I've told you, I'll eat anything you make.

I like your paper towels! Festive!

Anonymous said...

Baby, you had me at "bacon."

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you, I snorted wine through my sinuses and it nearly shot out of my tear ducts with the "Square Pegs" reference. Damn, woman! How DO you do what you do???!!!

An Attendant Cook said...

The agnolotti are AWESEOME--and how can you go wrong with bacon? This is a make over and over dish at our house too. And, the pasta dough is some of the nicest, smoothest, richest that I've ever had. Best. Blog. Ever, BTW.

michael, claudia and sierra said...

i wanna come over and eat this more than anyone else no matter what they say. know this, ok? this dish? mine. ok, ours. if i were willing to make pasta i'd go for it. but i just won't go there... but i wanna come over and eat yours (more than anyone else...)

ps - i got new hot suede sexy boots too. prada on ebay. $250 and they are amazing. am i not excellent? they have silver grommets with suede whipstitching and the perfect heel and shaped toe. i got to wear them once and then it went to 91 but it's back down again. (sorry - i digressed)

but remember - i am the one who wants these agnolotti the most.

Liz said...

Bacon is the gateway meat.

That looks fantastic. I got the French Laundry book at Sam's for something like $15 the Christmas after it came out. I've made a few things but basically it's food porn. Now, I think I'm inspired!

JordanBaker said...

These are a few of my favorite things. . .

Unknown said...

OOOH!!!OOOOH!!! pick me ,pick me!!
Pasta,bacon andddddd sexy boots...where do I sign up?
Can you be any more hilarious?
Thanks for the great post

Jeanne said...

Oh man, I almost forgot about the sweet potato filling and half-batch of pasta dough I have in the freezer from making this agnolotti at the tail end of spring. We're so having this dish this weekend!

Anonymous said...

You should know that this is my favorite season, too, and that I am a whore for all things butternut squash- and sage-related. So, yeah, color me envious that I could not partake in this delightful dish. I myself am going to make some roasted butternut squash soup!

Also? I bet the SPICE GIRLS would love this dish.

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I know about the "where the hell is autumn?" thing. Here, temps in up to 90 until yesterday when the high was about 60. Finally. I'm so done with summer.

Congrats on yet another successful FL dish. I'm gonna make note in my book about the "even more bacon" part.

Jim said...

I agree one hundred percent: how can anyone give up meat when bacon is so...bacony? I laugh at fake meat's attempts to recreate the bacon goodness. Turkey bacon I'm okay with, though.

Of course, sometimes I see stuff like this and get a little horrified, but there are always lines a meat eater is not willing to cross.

Also, you like fall weather? Would you like ours? It's 48 degrees out and rain is on the way in Chicago, and I'm still not used to needing a jacket in the mornings.

Anonymous said...

That looks *amazing*. Love sage, I've been using it a lot with butternut squash and now I can't wait to mix with sweet potatoes.

Got a KA over the summer and the pasta roller attachment is on the xmas list. I will definitely try this one over the winter!

muffintop said...

Oh, god. Guess I'll have to dig out the FL cookbook. I've never made a single recipe from it, ever. But...
(Because you're not inviting me over for dinner, are you.)

Anonymous said...

There are eleventy million reasons why I love your blog, and your paper towel preferences are just one. I too hate patterned paper towels. As well as patterned kleenex boxes. Do facial tissue makers really think their box designs ADD to a room's ambiance?

PS - I know TWO decades-long vegetarians who sneak bacon from time to time.

PPS - "Don’t wanna wear my glasses, I have to wear my glasses."

Jo said...

Oh wow. Bacon! I hate the fall it gets cold. I love the comfort food aspect creating all those hearty meals. Not happy with the old oaks, I'm watching drop. Try having 18 of them. The blower comes out every other day!

Unknown said...

Ok... what the heck kind of great blender do you have?? The work it does on some stuff, it's obviously worlds better than my... um.. whatever type of crap blender I have.

Dish sounds fantastic. And Keller should be paying you royalties at least... every post gets me ** that much closer to buying the cookbook. If only the hubby wasn't so anti-sweet potato, I'd be running out for it first thing tomorrow...

Babeth said...

whouhaha looks superbe! and good.
You're a real 3-star chef!

Sarah said...

Umm yeah, just let me know when you are making this again, I will WALK across the country to have some:) This looked and sounded absolutely delicious!!

Oh and don't be embarrassed by your kitchen towels, I too have stupid flowers on mine as well.

Anonymous said...

i have silently read this blog often- but no more. BRAVO.
your writting, your humor, your 80's references- I am knocked out- and yes I will come over for pasta.
well done.

tammy said...

See what I mean about the pasta shaping instructions? They make no sense next to the picture. Mine looked like yours, flat but delicious. If Keller ever gets back to you on that, e-mail me, okay?

Marilyn said...

This looks wonderful as usual. MissOrchidgal would be won over with the sweet potatoes and bacon: two of her favorite foods! You are a brave woman.

Anonymous said...


I am seriously considering sex-change surgery so I can sweep you off your feet, marry you and eat your food forever (grin). Short of that, can I set up a puptent and move into your backyard??? Oh, and Claudia lies. Notwithstanding the Prada boots (green with envy) I wanna come over most - get back Claudia - it's me, me, me!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, are your pans clean and shiny or what! I'm off the dial-up and it no longer takes seven hours to download everything AND i get all of the photos. The agnolotti looks divine!

Jaye Joseph said...

This is the next thing I'm making. And also? I just got the new Annie Lennox and am LOVING it!!

michael, claudia and sierra said...

puptent - don't make me have to come over there...

Anonymous said...

Back away from the blog, Claudia, just back away (no doubt in those Prada boots). I REALLY want some of this (and just about everything else from this blog).

Seriously, hope you're feeling better Carol . . . "and your little dog too" (in the spirit of my witchiness). There are more "shy" people than you know sending out virtual hugs to you both.

Dan said...

love the blog, visit it every time its updated. I think it might be interesting to hear elapsed time of the recipe from start to finish. After reading how much you loved the last dish you made and considering how much I love sweet potatoes, I'd love to see what I'd be in for if I tried to make it.

Thanks! Good job as always.


Kitt said...

Wow! Gorgeous! and funny! and please add me to your dinner list.

I tried making pasta for the first time ever last week -- malloreddus -- and it turned out OK fresh, but didn't dry well because it was too thick. The whole pasta-shaping thing, it's an art.

I will have to try yours (Keller's), though I lack any kind of pasta machinery, simply because it all looks so delicious and you present it so well. Thank you!

Carol Blymire said...

All: thanks for the great comments. I'd love to have you all over for dinner sometime, absolutely!

Dan: when I first started this blog, one of my plans was to do a time-stamp type tracking to see how long it took to do some of these dishes. It's hard to do, if not impossible in some cases, because I space out the prep over the course of my workday (I work from home) and then pull it all together in the evening. Some of these dishes take hours, if not days to make. Others really only take 30 minutes, as long as you have the stocks and sauces ready to go.

And, I'm going to have to keep practicing the agnolotti making, because you'll see in the upcoming post about the corn agnolotti, that I sucked at making that the right shape, as well.

Oh, and Puptent and Claudia? Don't make me stop this car!

Anonymous said...

Dammit, until now I've resisted buying the book. TK should give you a commission!
Erin in NJ

Jamie said...

This looks so good. I made a few Thomas Keller recipes during culinary school and remember that they are fantastically complicated and ridiculously time consuming. While I could handle his recipes, they aren't exactly Manhattan apartment kitchen friendly, if you know what I mean... I keep my cooking a bit more simple, but still think the man is a genius.

Jamie, author of

Anonymous said...

Made the pasta dough today, but it was just too dry!! I eventually gave up and had to add 1-2 of the leftover egg yolks to make it stick together.

Anyone else have this problem?

Squidly said...

I received the cookbook as a Christmas present, and made these yesterday. Here's a few pictures from my attempt: