Christey and I met when I was living in Treasure Island, Florida, a suburb of St Petersburg. A block away from my house was one of our favorite restaurants, Karim’s Bistro, a Moroccan/Mediterranean place located in one of the gaudiest hotels on the beach. Karim has since opened his own stand-alone restaurant a short walk away, The Pearl.
One of Karim’s signature dishes was a lobster ravioli in a champagne cream sauce. There are a bunch of other restaurants that have a lobster ravioli, it’s not an original concept, but Karim’s was my favorite.
My birthday was last month, and I got a pasta machine, something on my to-buy list for a while. So, for my inaugural pasta event, I decided to try to reproduce (as much as I could), my favorite version of lobster ravioli.
I have to admit, I haven’t made pasta since I was a pre-teen, helping my grandmother. I also make no secret of the fact that I’m not much of a baker. Pasta is sorta a mix between savory cooking and baking, in my opinion. There’s a precision that isn’t as pronounced with cooking. I could go on about the nuances, but I’ll just cut to the chase and say: the ravioli is definitely something to make ahead. Starting this recipe at 7:30 on a Friday night means a long, involved cooking epic in which dinner may not hit the table until 10.
But it was so very worth it.
Here we go. I used Tyler Florence’s pasta recipe (check the FoodTV website). 2 cups flour, a teaspoon of salt. I started mixing, and added 3 eggs, one at a time, and let each be incorporated fully. Then, I added a tablespoon of olive oil.
Yeah, I could have mounded everything up and made a bowl, and added the eggs…but there’s that whole baking thing again, and I took a shortcut. It was bad enough that I had to kneed for 10 minutes.
That last picture is a tip I got from one of Alton Brown’s shows — the front-lighting in picture makes it a little hard to see, but if you stretch a bit of dough (like a little pizza) and it’s semi-transparent on the inside, then the glutens are happy and you can stop kneading. If the center breaks before you can sorta kinda see through it, then keep kneading.
The dough rests for 30 minutes or so, with a bit of olive oil spread on the surface of the dough to keep it from drying out.
Meanwhile, I started the ravioli filling. I fine-diced half a shallot, then chopped some criminis (baby portabellas). I also had my lobster claw meat (already boiled and shelled), left over from the lobster tail meal from the day before.
I heated a pan and threw in a couple tablespoons of butter until melted and bubbly. I threw in the shallots until translucent, the mushrooms until a little soft, then the lobster claw meat. I sautéed until the lobster was hot — not quite seared, but definitely feeling the butter.
The mixture is then tossed on the chopping board, minced, then put in a bowl.
I added a chunk of parmesan reggiano, and 1/4 cup ricotta, and mixed.
Next, was the sauce. I rough-chopped the other half shallot, sliced a carrot thinly, and sautéed in hot butter.
Once the shallots were translucent and the carrots were soft, I added a tablespoon of tomato purée while the vegetables were still sizzling. The tomato will caramelize a bit, a term the French call pince. It gets just a little brown, and the smell changes from concentrated tomato to a very sweet and complex aroma.
When the tomato is pince, I added a cup of lobster stock (made with lobster bodies a month or two back — chicken or shrimp stock would work, too), and a half-cup of sparkling wine.
This is left on a slow simmer to reduce to about 1/3rd it’s original volume. Later, I’ll add roux and cream, which will make it basically a lobster sauce suprême with added tomato, so maybe a lobster sauce suprême aurore… but I’m not going to go into Escoffier nuances again
So, pasta time, which ended up almost being my undoing. The dough had rested, and I followed the instructions, feeding the dough through the machine, flouring, folding in half, moving down the numbers from the widest setting (7) to the lowest (1).
It took a while, but I got a nice sheet of semi-transparent, very thin dough. I spooned a few ravioli centers, washed the outside with egg-wash, covered with the other half of the dough, pressed out the air, and cut into rounds (with an espresso cup).
That was the first five ravioli. The next batches of dough fought me tooth and nail. The dough tore, fell apart, bunched up, stuck together, and generally behaved in an unsocial manner. After acquiring a healthy mountain of discarded dough, and covered with flour, I finally got into a groove. A bit of flour between runs, not too much, not too little. Cutting off the excess so the dough doesn’t get unwieldy. Recognizing when the dough is overworked and just deciding to punt, instead of trying to smooth it out and hope it gets better. I started to get it, and feel what the dough was doing. But, it took me a good hour to get to that point. I don’t know why the first five ravioli were pretty decent, but two more batches of roll, fill, cover, cut took me maybe 90 minutes to get the next eight or so complete.
But! I finally did it.
At this point, the sauce was well reduced, of course, even at a very slow simmer (I took it off the heat at one point while I was still cursing the dough in several languages). I added the cream and roux and simmered it to thicken.
I had a boiling pot of water on, salted generously, and I put half the batch of ravioli and reduced to a low boil.
Once the pasta was done (about 3-5 minutes), I strained the shallots and carrots out of the sauce (they had done their job), pushing the sauce through the strainer.
And, it was done! Plating was ravioli, sauce, and some shallots for garnish and a bit of bite.
Deconstruction: Okay, I definitely need to practice my dough-making. This would be a great weekend recipe where the ravioli are made in the morning or afternoon, then stored until dinner, which could have been banged out in 30 minutes if the ravioli were ready. Learning experience.
That said — Oh. My. God. This was really good. The homemade pasta dough was delicate, the lobster/mushroom/shallot filling was buttery and wonderful. The sauce was absolutely decadent beyond words. I think the pince tomato purée added so much depth of flavor to the sauce, an earthy base that the rich lobster stock and the thick cream complemented in a wonderful trinity. Maybe not quite as good as Karim’s, but I’ll take this over a dozen chain Italian restaurant versions.