Around this time last year we were putting the finishing touches on the first draft of my upcoming cookbook, A Kitchen in France. One of the last recipes we photographed was the one for pork cheek ravioli with cèpes (porcini mushrooms). By then we had been spoilt by so much success in the field of mushroom foraging that we never made any plans ahead when it came to girolles or cèpes. They were simply there, waiting to be snapped up wherever and whenever one of my recipes required. My kids love making ravioli and since this was on a week-end we decided to shoot this recipe with the mushrooms we already had, and made plans for a big cèpes hunt the following monday. My husband & “official” photographer had very ambitious ideas, he wanted to get at least fifty big ones and then he planned to photograph them in the most beautiful way for the book.
Monday came and off we trotted, armed with our Opinel pocket knifes, some brushes to clean the cèpes, a couple of baskets and two reliable dogs, who though they are useless for finding mushrooms are swell company and fairly obedient. After about two hours we hadn’t found a single cèpe, my hair was starting to get all frizzy and unphotogenic from the rain, spirits were dropping fast. By noon the situation had improved slightly, we had found one “mushy” mushroom and another pretty good one. Not fifty but not exactly zero either. Though we were loath to give up and continued for a while, our total stayed the same, a paltry two.
Some days later, when we were looking at the photos, choosing which ones to send to my editor, we noticed a pretty nice, proud looking cèpe in the middle of the photo (it’s there if you take a close look). We had walked past it many times, we had even photographed it but somehow we missed it. And how could we miss it, so glaringly obvious in that photo, was it even there for real or was this some foul play of the forest, a cèpe that’s invisible to the naked eye but apparent to the lens of the camera?
It has been proven many times over that the things we look for are often right under our noses, that we usually find the things we need when we are not looking for them. We didn’t really need this mushroom story to tell us that. But what this story teaches me is not to take the forest for granted. You can count on the baguette at your local boulangerie, if you plant sage or thyme or tomatoes in your garden they will be there when you need them. The forest, however, gives when it wants to give. So I approach it with humility, I make no assumptions. If I find two cèpes or twenty I’m just happy with what I get.
Maybe there is a story in that.
All dressed up for the big day.
My cookbook is a “her” and not a “the”, let’s be clear about that. She’s very excited about her big day, 28th of October, and she counts the days until all of you can flick through her pages. You’ve seen her outfit, which is a scene from a kitchen. That’s how she will be dressed for her big day. But what most of you may not know is that underneath, if you take off her dress, she’s wearing another nice little number, a few glistening red berry barquettes. I just thought you should know in advance so you wouldn’t think that there were two versions. It’s just one version, with two layers.
And because I wouldn’t want any of you to miss out, one more reminder for those of you who have or will order my cookbook “A Kitchen in France” that you have a nice print waiting for you and all you have to do is click here and fill in your details.
Pork cheek ravioli with cèpes – a recipe from “A kitchen in France”.
I frequently make pasta at home, especially ravioli, usually with Italian-inspired stuffings and sauces. The filling in this one, though, is all French and I serve it with an equally French creamy wine sauce. It’s a dish I like to make when I have some time, typically on a Saturday, with a bit of music in the background. The kids enjoy helping me roll out and cut the ravioli, then we fill them together and prepare a fine little feast.
For the filling and garnish
¼ cup/ 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
10 ounces/ 300 g pork cheeks
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouquet garni
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup / 180 ml dry red wine
12 ounces/ 340 g fresh cèpes (porcini)
1 shallot, minced
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons / 30 g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (or additional) port or red wine
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml heavy cream
A handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
For the pasta dough
4 cups/ 480 g all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more as needed
Pinch of fine sea salt
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Start the filling. In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the pork cheeks on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and cook the onion, carrot, and half of the garlic until lightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the pork cheeks to the pot, add the bouquet garni, and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine and bring to a low simmer. Add water just to cover the meat. Cover with a lid, lower the heat, and simmer until the meat is very tender and falling apart, about 2 hours.
While the pork is cooking, make the pasta dough. Put the flour on a clean work surface and make a well in the center. Add the salt, eggs, and olive oil. Using a fork, mix the egg mixture; then gradually mix in the flour, using your hands when the dough is too stiff to stir. Then knead with the heels of your hands, sprinkling the dough with additional flour if it gets too sticky, until it is soft and elastic, but still lightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Continue with the filling. Cut half the mushrooms –the nicest ones-into quarters and reserve for garnish. Thinly slice the remaining mushrooms.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, then add the shallot and the remaining garlic and cook until the mushrooms are slightly golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and set aside to cool.
Drain the pork cheeks, reserving the broth, and transfer to a plate to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer the pork cheeks to a food processor, add the cooked mushrooms and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the broth, and process for about 3 seconds to gently mix. Season with salt and pepper.
With a rolling-pin, roll out the dough on a floured surface just until it is thin enough to fit through the rollers of a pasta machine. Using the pasta machine, roll the dough as thin as possible, starting with the widest setting and progressing to the thinnest one possible.
Cut the pasta into 3-inch/8-cm squares. Spoon 1 tablespoon pork cheek filling into the center of half of the squares. Moisten the edges of one square with water, top with another pasta square, and press the edges firmly together to seal, taking care not to include any air. Repeat with the remaining pasta squares. Cover the ravioli with a damp towel so they do not dry out.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms for the garnish. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over high heat. Cook the quartered mushrooms until lightly golden, about 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add ½ cup/ 120 ml of t he reserved pork broth and the port and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat, add the cream, and return the cèpes to the pan. Stir for 5 seconds to combine, then take off the heat. Keep warm.
Drop the ravioli into the boiling water and stir gently. The ravioli are cooked when they float to the surface, about 1 ½ minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to warm shallow bowls. Top with the mushrooms and sauce, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.