Ramp and Morel Pasta
If spring means the weather never does what the weather report says, this weekend definitely felt like it. I headed out for Cato Corner Farm's market stand on Saturday morning despite chances of rain, but it turned out to be a beautiful sun-filled morning. Typical spring.
Unpredictable things also happened in my kitchen. I meant to make an sakura eclair this weekend, but like always, a trip to the Union Square farmers market is bound to change my cooking plans. I guess the preserved sakura flowers in my fridge can wait another week. Anyway, E & I went down to the farmers market to pick up some herbs and flowers, only to be distracted by a ramps stall on our way out.
Ramp is a kind of wild onion and tastes like a mix between garlic and leek. The white part is quite pungent, and the green part like a stringier version of scallion. Ramps have been a coveted item in New York mostly because of its rarity. Their growing period is long and thus has a very short season. It's frequent appearance on seasonal menus in artisan restaurants around the city also bolster its popularity.
Ramps are great on its own, grilled over a high heat with copious amount of olive oil and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The high heat creates a beautiful char and enhances their natural sweetness. Personally, I wouldn't replace ramps for scallions in dishes like dumplings where they are mixed in with meat and other seasonings. If you manage to get your hands on some of this sought-after allium, it's worth adding them to eggs and pasta dishes, where their flavour can truly shine and become the star of the dish.
Some recipe notes:
- The pasta is adapted from a "pasta with no pasta maker" recipe on Cooks Illustrated. It is designed to have a higher egg content and the addition of oil prevents the development of gluten
- The dough is softer and more malleable than normal pasta dough, which makes it easier to roll out by hand
- The longer you rest the dough, the easier the dough will be to roll out
- The dough is wetter than normal pasta dough, so you may have to dust it with flour more often
For the morel ragout:
3oz dried morels
¼ lb ramps, leaves and bulbs separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ teaspoon caraway seed
½ - 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
salt & black pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan, to serve
For the pasta dough:
10 ounces OO flour
ramp leaves from ⅛ lb of ramps
3 large eggs, lightly mixed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Make the pasta dough. Get a huge pot of water boiling and add a handful of salt. Have a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. Once boiling, toss in the ramp leaves and stir around, cook for about 5 minutes or until wilted. Fish them out with tongs and immediately transfer to the ice water. Once they are cooled, slightly squeeze out the water and roughly chop into pieces. Put them in a blender and blitz with about 1/4 cup of the ice water. Ramp leaves can be stringy, so blitz the hell out of them until fully pureed. Set aside.
Pour the flour onto a marble work surface and sprinkle over the salt. With your fingers, slowly mix in the salt and make a well in the middle of the mound. In a small bowl, light whisk together the eggs, olive oil, and ramp paste, then slowly pour in the crater, making sure the liquid doesn't overflow. With small circular motion starting from the center, slowly incorporate flour with the egg mixture from the inside edge and work your way until all the flour is incorporated.
When a scraggly dough is formed, start working the dough with your hands. Knead the dough by pushing with the heel of your hand to spread it away from you, fold it in half, turn and push again. Repeat this until the dough feels very soft and smooth, 4-5 minutes. Shape the dough into a 6-inch cylinder and wrap with cling film. Let it rest and hydrate in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours.
Make and shape pasta. [The next steps are mostly taken from Cook's Illustrated] When the dough makes a dent that doesn't bounce back when you poke it with your finger, it's ready. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, working with one piece at a time, rewrapping the remaining while working on one.
Dust both sides of the dough with flour, then press the cut side down into a 3-inch square. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 6-inch square, then dust both sides again with flour. Roll the dough into 6 by 12 inches, rolling from the center of dough one way at a time, then dust it with flour. Continue rolling until the dough is 6 by 20 inches, lifting it frequently to release it from the counter. Transfer the dough sheets to a kitchen towel and air-dry for about 15 minutes.
Starting with the short end, gently fold the two ends of the dried sheet to meet at the center, then fold over like a book. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3/16-inch-thick noodles. Use your fingers to unfurl pasta, then transfer to a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Set aside.
Prepare the mushroom ragout. Reconstitute dried morels in boiling water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the water from the morels and allow to dry on a sheet of paper towel. Separate the ramp bulbs from the leaves. Chop the bulbs and slice the leaves in halves or thirds, depending on how large they are.
Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for the pasta. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and pour over a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the chopped ramp bulbs and morels until the morels begin to release their water, 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and sprinkle some salt and caraway seeds over. When the morels have released most of their liquid, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and stir to combine. Saute the morels and ramp bulbs until they begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Deglaze with white wine and and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half.
Your water should be boiling by now. Dump pasta in the water and loosen with a pair of thongs. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente. Meanwhile, add the ramp leaves to the saute pan and cook them for a couple minutes, or until they are just wilted. Fish out the cooked pasta and immediately transfer into the saute pan, adding the mushroom soaking liquid and tossing with the thongs in circular motion. Season with salt and pepper, and continue tossing and cooking until combined. Serve at once with grated parmesan.