In a former life, this blog was named Extracurricular Laboratory Notebook. The name is a throwback to my former life in an organic chemistry lab, where I diligently recorded my experimental procedures in my lab notebook. My lab notebook was where I would make note of the chemicals I was using and their source, calculate the amounts and ratios of each ingredient, and write out a step-by-step procedure of what I did with said ingredients. I like to imagine that most people who work in a culinary environment do the same thing with their ingredients and recipes.
My lab notebook was also a record of my sources (typically journal articles and published patent applications), my results, and my thoughts on what I would do differently. I am sure culinary professionals do the same thing.
Some time ago, I ran across a recipe for swiss chard malfatti with sage and brown butter in Bon Appetit magazine in response to a reader’s request for a restaurant recipe. I was unfamiliar with the term malfatti, but the recipe sounded like ricotta gnocchi or dumplings. I ripped the page out and set it aside, until an encounter with gnudi* jogged my memory. Gnudi is a ricotta-based pasta dumpling with a funny name, based upon the idea that it is a nude ravioli. Malfatti, “poorly made” in Italian, is essentially a nude spinach-and-ricotta ravioli. It was a great excuse to try out the quick “ricotta” recipes I had been saving (more in a future post).
If the title of this post hasn’t tipped you off already, let’s just say that my dinner wasn’t entirely successful (although true to its name, it did look poorly made!) I won’t go so far as to say it was a failure, since it was still tasty. I’ll give the Bon Appetit recipe another go, or try the Saveur version, but here’s what I will do next time:
- Draining greens is much more important than draining the ricotta. While my ricotta dried overnight, I should have dried my spinach (I opted for frozen) overnight, too. No matter how much water I thought I had removed, it clearly wasn’t enough.
- Add another egg yolk. Even if my spinach had been drier, I don’t think my malfatti would have retained their shape without that extra egg yolk.
- Making my own ricotta was worth it! It’s too easy not to.
Even when I was using a detailed Journal of Organic Chemistry procedure, I sometimes had to make slight modifications depending upon my ingredients. Following a recipe in a magazine is no different. Even though my first try left something to be desired, recipe development is an iterative process.
*Of Love and Regret in Baltimore was serving an amazing gnudi that I’ll call Three Little Pigs: bacon, pulled pork, and pork belly over their pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth gnudi.