i was always into food:
trying new things.
i made up an apple dish,
that really is nothing more
than peeled apple wedges, apple juice,
lemon juice, cinnamon,
nutmeg and brown sugar,
for the next 15 years,
it was served at almost every
holiday dinner my
i think my family was
my roommate, nicole, and i
would make ourselves dinner.
with forks and knives,
and napkins under them.
i pulled ideas out of magazines
and nicole recreated recipes
that her father served at his restaurant.
we entertained our friends
with fondue nights,
and one april, made thanksgiving dinner
because we had a frozen turkey
that we had to cook before the school year
ran out. don't get me wrong,
we ate ramen and peanut butter and jelly,
like any college kid did between classes,
but we were also known to
grill salmon and serve it over couscous
before heading out to the tally ho for the evening.
at christmas time,
i ran around trying to find mason jars by the case
so that i could make layered
"just add liquid" brownie
mixes for my friends.
and one year,
i gave my professors
homemade peanut butter cups.
but, still it wasn't until my
early to mid twenties
that i think i started to soak up
and really learn to cook.
at 24, i moved into my tiny studio,
cooking dinners every thursday night
for larry, who was then, my boyfriend.
i finally had a reason to
and scour the internet for
new recipes and ideas.
i was now a food writer
and i spent hours every day
in a test kitchen - watching.
the other side -
the other major influence -
was undoubtedly, the area i was living in.
the move from central new jersey
to northern new jersey was
in many ways. (if you're not from
new jersey, i have no doubt this sounds
crazy to you.) once i got over the ridiculous
blue laws which prevent shopping
on sundays, i realized something
else that was new:
i was living smack in the middle
of an asian mecca.
thai and japanese
restaurants that line the streets,
to the asian markets that become
a way of life, i learned a lot.
it took me four trips to mitsuwa
and, five different packages
of dried udon purchased,
before i finally learned that the
kind of udon noodles that i love
are sold frozen.
i guessed wrong trying to read japanese
and went through six different seaweed varieties
before i found the right one for miso soup.
it took two years before i decided not to care
that the people who worked there and i would
never really be able to communicate.
i embraced it,
finding that i could buy huge
bottles of fish sauce and enormous
containers of sesame seeds
for dirt cheap.
i became fascinated by the sushi grade fish
they sliced just so and sold, as well as the
teeny, tiny anchovy salads.
and, i saw quail eggs for the first time.
now, it sounds kind of silly to say.
but the first time i saw quail eggs,
i was actually speechless -
so excited to "discover" something,
so interested in what they could do.
(i was yet to be introduced to
the ostrich egg.)
but i left them in the store
until i had a plan.
i always need a plan.
then one day,
a couple years ago,
i came across a recipe
for egg yolk ravioli.
it was a tuesday and
i was not about to make
my own pasta - plus i have
a little bit of a homemade pasta
fear...that's a story for another day.
but i had wonton wrappers in
the fridge - and yes, i know. i know
how some people feel about punks
like me thinking it's ok to use
wonton wrappers instead of pasta.
to you i say, it's ok, use your
favorite pasta recipe instead.
the original recipe called for
chicken eggs, but i knew the wonton
wrappers were significantly smaller
than the sheets of pasta
and even just the yolk would be too large.
so, i ran to the store after work,
finally bought a crate of quail eggs
and when i got home,
i set to work.
everything went perfectly until
it was time to separate the quail eggs.
they are slippery, fragile little devils
and they have attitude.
i managed to fill four with
yolks, losing the other eight
to the kitchen sink.
those four were enough to know
that i was onto something good.
a silky, gently warmed yolk,
set atop of lemony ricotta.
what could be wrong?
i vowed to get them right.
i vowed to conquer the quail egg.
eight months later,
it was salad day
in culinary school.
everyone was bored -
they wanted to slice into
steaks, butcher a chicken,
cut teeny racks of rabbit.
i was thrilled for a day of lettuce -
i could really get behind. plus,
one of the recipes called for
fried quail eggs.
i was paying attention.
lo and behold,
i learned something.
chefs who deal with quail eggs are
not holding a magic secret -
they're holding a quail egg cutter.
i watched as our chef effortlessly trimmed
the top from the shells and carefully
poured the egg into a cup.
none of them broke.
i decided that day that i would
buy a quail egg cutter.
almost three years later,
also known as two weeks ago,
i ran into the new korean market.
it was storming outside and all
i needed was:
a bottle of mirin
and an onion.
i left with all three.
plus black garlic.
and a container of 18 quail eggs.
i don't know why.
i just thought i needed them.
i hadn't bought quail eggs since
the first time and i absolutely had
not bought a cutter.
after a week of them staring
back at me every time i opened
the fridge, i finally decided
to go for it and give the ravioli
a second shot.
i bought chives
and english peas.
i still picked wonton wrappers.
once the terrine was chilling in
the fridge, i set to work
until the whole thing tasted delicious.
i floured parchment paper,
pulled out the wonton wrappers
and a tea towel to keep the pasta
soft and pliable.
and i dolloped ricotta into
the center of four.
and then i stared down the
quail eggs. my plan of attack
was to simulate a quail egg cutter
by laying the oval on its side
and using a sharp knife to saw
off the top 1/3 inch of the shell.
so far so good.
next, i very gently broke and pulled
off most of the shell,
leaving only a tiny bowl at
the bottom. when i was sure
that no rough edges would impede
the egg leaving the shell,
i gently poured it into my hand
and slowly let the white
drip through my fingers,
passing it back and forth
from hand to hand as
and it worked!
for all 8 ravioli i only
used 9 quail eggs! did you think
i was going to make all 25 that
way? no thank you.
i still have some sense
the rest i made with
only the scented ricotta.
after sealing the ravioli up,
i was quite proud.
i was even
prouder after simmering
them and not tearing the delicate
pasta or puncturing the equally
the peas, briefly blanched
and then added to the
nutty brown butter added
brightness, both in flavor
and color. the extra sprinkle
of chives made it look like
i really had a plan all along.
to go to culinary school?
no never. i always swore
i wouldn't go.
to move to fort lee one day?
no, no, no. for a long time,
it was a town i had never
heard of in an area of
new jersey i didn't know.
to occasionally prepare a meal
that makes me feel like every
little step - from moving up
here, to working as a food editor,
to attending culinary school and
marrying a man who finds these
kitchen experiments charming,
not ridiculous and to
insisting on driving myself a little
crazy with culinary determination -
give me the ability to make
maybe. just, maybe.
quail egg yolk ravioli with brown butter, english peas and chives
loosely adapted from bon appetit
a couple things about this recipe - you will have much better luck cooking these (and all homemade or wonton-wrapper based ravioli) if you simmer them in a shallow skillet of instead of a large pot of boiling water. this gives you much more control and helps them keep their form.
also, i know i made quail eggs out to be impossible to work with, but they're really not. once you get in the rhythm and find your gentle side, you'll be fine.
another note: when i cooked the ravioli, i simmered the yolk-less ones first and the yolk-filled ones last.
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons snipped chives, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 egg yolk
flour, for sprinkling
1 package (12 ounces) wonton wrappers
8 quail eggs (plus more for...accidents)
4 ounces fresh shelled english peas
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
in bowl, combine ricotta, lemon zest, 1/4 cup chives, salt and pepper. taste and adjust for seasoning. stir in egg yolk.
sprinkle small amount of flour onto two parchment paper-lined baking sheet; spread around to coat. place 4 wonton wrappers on parchment paper; cover remaining wonton wrappers with tea towel to keep moist.
top each wrapper with 2 teaspoons ricotta mixture; gently make a small indentation in the ricotta.
lay one quail egg on its side; using a sharp knife trim top from egg shell. carefully peel off enough of the quail shell so that you can pour the egg out onto your hand. using fingers, gently let the white slip through (have a bowl ready so that you can keep and save the egg whites for another use). once you have removed all of the white, gently place the yolk onto the ricotta. repeat with remaining eggs. (alternately, if you have another method that works for you, by all means - use that.)
fill a small bowl with water. using finger tips, lightly wet all of the exposed wonton wrapper. top with a second wonton wrapper, and gently, but firmly press together around the edges. when finished with the first four, cover with tea towel and repeat with wrappers, ricotta and quail eggs.
for no-yolk ravioli (and remaining): use 1 tablespoon ricotta mixture.
cover with tea towel and place in fridge until you're ready (no more than a couple of hours is ideal).
when it's time:
(ok, here's the deal - a lot is going to be happening at once. here's what i did: i set the water to boil for the ravioli, blanched the peas, browned the butter and took it off the heat, cooked the ravioli and when i was on the last batch, i tossed the peas into the brown butter and reheated. this is what worked best for me, but if you see a better plan for you - go for it. hmmm...i'm very to-each-his-or-her-own today.)
in large skillet, bring water to a boil; add kosher salt (just a warning - like always, you want to generously salt the water, but beware that wonton wrappers soak up salt, so you don't want to go crazy. when in doubt, taste the water). reduce boiling water to a medium simmer. quickly and carefully, place 6-8 ravioli into water and cook 2 minutes, or until wonton wrappers are cooked, but the quail yolks are still runny. using slotted spoon, remove from water. let water run off and place ravioli directly into serving dish. repeat with remaining ravioli.
while you're waiting for the ravioli water to come to a boil, in small saucepot, bring water to a boil; add kosher salt. pour in english peas. cook 2 minutes, or until peas are tender, put not shriveled or mushy; drain and immediately rinse with ice cold water, shaking strainer often, until peas are cool.
also, meanwhile, place butter in small skillet; turn heat to medium-low. let melt; the mixture will turn liquid, foam and start to bubble before it turns clear and then a nutty brown. as soon as it starts to smell nutty and you can see the brown flecks forming, remove it from the heat and set aside.
when you're on your last batch of ravioli, toss the peas into the browned butter with a pinch of salt. turn the heat to low butter and as soon as the mixture is hot, remove from heat and spoon over ravioli. sprinkle with remaining chives.