2018 - The Year of Pasta

James and I had purchased the Flour + Water: Pasta cookbook by Thomas McNaughton a number of years ago. Somehow I think we thought it was about making bread which is something that we would occasionally do at home. As you can obviously see this book is about making pasta. At the time we did not own a pasta machine so this book sat on the shelf for awhile. 

 
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One afternoon a couple weeks before Easter I was on the treadmill at the gym and the Chew was on the TV. I find that there is something therapeutic about watching a cooking show while working out. Anyways, Michael Symon was making this bacon and egg yolk ravioli. And I thought to myself, we need to make this for Easter dinner. James is always trying to think about how we can have a holiday dinner and not eat the same food that everyone has come to expect. So I was thinking bacon = ham = Easter. And since we had planned on hosting my family this would be a fun activity for everyone to enjoy since none of us had ever made  pasta at home before. 

 
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For our Easter ravioli we combined the filling recipe from Michael Symon with the dough recipe from Thomas McNaughton. Both of them are posted below. During this process we learned a couple things that I thought we would share with you. 

  1. We picked a very complicated ravioli to make for our first try. While we think it was successful, it probably could have been a little easier.

  2. Make sure you do the math and have enough eggs. We planned on making a double recipe and it called for over 30 eggs.

  3. When making a double recipe it might be easier to make the dough in two individual batches. We tried to make it all at once at it was a lot of wet ingredients to mix into the flour well for a couple beginners.

  4. We made these ahead of time and kept them in the fridge covered in plastic wrap. The parts of the dough that was over the egg became very moist and some of them stuck to the plastic. It would have been helpful to give them an extra dusting of flour or make cover them with a towel might have helped.

  5. Make sure everyone is helping and have champagne on hand!

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Rav Dough Recipe from Flour + Water

Makes 19.6 ounces of dough

  • 2 well-packed cups 00 flour, unsifted

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup whole eggs (about 2 large)

  • 1/3 cup egg yolks (5 to 6 yolks)

  • 11/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Place the flour on a dry, clean work surface, forming a mound about 8 to 10 inches in diameter at its base. Sprinkle the salt in the middle. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, create a well 4 to 5 inches wide, leaving 1/2 inch of flour at the bottom.

2. Slowly and carefully add eggs, yolks and oil into the well, treating the flour as a bowl. Using a fork, gently beat eggs without touching the flour “walls” or scraping through the bottom. Still stirring, slowly incorporate flour “walls” into the egg mixture, gradually working your way toward the outer edges but disturbing the base as little as possible. Once the dough starts to take on a thickened, pastelike quality (a slurry), slowly incorporate the flour from the bottom.

3. When the slurry starts to move as a solid mass, slide a spatula under dough; flip it and turn it onto itself to clear any wet dough from the work surface. With your hands, start folding and forming the dough into a single mass. Use a spray bottle to generously and constantly spritz the dough with water to help glue any loose flour to the dry dough ball. When dough forms a stiff, solid mass, scrape away any dried flour from the work surface.

4. Knead the dough: Drive the heel of your dominant hand into the dough. Push down and release, then use your other hand to pick up and rotate the dough on itself 45 degrees. Repeat for 10 to 15 minutes. This is how Italian grandmas get their fat wrists. When the dough is ready, it will be firm but bouncy to the touch and have a smooth, silky surface, almost like Play-Doh. Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap.

5. If you plan to use the dough immediately, let it rest at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for at least 30 minutes. (If resting for more than 6 hours, refrigerate it. Bring to room temperature before rolling. It’s best to use fresh dough within 24 hours.)

6. Rolling out pasta by machine — whether it’s a hand-crank model or an electric one — should be a delicate, almost Zen-like art. Slice off a section of dough, immediately rewrapping the unused portion in plastic wrap. Place dough on work surface and, with a rolling pin, flatten it enough to fit the widest setting of the machine. Roll dough through that setting, guiding it quickly through the slot once. Decrease thickness setting by one and repeat. Decrease and roll once more. It should have doubled in length.

7. Measure the width of your pasta machine’s slot, minus the thickness of two fingers. Make a gentle indentation at the end of the pasta sheet to represent that length. Make that mark the crease and fold the pasta over. Repeat for the rest of the pasta sheet, keeping that same initial measurement. For best results, you want a minimum of four layers. Use a rolling pin to roll it flat enough to fit in the machine. Put the dough back in the machine but with a 90 degree turn, so what was the “bottom” edge of the pasta is now going through the machine first.

8. This time around, roll out the dough two to three times on each setting at a steady, smooth pace, keeping the dough taut and flat. Move on to the next level when the dough slips through without any trouble.

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Bacon and Egg Ravioli

FILLING:

  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta

  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

RAVIOLI:

  • 4 egg yolks

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 cup pancetta

  • 1/4 cup pasta water (reserved)

  • freshly grated parmesan (to serve)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1. For the Filling: Make the filling up to a day ahead of time.

2. Add the ricotta, parmesan, and nutmeg to a medium bowl, and stir to combine. Add filling to a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Cut the pasta dough into two pieces. Take one piece of dough, keeping the other covered, and flatten it with hands. If the dough feels dry, dampen the surface with a few drops of water using fingers or a pastry brush. Using a pasta roller or attachment for stand mixer, pass the dough through the widest setting five or six times or until the dough becomes pliable. Repeat the process with the other piece of dough. Continue passing the dough through the pasta machine, reducing the setting with each pass until the dough has reached desired thickness.

4. Lay out the pasta sheets and cut 5-inch rounds. Keep the rounds covered while working with 2-3 at a time. Remove prepared ricotta filling from the refrigerator and pipe filling on one round 3-4 inches in diameter and make an indent in the center to form a nest. Gently place 1 egg in the center of the cheese, then spray the edges around the filling with water. Place another round of pasta dough on top of filling and pinch around to seal, pushing out any excess air. Using a 3 1/2-inch cutter, cut ravioli again, creating a perfect round. Repeat with the remaining pasta rounds and filling, placing the finished ravioli on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil, and add the ravioli. Cook until the ravioli are translucent and soft and float to the top, about 3 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and add olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until you render out the fat and the pancetta is crispy, about 6 minutes. Lower to medium heat and add pasta water and lots of black pepper. Remove pan from heat and stir in the Parmesan, then gently add the ravioli along with a drizzle of olive oil.

7.Serve ravioli with some pan sauce and Parmesan on top.

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Before and After

Our first blog post comes more than a year after we bought Farrand Hall. I don't think Jacob and I ever had a single minute to even think of writing a blog, let alone what we would even want a blog to be for us. But now that the house is in a good place we have started talking about this and what we want to share with people who are interested in Farrand Hall and what we have planned for this historic property. 

For our first post we thought it apropos to just keep it simple and talk about how we stumbled upon this house and why it spoke to us. And of course we are going to show you some before and after photos!

When we started talking about our dream of owning a little property in the country it wasn't with grand ideas of a large historic house. On the contrary. We wanted something quaint and farmy with a few acres to have some gardens and enjoy a little r&r away from the fast paced Chicago life. Jacob would research properties on the internet and send me listing almost daily. Nothing really spoke to us to make us drive out to see anything. Then one October day he sent me the listing for Farrand Hall. It was big and the pictures were terrible and it just looked like a big old house ready to fall over. And not to mention not really in the budget. But Jacob loves architecture and old house and so this is where it all begins.

We didn't really think too much about the house for a while after that, but I am certain that Jacob kept that listing bookmarked and looked at it daily. One day in late November he called me from the expressway saying that he just felt like we needed to see it in person. I agreed thinking this would be fun day trip into Michigan regardless of what condition the house was really in. He called the agent and set up an appointment and on December 15th we drove two and half hours to Colon, Michigan to see a house that was 163 years old and on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was cold and snowy and as we turned down the windy country Findlay Rd a sudden blizzard hit. I don't think we were driving more than 10 miles an hour and all I could think was oh brother what are we doing! The road turned to Farrand Rd and we finished the drive to the house. There it stood, covered in snow, in the grey and gloom. The white paint had greyed and was chipping everywhere. Parts of the facade had been fixed but never painted and the wood was silver and nearly falling off the house. There were holes all over letting squirrels, raccoons, mice, birds and bats into the house. I felt a bit of disappointment and have to admit that there was a bit of hope that we saw it in person it would be in better shape than the photos had let on. I was wrong. It was pretty bad. 

The house was winterized at that point. No one had been living in it for more than year. There was no heat and no running water. It was freezing! And I am sure the agent, Laura, thought we were just another couple people wanting to see an old house with no intention of really buying it. It was hard to imagine what the house could be at that time. No one had pictures of what the grounds looked like in the Summer. All we really knew at that point was that this house would need a lot of TLC and was certainly not what we had been looking for when we started.

We did talk a lot about it, but I don't think either of us thought this was a decision we were ready to make. A few weeks passed and we got a call from the Laura, the agent, telling us that they thought a cash offer was going to come through on the house and wanted to gage our interest. So with a sense of potential regret we made an appointment to go out and see it again on January 15th. And just like the first time Findlay Rd gave us a blizzard.

When we pulled up the driveway there was indeed a sense of familiarity already. Probably because we had spent so much time looking at the pictures online. Nothing was different though. Still winterized, still a big mess, still a very big project that would take time, money, and a real vision for bringing it back to life. Laura met us again and graciously walked us through the freezing house. This time we looked at every detail. Opened every door. Checked floors, moldings, windows, walls, every detail. I think what we needed was evidence that this place had something special buried underneath years of neglect. And after the second trip I think we saw Farrand Hall in a very different light.

We drove away talking about what the property could be. Not just a weekend or Summer getaway for us and our friends. This house was a much bigger project and represented something special for the community of Colon, Michigan. This history was powerful and the house was one that everyone in the area knew. The stories went back over 165 years when Henry K. Farrand settled in the area. But was this something that we thought we could really undertake?

You know the answer already and so we made an offer. And on May 1st, 2017 the house was ours. We will share more of the last year of the renovations and design in future posts. But for now we will just leave this here with a before and after picture.