Last night we trekked up to the North Country to make dinnner at the charming house of the Cowgirls from the Creamery -- a Northern Italian extravaganza that stretched from about 4:30 in the afternoon to past midnight.
We are so entirely spoiled in the Bay Area, where people make crazy, extravagant meals in their 5-foot efficiency kitchenettes, but everyone is a great cook, and your next door neighbors are wine aficionados. The best part is eating with people who just love food. No gluten-free, sugar-free, low-sodium, lactose-intolerant, "Oh-I'm allergic to anchovies...," types in this group.
Pancetta? Sure, throw it in.
Garlic? Love it.
More cheese? Hand it over.
Among the guests, our wine stewards Ms. Five-and-a Half and Mr. Thirteen brought some lovely classic Pinot Noir and Champagne from Domaine Carneros. Also trekking up from SF with us were Ms. Goat-Envy and her partner Ms. Jet-Set, who made the gorgeous Sweet Grape and Rosemary Calzones seen here (before I could even get the camera out, half of them were gone), as well as the polenta squares with rabe and pancetta and some EXTRAORDINARILY yummy Marsala ice cream.
Our hosts -- besides allowing us to destroy their gorgeous kitchen, made some beautiful broccoli and crispy potatoes, but also brought *begin heavenly choir* the Cheese *end heavenly choir*.
Here's the menu, which we titled after Italo Calvino's novel:
"If on a winter's night a traveler"
Shepherd’s Way Friesago (sheep)
Little Sweet Grape & Rosemary Calzones
Chestnut Agnolotti with Fontina & Celery Root Purée
Secondo e contorni
Osso Buco alla Milanese
Braised Rapini & Crispy Potatoes
Carchiola with Sautéed Broccoli Rabe & Pancetta
Endive with Lemon-Braised Fennel & Gorgonzola Dolce
Marsala Ice Cream
Chèvre de St. Vrain (goat)
Willem Family’s Coolea (cow)
Jasper Hill Dairy’s Bayley Hazen Blue
The cheeses especially were intriguing. I had never even heard of some of them, but apparently the nutty Friesago (from Minnesota's Shepherd's Way Farms) is a rather new entrant in American cheese. Although it was hard, it also had buttery creamy textures and a delicious, clean sheep-iness. (The Shepherd's Way people suffered a tragic fire a year ago that devastated their flock -- so support them, buy their cheese!) The Coolea, made by the Dutch Willems family in Ireland, was rich and deep. Actually, the Coolea, St. Vrain (a salty French goat cheese) and Jasper Hill Farm's creamy Bayley Hazen Blue made a lovely little triumvirate .
The agnolotti recipe comes courtesy of Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook, which already tells you that it's a two day process. Here we are beginning on Friday....
with Fontina & Celery Root Purée
For the chestnut filling
1 cup roasted fresh or vacuum-packed unsweetened chestnuts
2 bay leaves
½ cup vegetable stock
½ cup water
¼ cup mascarpone
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. white truffle oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
For the pasta dough
1 ¾ cups AP flour (8 oz.) 6 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 ½ tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp milk
For the sauce
½ cup sliced onions
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic
1 ½ tsp. unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup peeled quartered and sliced celery root
½ cup peeled quartered and sliced Yukon Gold potato
2-3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup lightly packed shredded creamy Italian Fontina (2.5 oz.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ cup Beurre Monté
1 tsp white truffle oil
Purée the chestnuts in a food processor. With the motor running, pour in enough of the reserved liquid through the feed tube to form a thick purée.
Scrape the puree through a tamis and place it in a bowl. Mix in the mascarpone, butter and white truffle oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You should have 1 to 1 ¼ cups of filling (enough for 48 agnolotti). Cover and refrigerate the filling until cold or for up to 2 days before using.
For the pasta dough, mound the flour on a board and create a well in the center, pushing the flour to all sides to make a ring. Pour the egg yolks, egg, olive oil and milk into the well. Use your fingers to break the eggs up and begin turning the eggs in a circular motion, keeping them in the well. You don’t want the flour to be incorporated too quickly or it will be lumpy. Push the flour toward the eggs as you continue.
Knead and press the dough till it is moist but not sticky, then let it rest a few minutes. Dust the work surface with a little more flour, then knead the dough until it becomes silky smooth. It’s ready when you can pull your finger through it and the dough wants to snap back into place. You cannot overknead this dough, so go longer rather than shorter on kneading times. Double wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest 30 minutes or up to 1 hour before rolling through a pasta machine. It can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temp before using.
Cut the dough in half and roll out a portion using a pasta machine. This dough should be thin enough to see your fingers through it, but not translucent. Form the agnolotti to preference and cover with plastic.
Cook agnolotti 4-5 minutes in lightly salted boiling water. Meanwhile, add the Beurre Monté and truffle oil to the sauce.
Arrange agnolotti on plates, spoon sauce around.
On the pictures above I'd like to draw your attention to the difference between our stove -- where the chestnuts are cooking -- and their stove -- on which the sauces and fennel are happily simmering. We like to use other people's kitchens. They have fun toys.
Their stove: 17,500 BTUs.
Our stove: 17 BTUs
The ever vigilant Tater Tot inquires, "Care to drop anything else on the floor?"
"Weren't you going to put that bone in your lap right here beside the napkin?"
Miscellaneous links for the evening:
The Cowgirl Cheese Library
Kashrut-Jewish Dietary Law
Dancing with the Stars
"She was on his head..." (Click on "Scene from Swan Lake")