Chanterelles & Cappelletti – A Recipe Testing Adventure

(Note: parts of the following were originally posted on the lovely local food blog Farmers, Cooks, Eaters. In anticipation of my surgical procedures on May 4 – I wanted to set up a few posts that would keep people entertained while I recuperate. I felt that this post, a testament to our local food scene, would be an appropriate feature.)

I distinctly remember the day back in October of last year when I received an email from a friend, asking if I’d be interested in testing a recipe or two for a new cookbook. The book that resulted is Tender by Tamara Murphy. Tamara is a passionate member of Seattle’s food community and is the owner and chef of Brasa and the Elliott Bay Café.  She is a James Beard Foundation Award winner and Food and Wine magazine named her one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America.  Knowing Tamara’s reputation, my response to my friend’s inquiry was, “Would I?!?” I could think of nothing I’d like more.

When I read the list of mouth-watering dishes waiting for evaluation, I became increasingly excited. “Chanterelle Soup” and “Butternut Squash Cappelletti with Browned Sage Butter and Hazelnuts” especially caught my attention. They sounded like recipes I could manage fairly easily – but ones that would, ideally, stretch my culinary abilities so I could learn a new trick or two. Little did I know that “Cappelletti” meant hand-stuffed pasta. A trick that was, decidedly, not up my sleeve. Ultimately undeterred, I pressed on. And throwing caution even further into the wind, I gamely decided I would try these two enticing dishes for a small dinner party.

The Chanterelle Soup came together seamlessly. I felt so indulgent as I tossed real cream, butter and fluted Chanterelles into my shopping basket. And the aromatics …never before had I seen a recipe calling for leeks and onions – shallots and garlic. What a glorious idea. I followed the recipe exactly as written and was left with the richest, most decadent mushroom soup imaginable. As I ladled it into warmed bowls for my guests I heard groans of delight coming from the dinner table as the aroma wafted through the room. Spoons poised for mere seconds, we all dove in. Silence. Slurps. Smiles. Victory.

I wish I could say that the Cappelletti preparation was as flawless an endeavor. I won’t delay in telling you the end result – this is an extraordinarily satisfying dish. But the journey to the final destination was a bit trying. With only five main ingredients (excluding salt and pepper) the recipe for the Roasted Butternut Squash filling sounded deceptively easy. And the preparation, consisting of oven roasting the squash and blending it with fresh Ricotta and Mascarpone went smoothly. It was the actual filling of the pasta where it all went south.

I had purchased sheets of pasta from the captivating DeLaurenti Food shop down near Pike Place Market – more than enough to make all the stuffed pasta … or so I thought. The squash filling, though delicious (I just wanted to grab a spoon and dive in) was extremely fragile and loose. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to sit daintily in the middle of the cut-out circles of pasta dough long enough so I could “fold it over in a half moon shape and seal” as instructed. It just wasn’t happening. Sultry orange filling inevitably oozed out the sides as I repeatedly attempted to seal up those half moons. However with patience – and after deciding to cut the dough into circles much larger than instructed – I managed to produce a decent number of Cappelletti. In fact, I had an abundance of filling and quickly returned to the market for additional pasta sheets. I was certainly happy I had decided to make these little gems far in advance of my dinner party. A bit of research on squash helped me realize that further baking would likely solve the “ooze” problem the next time around. A simple enough fix.

I am pleased to report that the end result was worth the trouble – soft pockets of dough filled with savory/sweet filling lavished with roasted hazelnuts and decadent brown butter sauce. And even though I managed to spatter myself with the brown butter (having never prepared it I wasn’t ready for the hot butter’s dramatic reaction to the addition of the fresh lemon juice) – I was proud of the dish I served. And my guests were once again lulled into silence as they gently cut into the supple pillows and spooned up every last butter-drenched hazelnut on their plates.

End Note: if you are interested in Tender or any of the recipes described in this post – I hope you will visit this website to reserve a copy of its first printing.

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