Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chestnut Agnolotti with Fontina and Celery Root Purée

There are four agnolotti recipes in The French Laundry Cookbook, and this is the third one I've made. The sweet potato-bacon agnolotti is still the best one, but this one wasn't bad at all. I've had kind of a crappy week -- especially compared to last week. I came home from Portland last weekend sick with a sinus infection and bronchitis, and also ended up having to have a double-root canal this past Thursday, so I've gotta be on a comfort food/soft food diet for the next few days. I thought I'd tackle the Chestnut Agnolotti because I needed something to cheer me up a bit and knew this would do the trick. I was also getting tired of chicken soup, chicken broth, and other chicken-related liquids. Alright, you didn't come here to hear me whine; you came to be dazzled by my sparkling wit, ravishing beauty and crafty food maneuverings. Let's get it on.

I rarely cook with or eat chestnuts; it's just something I never think to do, so I was pleased to have this opportunity to work with them. It reminded me of the chestnut tree next to the playground of my elementary school. While the chestnuts were still in their prickly pods, we used to pick them up off the ground with our mittened hands and throw them at each other... that is, until Guy Stringfellow (yes, that's his real name) hit Donna Bishop in the face with one, and our fun quickly came to an end. It was almost as traumatic as the time Brad Hagens stomped on a taco sauce packet and got it all over Stephanie Rodgers' dress. This is what passes for big drama when you grow up in a town of 800 people in rural PA. Drive-bys with hot sauce and chestnut pods. Good times.

The market was out of fresh chestnuts, so I went to Rodman's and bought some jarred fresh chestnuts instead. They had been steamed, then vacuum-packed, so I didn't roast them prior to using them. They were already pretty soft. I cooked them in some water, vegetable stock and a bay leaf for about 10 minutes over medium heat. I puréed the chestnuts in the food processor and slowly added in some of the reserve liquid, forming a thick purée.

I pushed the purée through a tamis into a small saucepan and over very low heat added mascarpone, butter, and a little white truffle oil. I also threw in a little salt and pepper to enhance the flavor.

I covered the bowl of agnolotti filling and chilled it in the refrigerator.

I already had pasta dough from a previous agnolotti dish, which I'd frozen then thawed in the fridge before preparing for this dish. I rolled out the dough, filled the agnolotti (they still looked like lopsided ravioli despite my best efforts, and put them on a baking sheet in the freezer to stiffen a bit while I made the sauce. I didn't photograph this step, but you can see it in a previous agnolotti post.

I cooked some sliced onions and chopped garlic in a little bit of butter, then added the rough-chopped celery root, Yukon Gold potatoes, and enough vegetable stock to cover the whole she-bang. I simmered until the vegetables were tender, then drained them, reserving the liquid. I love the way raw celery root smells, but I love even more how its smell changes as it cooks. It goes from fresh and crisp to almost-floral and finishes sweet.

I scraped the vegetables through a tamis to make a purée and then put the purée into a medium saucepan. I added some cream and brought the mixture up to a simmer for about 10-12 minutes. I then whisked in the Fontina cheese and cooked in until it was melted. I passed the sauce through a strainer into a sauté pan, leaving a smooth, silky, creamy, delicious sauce which I kept warm over a low heat.

I already had a pot of salted water boiling, so I added the agnolotti to the water and cooked them for about 3-4 minutes. While they were cooking, I stirred some butter and a dash of white truffle oil into the sauce. I strained the agnolotti and put them in the sauce and tossed them around a bit until they were covered with sauce. Here's a shot of the final product:

Huh. I'm not sure that photo is all that appetizing, but this dish sure was. It was creamy and delicious, and really lovely. Sweet and salt played nicely together and the texture of it was just perfect. I took some around the neighborhood for folks to sample (we had a few parties people were setting up for, so I brought the food to them), and they loved it. It was a little rich, so I could only eat three or four of them. Still not as good as the sweet potato agnolotti, but it was very good... and really easy to do. It reminded me how much I miss eating chestnuts. I think the last time I had roasted chestnuts was in New York when I was enroute to the airport seven or eight years ago and made the cab driver stop so I could get a bag of roasted chestnuts to eat on the plane on the way home. I remember how it made the cab smell, and the security guys at the airport were totally drooling, too. This dish also made me wonder if that chestnut tree is still in the playground at my old elementary school. I bet not. But if it is, I think I need to go pick up some chestnuts when I go home for Thanksgiving and wing them at my brother... just for old times' sake.

Up Next: "Chips and Dip" -- Potato Chips with Truffle Dip


Chestnuts from Rodman's
Herbs, produce and Fontina cheese from Whole Foods
Crave Brothers mascarpone
365 organic butter
Saveurs white truffle oil

Music to Cook By: Sigue Sigue Sputnik; Flaunt It. This album came out my senior year of high school, and I listened to it through my freshman year of college. I found an old box of CDs in my attic the other day and I found this one, so I immediately loaded it onto iTunes. I think this was one of the very first CDs I ever bought -- back when CD players were $500 and CDs were $21.99 and came in those tall cardboard packages so that they could be displayed in the record store more efficiently. The beginning of "Atari Baby" cracks me up because there's all sorts of random German being thrown around, which I totally forgot about, so I listened to this while I made the agnolotti. Seemed fitting somehow, although I'm nöt qüite süre why.


sarahsouth said...

how decadent!

keep up the amazing work

Anonymous said...

i am a chestnut fanatic. so then you add pasta, white truffle oil and cheese to the mix? that sounds like heaven. that sounds just amazingly, wonderfully delicious. 3 or 4 would so do the trick especially when they're like 100 calories a piece... ok - maybe not. well maybe. i dunno. that's all so depressing and next week is a holiday week so we will now think happy thoughts. not fat thoughts. ok? ok...

Roberto N. said...

You can also make the agnolotti by placing the filling on top of a sheet of pasta, brush it with some egg, then placing a second pasta sheet on top. Press to make them stick then cut with a fluted pasta cutter.

Anonymous said...

Looks good... funny how stadnards change. When you started with this project, did you think you'd say "really easy to do" about this one? :)

Shoot it up, shoot it up, shoot it uuuuuppppp!

Janet said...

Good luck does come in 3's! I just bought a signed copy of The Book and have been drooling over it all weekend; the recipe on which I stopped was the chestnut agnolotti. I was curious about how, exactly, they are made and fortuitously saw a demonstration of the process on Iron Chef America (Batali vs. Besh). And now, my third bit of luck, finding your blog topped with the pasta about which my thoughts have centered over the past several days. Thank-you for blogging and contributing to my good fortune!

Anonymous said...

I've been following your posts here from good old Mt. Wolf. Just for the record, there is a chestnut tree, prickly pods and all, at the school here in town.

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious to me! Chestnuts, truffles, cheese -- how could you go wrong?! Yum...

LoveAppleFarm said...

Love fresh water chestnuts! I am trying to figure out a way to grow them for Manresa. I once bought a little wading pool to grow them in, but abandoned the idea when I came to my senses and realized it would be too much work. Oh well, one of these days I'll try it. Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog from Don Rockwell, and have now spent a couple hours unable to stop reading. Your Per Se story was heart warming in its glee. Last year I took my GF to Bouley for her birthday. Nine courses, the last 4 are sweets and I reached that same Joycean moment of not thinking I could go on, but being unable to stop, and understanding that I must go on.

Watching back episode of Molto Mario (to each his own culinary star) he had a special roller for the ravioli. While I'm sure the FL staff has some Django Rheinhardt-like man with only two good fingers that can cut pasta with alarming dexterity and exactness, I wonder if they also have a secret gadget to do it.

Marilyn said...

I wish you a happy and great Turkey Day!


Anonymous said...

I have the French Laundry cookbook sitting in my Amazon cart and as soon as I get this book I'm going to make either this or the sweet potato bacon agnolotti.

(It was sort of sentimental to see the reference to Rodman's. When I used to live in Bethesda my husband and I would stop at the one on Wisconsin Ave almost weekly.)