Thursday, June 5, 2008

Fava Bean Agnolotti with Curry Emulsion

This is the last of the four agnolotti dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook. If you've been a long-time reader of this blog, then you know that in my first three attempts, the agnolotti looked like:

a) ravioli
b) even sadder-looking ravioli
c) oh crap, this is embarrassing

Is it killing you to not scroll down and see what this final agnolotti of mine looked like? Fine, go ahead if you must, but be warned: I will not reimburse you for any medical bills related to pasta-traumatic stress disorder when you look at them. I know a good lawyer who will protect me from all you crazy agnolotti defenders.

But let's not dwell on all things agnolotti right now. Let's talk about the rest of the dish. With all due respect to the ladies of the night, I am a whore for curry. I just love the stuff. I put curry powder in scrambled eggs, creamed spinach, stir-fry dishes, chicken salad, on steamed fish... I think next to tarragon, it's my second-favorite seasoning. I love the scent, the taste, the color, the slight bit of heat and smoke, the way it changes and is augmented by other seasonings and flavors... it's just one of my favorite things in the whole world.

Curry is calming, but not boring. It's familiar, yet still slightly exotic. It adds such a different dimension to even the most ordinary food (a.k.a. chicken), and it almost makes you feel as if you did, perhaps, Wang Chung tonight. It's always always always the thing I want to taste when I really need to unplug from work and take the night off to enjoy the comforts of home. So, I was super-psyched to be able to make this dish during a week that I've been swamped and deluged with work.

I used to get my curry powder from Adriana's Caravan when Rochelle Zabarkes had her stand in New York's Grand Central Station, but I was fresh out of that and had forgotten to order more online, so I tapped into my reserve powder from Penzey's. It's not as good as my usual stuff, but I knew it wouldn't disappoint in the flavor department.

As for the fava beans, I expected to find some at the farmers' market, but alas, no one had any. So, I drove to Balducci's where I also found the very last of the season's ramps. Bonus.

Let's get started.

The first thing I did was make the agnolotti filling. I shelled and peeled the fava beans, yielding just over a cup when all was said and done:

I blanched them in a big pot of salted water for about 4-5 minutes. I drained them and put them in an ice bath. While all that was going on, I cut a few slices of my amazing brioche, removed the crusts and made bread crumbs out of them:

By this point, the beans had cooled, so I drained them and spread them out on a pile of paper towels to further dry. Then, I added them to the food processor with the bread crumbs. I blended them together until they formed a ball (that also looked like a scoop of really green ice cream).

Then, I added some mascarpone (yum!) and a little salt. It was a lovely, smooth purée, but I have to admit I was a little put off because it smelled slightly like feet, and that scared me.

I put the finished filling into the refrigerator to cool and got started on the ramps:

I removed the leaves and stem and blanched the bulb part in a pot of salty water, ice-bathed them, then set them aside while I got to work on the pasta dough. You can see the pasta-making process here. I rolled out two thin strips, piped the filling, and tried to fold the suckers over like I was supposed to, but it just wasn't working. Not even close. So, I ended up with what might be the saddest, most pathetic agnolotti ever:

I think I need to go to agnolotti school NOW. Perhaps I can find an agnolotti summer camp to attend. Yipes. Those are sad.

I put them in the freezer while I got a pot of water to boil and also made the curry emulsion. This was the moment I'd been waiting for, and it quickly washed away all my pathetic feelings of pasta-making inadequacy.

Here's the mise en place:

I toasted the curry powder in a small pot for a minute, then added the chopped scallions and heated those for another minute or so.

Then, I added some chicken stock, cream and crème fraîche:

I brought it to a simmer, then let it reduce until there was only about a half-cup of liquid left. I then added all the butter, a tablespoon at a time. I poured that mixture into a blender, blended it for about 30 seconds and poured it through a fine-mesh strainer into a skillet where I kept it warm:

I tossed the blanched ramps in there to rewarm them, and boiled the agnolotti for about 3-4 minutes. Hey -- I think "blanched ramps" would make a great name of a band's debut album. Perhaps the great up-and-coming German heavy metal combo, Pig Feet Meat, could release Blanched Ramps featuring a single called "Ägnölöttï öf Dëth" Seriously, why am I not running my own record label, folks? Excuse me while I call Clive Davis and get right on that.

I drained the agnolotti and tossed them into the curry emulsion and mixed everything around so it was all coated in that glorious sauce. Here's the final plating:

Oh, how I wish you had Smell-o-Vision. This was exquisite. Now, I will say that I thought the pasta was slightly undercooked and a wee bit too al dente (totally my fault)... however, the dish was a hit nonetheless. The fava bean filling was fantastic -- so smooth and creamy, and didn't smell like feet at all anymore. The sauce was great, and the ramps added a nice crunchy textural element to the dish.

I'd totally make this again. It was really easy, and was hearty and solid without feeling like you'd just eaten a ton of pasta. Trust me, this would be a great dish for a dinner party if you wanted to impress your friends. I'm just sayin'... don't forget to invite me, yo, now that I'm a major recording industry executive in the making.

If you haven't tried anything from this book yet but you feel intimidated about trying this whole dish, go ahead and try the curry emulsion on its own. Drizzle it over your scrambled eggs in the morning, and then call me to tell me how awesome I am for making that suggestion.

Auditions for back-up dancers in the "Ägnölöttï öf Dëth" video will be announced soon. Bonus points for dressing like a hoochie fava bean.

Up Next: Q&A with Michael Ruhlman (who, I'm sure, is thrilled to have his name printed so closely to the words "hoochie fava bean")

Fava beans and ramps from Balducci's
Chives and scallions from Whole Foods
Crave Brothers mascarpone
King Arthur flour
Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm
Curry powder from Penzey's
Organic Valley heavy cream
Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. crème fraîche
365 unsalted butter

Music to Cook By: My Morning Jacket; Okonos. I sort of feel like a hipster-poseur-douchebag for liking this band, but I DON'T CARE. I like this album. It's comforting, and I'm not sure why. They remind me of an album or a band from my teenage years, but I can't quite put my finger on which one it was. There's just something about their sound that I like and that is relaxing and easy to have on in the background.

Read My Previous Post: French Laundry at Home Extra -- Brioche


Anonymous said...


if you want to see the perfect Keller version look here (if you have not already seen the clip):

At 6:20.

Anonymous said...

"Q&A with Michael Ruhlman (who, I'm sure, is thrilled to have his name printed so closely to the words "hoochie fava bean")"

First time commenting, but this made me laugh so hard I spit water on my keyboard and monitor! I love curry as well and this sounds fantstic.

Anonymous said...

That looks intensly delicious. Perfect for spring.

Beanie said...

I have to find a reason to use the phrase "Hoochie Fava Bean" later today. Maybe in my budget meeting, eh?

This looks freakin fantastic! I'm trying it!

Anonymous said...

How about Hoochie Mama Fava Bean! I love this recipe...thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Chicka-Dee, I'm right there with you on the curry thing. WANT. NEED. CURRY. NOW.

Ahem, where was I?

Oh yes, this looks *amazing*. And I have a suspicision that I might be on the receiving end of a KitchenAid mixer (with pasta attachment) in the very near future. It's my birthday. And after 6 months of nonstop hints, I think my boyfriend has caught on. So, I think I will try this.

Thanks for inspiring me! Looks delicious! Did you have a glass of Chianti? Sorry, couldn't resist!

Anonymous said...

My cohorts at work always wonder why I'm giggling during lunch. It's not my food, I assure you. I'm reading your blog. But a word of warning--Diet Coke and FrenchLaundryatHome do not mix--goes right up the nose.

amber said...

okay, really, they don't look that bad. and if they taste great, then really who cares what they look like ;)

Victoria said...

Is this a bonehead question? Can you use lima beans instead? I can hardly ever find fava beans in NYC. Hard to believe but true.

Unknown said...

Considering I still don't know what agnolotti are supposed to look like since I think the entry for it on Wikipedia are one of your past attempts, I think they look fine!

Anonymous said...

Your agnolotti look absolutely delightful. Nice and plump and a decent size, too. I'm a huge fan of curry myself and tend to add it to a lot of things. Have you tried curry tuna fish? Remove tuna from can, add mayo (must be Hellmans/Best Foods). Cut up a granny smith and a macintosh apple into a small dice and add to tuna. Add golden raisins and then add curry powder to taste. Make yourself a sandwich on a good sisel rye. To die for!

Anonymous said...

I too have never seen agnolotti, and I thought they looked great. Love curry and will take your suggestion, since you insist.

Carol Blymire said...

Victoria: I'm sure you could use lima beans instead of favas, but the taste would be different, and I think a little more bland. If you can get your hands on some canned or frozen favas, try that. Of course, I am a major lima bean hater, so perhaps my bias is showing through a bit. :) Favas are in season RIGHT NOW, so maybe googling which farmers' market has them might help. I can't believe that no one at Union Square has them.

Margalit: Oh, yum.

Anonymous said...

I think your agnolotti look pretty darn good!

And, Al, thanks for telling us about the video. Everything looked pretty darn good! Whets my appetite even more to experience FL for myself. Some day....

An Attendant Cook said...

Of the four in the cookbook, these are my second favorite (after the bacon and sweet potato ones, of course) and I was waiting eagerly for fava beans to show up in our local market so I could make some. I've
gotta go back and make a few more batches to freeze!

They look great and I could almost smell the curry emulsion!

Also, your comments over at Ruhlman about deal breakers are great.

Mz. Bungle said...

The older the my morning jacket the better.

Anonymous said...

They look great...the only thing that is causing them to look less like a cookbook picture is too much filling. Go a little lighter on that and perfecto...

Robert said...

Yes. Please don't feel like you need to apologize for the My Morning Jacket. They are PERFECT for cooking to!

Anonymous said...

I think we carry the same agnolotti-making gene, but I've tried the FL fava bean filling and agreed, it's terrific.

Charlotte said...

My favas are only 3 inches high -- because our season is so short, last year I had favas and tomatoes at the same time! Weird but true. Also, shelling fava beans is a fabulous activity to keep toddlers busy -- they love the odd spongy texture of the inside of the pods.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Carol. I had agnolotti demonstrated to me at a class by Portland, OR chef Daniel Mondok - who cooked at the French Laundry, and he made it look so easy! I stood literally across the counter from him and watched every step so carefully, all the while thinking, what's so hard about this, I can soooo make those little pasta pillows! Mmm, huh uh. Not even close. I feel your pain.

Anonymous said...

here's a video of how the executive chef at per se shapes agnolotti: