Not many expected this game. Preseason the sexy pick was Auburn vs. Georgia or maybe even Sakerlina. I thought Alabama had a chance to make it this far but assumed that if the East was to be won by a dark horse the usurper would be Florida as I suffered under the delusion that Muschamp's 2013 showing was the result of half his team needing surgery to repair one or the other of their CLs. Then play started.
After one or two weeks of watching I had a pretty decent idea of where things were headed. Don't just take my word for it. I had a great deal of difficulty deciding what direction to take my tailgating post before the Florida game and ended up weaseling out a few oh-what-do-I-write-about meta paragraphs. It was fairly cowardly prose, but it did yield the following:
"I could play up [Florida's] methiness, but frankly I'd like to keep meth in my pocket in case we end up playing Missouri in the SEC Championship Game."
Not exactly the kind of prediction that gets you nicknamed "the Greek" but it shows that I was open to the possibility of our present situation. In fact, it's less a prediction than a hedged bet which is okay. I'm not claiming any special prescience. I'm merely pointing out that I knew something was going to happen way before everyone else did.
I should take this moment to apologize to the Sunshine State. If this Huffington Post info-graphic is to believed, not only is Florida's meth use ho-hum considering everything else that goes on in that Hiaasenic nighmarescape but it actually ranks a mere sixth in the East behind South Carolina, half of Tennessee (because in SEC terms this state is tweeking for two), the other half of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri. So, sorry Florida. I was wrong to imply you were a leader in something.
On to food.
Wondering what would be considered "of Missouri" I asked for opinions from quite a few people including my fellow RBR contributors, former restaurant co-workers, and family in St. Louis. Almost every respondent mentioned barbeque. I understand why. Kansas City style barbeque sauce is a triumph of human ingenuity. It helps separate us from the apes. Its praises should be sung from the highest mountain in the state (Taum Sauk Mt. elev. 1772). But South Carolina has some impressive sauce too. As does Tennessee, and Alabama, and... you can see where I'm going with this. You could do a whole season of posts writing about regional barbeque differences, which might be an idea for next year should the editors bless my return. But for now, I wanted something unique to the state. My cousin mentioned something I had never heard of before.
Apparently they toast ravioli up there. That's not quite the truth. Apparently they deep fry ravioli and call it toasted up there.
As one story goes, and there are many, in the 1940s a distracted chef at Angelo's Pasta House accidentally dropped ravioli into hot oil instead of boiling water. Like most chef's I've known, he was a parsimonious fellow and rather than toss his mistake he made use of it by feeding some of the staff who dipped the crispy pasta in marinara. An appetizer was born.
The Easy Way
- 1 lb. premade Cheese Ravioli
- Bread Crumbs seasoned with Dried Basil and Oregano
- 3 Eggs
- Vegetable Oil
- All Purpose Flour
For the Marinara
- 1 28 oz. can Peeled Whole Tomatoes with their juices
- Small handful Fresh Basil, sliced into ribbons
- 4 cloves Garlic
- Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
I use whole tomatoes because I like to put them in a bowl and tear them apart by hand. I like the way the tendrils grip whatever pasta or meat it's paired with. I think it makes for a clingier sauce, but that's personal opinion. If you prefer diced or pureed, go right ahead and indulge your misconceptions.
Start with a few glugs of olive oil in a sauce pan. Peel and then smash the garlic with the broad side of chef's knife and add to the pan. Turn heat to high. When the garlic gets aromatic, but before it browns, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and stir. When the sauce begins to bubble, reduce to a simmer and add the half the basil. After five or so minutes, taste and add basil or more red pepper flakes if needed. After another five minutes, salt to taste and remove from heat.
It doesn't make any difference whether you buy frozen or merely refrigerated ravioli. Set a plate for dredging the pasta in flour, a bowl for dipping in beaten eggs, and another plate for dredging in the bread crumbs.
Take each ravioli, dredge, dip, dredge, and then place on a baking sheet. When the sheet is full, put the ravioli in the freezer for 15 minutes if you bought refrigerated pasta or not at all if you bought frozen.
Heat enough vegetable oil to submerge a single layer of ravioli in a skillet or frying pan to 325˚ degrees or so. Cook in batches for a minute to two per side. It doesn't take long; golden brown outside should equate to melted inside but premade ravioli differs in size and thickness from brand to brand. It might be a good idea to cook just one first and adjust ideal times to fit reality. Set aside to drain and rest for two minutes and serve with reheated marinara. Shredded Parmesan and basil make nice garnishes.
The Better Way
- Flour, Eggs, and Bread Crumbs as above for dredging and dipping and dredging
For the pasta
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 4 Eggs
- 1 tbsp. Salt
- 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the filling
- 1 lb. Ground Chuck
- Handful Fresh Spinach, cleaned and cut into ribbons
- Roughly 8 oz. Ricotta
- 1 Egg
- 3 -4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
- A grind or 2 of Nutmeg, about 1/8 tsp?
- Pinch or 2 Salt
For the Sauce
- As above in the Easy Way recipe
- A few glugs red wine
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour and 1 tbsp. salt. If you are a traditionalist, make a volcano crater in the center of the flour. Pour the 4 eggs and 1 tsp. of extra virgin olive oil into the center of the crater. If you eschew tradition in favor of practicality and realize that all this stuff is going to be mixed together crater or no, pour the eggs and olive oil in with abandon. With your hands, knead until you have a pliable dough. Slightly flakey is okay. Cling wrap and let sit at least 30 minutes, refrigerating after an hour.
I've frozen this dough for two days and thawed to great effect. I've also had this dough go goofy on me after one day of refrigeration. It may be the raw egg. It may be any one of the thousands of interactions between grain, protein, and muscle. I haven't got the expertise to say "Don't store beyond x hours," but I would play it safe and make it the day you plan to serve it.
Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough on setting 1, fold repeat, fold repeat, fold repeat, and fold and repeat.
Move to setting 2. Fold repeat, but only once. Setting 3, you guessed it: fold repeat. Setting 4, getting into a groove. Fold repeat. Setting 5, fold repeat you say. Wrong!
Cut the flattened sheet in half and then fold repeat with each piece on setting 5. Again on 6. [Break up with photos]
Off stage, brown the meat with the chopped garlic. Drain excess fat and then put in a bowl with the spinach. Add Ricotta in stages until a creamy mixture is achieved. Salt to taste and then moisten by thoroughly mixing in the egg.
Cut the pasta into three inch squares. Plop a bit of meat mixture into the center of a square. Dip a finger in a bowl of conveniently placed water, rub along edges, and top with another square of pasta. Pinch the edges together as best you can to seal the edges. Flour is your friend here.
Treat as above. Freeze for fifteen minutes after the drudge, dip, drudge sequence. Fry in oil for at best 30 seconds a side. Again, try one and see. Fresh pasta goes so much quicker. Serve with wine fortified marinara.
On that point, when you cook meat with tomatoes the meat and tomato have some contact. That dulls the tangy, bright tomato acids with a bit of beefiness, for lack of a better word. In this case the meat and tomatoes never have the chance to blend together. Red wine, and yes I know it's acidic, balances the sauce with its sheer weight. So add a few glugs of wine, taste, add, taste, etc. Rhone blends are going to be better here than non Rhone blends.
Angelo's Pasta House is no more. Charlie Gitto's on the Hill now occupies the same space and by squatters rights lays claim to toasted ravioli as their own invention. It's from a local blog describing their beef, spinach, and cheese recipe that I based the above. I may have missed the mark entirely but the intent was authenticity, so I stuck to their reported filling.
As it stands, I'm just so charmed by toasted ravioli. Is it alcohol absorbing pasta? Check. Is it deep fried? Check. Is it dippable? Check. This may be the perfect football party snack.
A side note. You people (Mizzou fans) are far too nice and football oriented. I've been following your posts and comments this week and have yet to note the parentage of any of our players questioned. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's Friday. Not much time left for vulgarity. Standards people. Just kidding. It's nice to find friends in the blogosphere.
Roll Tide. No injuries. Mizzou Tide [Edit note - replace "Mizzou Tide" with whatever those meth-head jackasses say. I'll leave it up to you to finish the thing off. Don't forget to replace, could be embarrassing - Processed, right? lol, I went almost 2K words on MO and didn't even mention baseball.]