My mother likes the words "Over Programed." A lot. And applying them to me. This is usually due to some insane project I've decided to undertake where I forgo all shortcuts, forsake the premade, and insist on everything being "original" and "from scratch". Personally, I prefer the term Ambitious.
My ambitiousness this past weekend came in the form of trying to kill two birds with one stone. One of my oldest friends was having her baby shower this weekend, so I was Pennsylvania bound. In order to avoid having to go there two weekends in a row, we decided to do Mother's Day last weekend as well. Will and I planned to throw a little dinner party for both moms, invite my Aunt and Uncle, and dazzle all with the cooking and mixology skills that we had been so rude as to move away with. A dinner party, not so bad right? People have them all the time. Except I was going to do it in my mother's kitchen instead of my own. On the same day as the shower. On the same evening as the Kentucky Derby. And we weren't getting into town until 7 p.m. the night before. Guess how many minutes I was in town before my mother and I started arguing over the intricate difference between her terminology and my own?
I wasn't Over Programed really. I was Perfectly Programed, down to the minute, as long as Will and I got out of bed at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday. He was not pleased, but was a good sport and after a cup of coffee he threw himself into it. We spent the morning picking up baby gifts, selecting vegetables, meats, and seafood. We piled back into my mother's house, I wrote up a list of all the things that needed chopping while I was at the shower and made a schedule of when each dish should be prepared. See? NOT Over Programed. Perfectly Programed. And Ambitious.
For my appetizer I was making my favorite Scallops with Asparagus, an impressive but not too challenging spring dish. That was going to require the most prep work from me, but would be easy to pull off while the parentals watched the ponies in the living room. The biggest challenge to a dinner party is to be able to enjoy the first course with your guests, but not to have the second course come out cold. On this very ambitious day, however, I had one Ace up my sleeve. Most of the dinner was already prepared. Three days before I had stood in my tiny kitchen in Queens, rolling out sheet after sheet of from-scratch-pasta, trimming and stuffing them. I then froze them, and toted them south in a cold bag. The sauce was made just before the guests arrived, so all I had to do was boil the ravioli and warm the sauce! Every bit of the dinner came from scratch ingredients and time consuming hand crafting, but I was able to breeze into the kitchen and come back with dinner with just a five minute lull between courses! Suck it Martha Stewart, I had this thing nailed.
Goat Cheese Arugala Ravioli with Tomato-Pancetta Butter
Adapted from Bon Appetit
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 large shallots, minced
-8 oz arugula, roughly chopped
-6 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
-2 pounds of pasta dough, rolled into 3" wide sheets
-2 large egg whites, whisked just until foamy
-6 oz sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
-1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
-6 large plum tomatoes, seeds and membranes discarded, tomatoes diced
-1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; saute 10 minutes. Add arugula; toss until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Transfer arugula mixture to a large bowl and cool. Mix in goat cheese and Parmesan cheese. Season filling with salt and pepper.
Take a sheet of pasta sheet, spoon 1 generous teaspoon 1 and 1/2 inches apart on the sheet, about 1/2 an inch from the edge of the sheet. Brush a little egg white around each dollop, and fold the sheet over, pressing the pasta together firmly to seal. Cut into individual ravioli with a pizza cutter or pastry wheel. (If making ahead of time, arrange ravioli on a cookie sheet and freeze. Then place in plastic freezer bag for up to 1 week. If pasta is still somewhat moist, let dry on drying rack before freezing, or they will freeze to the cookie sheet.)
Make Tomato-Pancetta Butter:
Cook chopped pancetta in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towel; drain. Set aside. Pour off all but 1 tbsp drippings from skillet. Add butter to drippings in skillet; melt over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and thyme; saute until tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Cook ravioli in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, 4 minutes if fresh or 5 if frozen. Drain. Rewarm tomato butter over medium heat. Add reserved pancetta, saute 1 minute. Spoon sauce over ravioli; garnish with thyme.
The mothers seemed to think it went pretty well. As the candles burned down and we whisked away dishes, I overheard the group discussing next year's party. That is the curse of the ambitious--you pull it off, and suddenly you have an annual event on your hands...