Kitchen Catastrophe

When I was a younger cook, I was more prone to kitchen disasters of either of three varieties — the huge mess, the ill-conceived flavor combination, or the flesh wound. With age, experience and wisdom has come the know-how to avoid most kitchen disasters in any of those categories. But every once in a while, I get broadsided by a new ingredient, tool or technique. And discover that disaster is never far at bay.

My friend and sometime Skinny Girls sidekick Greg gave me a ravioli rolling pin some time ago. And one afternoon, the baby sleeping and my work load light, I decided to try it out.

I should preface this story by stating for the record that I have a long and successful history with ravioli. But my ravioli tend toward the large, floppy kind — three or four per person. The spaces for each ravioli on the rolling pin were small and tight (think a more authentic, homemade version of those little Chef Boyardee ravioli from your childhood).

I made my usual egg-and-flour pasta dough, rolled it out to the usual thinness, and consulted the sparse directions (in four languages!) on the scrap of paper included with the roller. Ultimately, the thing seemed fairly self explanatory. You lay a sheet of dough down, place some filling on it, place the top sheet on, and roll… right? Well, almost… But if generations of stout, ham-fisted Italian grandmothers could execute with this tool, surely I with my sensitive, nimble artist hands would succeed!

The first step was to roll the roller lightly across the bottom sheet to get an imprint of the ravioli, so you would know where to put the filling. This I did, and there was no imprint. So I rolled a little harder, and there was a very light, nearly imperceptible imprint. So I rolled again, harder, and now had multiple imprints. I would try to work with the last imprint, the strongest one, although it too began to fade as I scrambled to get the filling onto the dough.

The easy part

Once I found the proper imprint lines for each tiny ravioli, the next challenge was getting the tiny teaspoon of filling off the spoon and onto the dough, in the proper place. It was not difficult getting the filling off the spoon onto my finger, I soon discovered. But with trial and error (and error and error), I eventually figured out how to get the filling off the spoon, off my finger, and into (relatively) the right spot. Little did I realize this was the easy part.

Now, I had to lay the other layer on top, press down carefully in between all the little rows, and synch up the roller with the pockets of filling. Tentatively, with a fear in my heart I’d not felt since that first time as a sous chef in a French restaurant in my early 20s that I was tasked with cooking a foie gras-stuffed quail (“Uhh, yeah… sure, I can do that.”), I pressed down and rolled forward.

For better or worse… ravioli (including squished and bifurcated ones)

I did reasonably well. Either my rows veered slightly to the right, or the rolling pin took a left turn at some point, as the ravioli toward the top were cleaved in two, like plump possums run over in the road. Had I been on a Gordon Ramsey cooking show, even with my decades of experience and infectious confidence, I would’ve been cursed and blasphemed out of the kitchen. (Much the way I was by Gille, the owner/chef in that French restaurant all those years ago when I wandered off to chat with a coworker as my foie gras-stuffed quail seared to charcoal on the stove.)

So how did the ravioli turn out? Let’s begin by saying, you can hide a lot under sauce. Especially a vibrant summer-red tomato sauce with bright green basil. But actually, the ravioli were pretty darned good — I should hope so after all I went through to produce them.

The finished, dressed product

Will I use the ravioli roller again? A glutton for punishment, I am already thinking about what kind of filling I will use for my next batch. I watched a guy on You Tube with the unfair advantage of being named Mangiapane (not sure what the whole thing means, but the “mangia” part is “eat”!) make perfect ravioli with his rolling pin in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I did note that unlike my attempt following the instructions, he simply spread the filling around the bottom sheet and laid the top sheet flat on top, and let the ravioli imprints fall where they may — which looked much easier.

I must assume it is the sort of thing at which one gets better with experience. Or… perhaps I might stick with my big floppy ravioli and leave the little fat ones to the ham-fisted Italian grandmothers and Chef Boyardee. Only time can say…

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:11:04

    That jerk’s name was Gil, pronounced Jeel, short for Gilbert [jeel baire] I presume.
    Wouldn’t mangiapane mean eatbread?


    • scolgin
      Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:20:41

      Yes, but I’m pretty sure it was spelled “Gilles”. Anyhoo, yeah, you’re probably right. What a great name, huh? Wish my last name was “Eat Bread!” — Sean Eat Bread! I like the ring of that!


  2. pal-O
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:41:53

    Your mistakes and catastrophes are beautiful & delicious.


    • scolgin
      Jul 31, 2012 @ 00:54:47

      And you, dear friend, are a kind and a good man.


      • pal-O
        Jul 31, 2012 @ 18:23:05

        Sending Lori to Red Rocks to see Neil & Crazy Horse for her birthday! Center stage 4th row. I could have gone but she needs an adventure too rvery now & then. That is how good & kind I am. “Crazy” good & kind! Sounds like a German comedian…

      • scolgin
        Jul 31, 2012 @ 18:33:17

        Funny, I was just looking at NY/CH tix this morning. They’re playing the Hollywood Bowl, but tickets were too expensive… so I guess I’ll just have to suffice w/ Wilco at the Bowl in Sept, for which I got a garden box down front.

      • pal-O
        Aug 01, 2012 @ 14:25:14

        I’d say that was a pretty good alternative. She has never seen Neil w/ CH so for her this is an experience of a life plus Red Rocks is a great venue. I’d love to see JT et al @ Hollywood Bowl. One place I’ve never been. What was that other place we went to that was so cool like an amphitheatre off Mulholland where we saw Wilco & Minus 5?

      • scolgin
        Aug 01, 2012 @ 14:43:35

        John Anson Ford Theater

  3. Lisa Gaskin
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 01:46:25

    I wish my first name was Eat Bread

    Gilles was a creep 😉


  4. Allison
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 15:06:44

    I didn’t know that kind of ravioli rolling pin existed! And I admire your persistence… the finished product looks (gorgeous and) delicious : )


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