The Blog

Cooking Off the Cuff: Pecans Updated

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using a salty-sweet pecan mixture to garnish slightly smoky, slowly cooked winter squash. The combination of flavors and textures was so unexpected and delicious that I thought it would carry over into other squash dishes, specifically ravioli and suchlike stuffed pasta. I suggested substituting the pecan mixture for crushed amaretti in the filling or sprinkling it on top of the ravioli.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using a salty-sweet pecan mixture to garnish slightly smoky, slowly cooked winter squash. The combination of flavors and textures was so unexpected and delicious that I thought it would carry over into other squash dishes, specifically ravioli and suchlike stuffed pasta. I suggested substituting the pecan mixture for crushed amaretti in the filling or sprinkling it on top of the ravioli.

On reflection, I worked out if added to the filling it would lose its character, so I used it as a topping instead of grated cheese. This was so good that it merited a "Cooking Off the Cuff" update.

I'll start with the ravioli filling. There was to be no cheese on top, so it needed to be within (not that you couldn't do a vegan version): I cut half a smallish winter squash into 1-inch (2.5 cm) rings, skin and all (a kabocha, as the variety is called in the USA, but any favorite breed will work), tossed it with salt, pepper and olive oil, and roasted it at 375º F (190º C) for about 40 minutes, or until tender and somewhat caramelized. I turned the pieces after 20 minutes. When it had cooled a bit, I peeled it and pureed it in the food processor with a minced shallot which I'd sweated in olive oil, a few fresh sage leaves and a generous third of a cup (say, 85 or 90 ml by volume) grated parmesan. After checking for seasoning, I scooped it into a piping bag and refrigerated it.

I used this puree to make plump little ravioli/agnolotti. Make any shape you like, using a rich pasta dough containing just flour and egg yolks -- plus a little egg white if needed. For my favorite wrap, see this video, or just cut little squares and fold them over a blob of filling. I made mine a few hours in advance and froze them on a tray; this prevented the moisture in the filling from compromising the dough.

At dinner time, I cooked them in gently boiling salted water; they took around five minutes straight from the freezer. I tossed them in a skillet with butter and a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water, then topped each portion with plenty of the pecan mixture (which is described in the post from two weeks ago); at Jackie's urging, I brought extra topping to the table. Because it is so good.

* * *

On another pecan note, in November/December we had pecan pie a couple of times (I think the best recipe is from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Pastry, though I use a mixture of cane and maple syrups instead of corn syrup). Because of our preference for a shallow pie, there's always leftover egg-butter-syrup filling; likewise, there are always pastry trimmings that I roll together and freeze. I wondered how the filling would keep in the fridge, and it turns out that it keeps perfectly: the overage from two nine-inch (23-cm) pies was enough for a single small tart six inches (15 cm) in diameter, and it tasted just as good as the original pies. So don't discard any leftover filling: it'll keep in the refrigerator for a good week.

Pecans Updated