Clam Chowder and Homemade Tortellini

I have a friend who has this amazing full-sized, almost Western, kitchen. I’m talking like, big, standard American sized oven, American size fridge, FOUR burners on the stove, a dishwasher, hell, there’s even space for a kitchen table. People can congregate and hang out in the kitchen while you cook. It’s goddamn amazing. Well, maybe not for you, but my kitchen is about two feet wide and fits one person in it, has two small burners, I had to buy a countertop oven that fits one baking dish at a time,  I barely have space for a dish rack to dry the dishes I hand-wash, and my 3/4 sized fridge and food doesn’t even fit in the kitchen–I keep everything in a bookshelf in my living room.

She also has amassed a great quantity of diverse ingredients while in Beijing, and is leaving shortly. So, on Monday, while I had a holiday and she had to work, she invited me to come raid her kitchen and make anything I wanted to use up some of her stuff. I gladly accepted this invitation. She even has a pasta machine. I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

We invited a bunch of people to dinner and I got there early afternoon after spending the morning to replenish my new fridge (ah yes, the old, broken, ice-filled, useless drippy box got replaced by a shiny new model that is smaller and has blue lights, it looks like a dance party is going to break out every time I open the door, which, let’s be honest, is kind of perfect for me except that blue does not illuminate the contents very well). I made ricotta cheese the night before, and spent the entirety of my afternoon making tortellini.

For the pasta dough: 3 cups of flour, I used a mix of all purpose and semolina. 5 eggs, salt, and 1 Tbs of olive oil. Mixed up into a nice smooth dough, let relax for half an hour, then run through the pasta machine in small batches. The dough dries up quickly, so keep covered with damp paper towels. Gradually roll the dough through the machine from thickest to thinnest setting, then cut out round shapes (or cut squares if you don’t have an appropriate biscuit cutter size).

I mixed 1 1/2 cups ricotta with 1 cup finely grated parmesan, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, but filling is one of those things that can be anything, really. About a tsp of filling per pasta round in the center, then fold in half and seal. I dipped my finger in water and wet the inside edges slightly to make sure the seal held. Then, form the bonnet shape by tucking one edge under the other and folding. Keep these lined up on a well floured baking sheet, sprinkled with a little more flour, and covered by damp paper towel (they dry out quickly but stick to each other very easily)

For the last ten that I made, people had gathered and were snacking, so I added a smidgeon of bacon jam to the ricotta filling, boiled them just for a few minutes (put the tortellini in a pot of boiling water, gently stir, once they rise to the top they’re basically done), strained out and served plain as a little appetizer. The bacon jam addition was amazing. The rest of the batch I served at dinner in a tomato sauce.

Ricotta-parmesan filled tortellini in tomato sauce. Ricotta-bacon jam tortellini were heavenly and devoured instantly.

Ricotta-parmesan filled tortellini in tomato sauce. Ricotta-bacon jam tortellini were heavenly and devoured instantly.

Earlier in the afternoon before I got all dough-covered by the tortellini experiment, I put on a pot of clam chowder. This is definitely not a traditional New England clam chowder, if I tried to serve it in Boston I might get slapped, but it was quite tasty. There were three cans of baby clams that I had been asked to try to use up, and a chowder was really the only thing I could think to do.

First I diced an onion and softened it in some bacon fat. Then I added four diced potatoes and covered with about two cups of milk with heavy cream mixed in and a cup of turkey stock. I added a cup of sweet corn kernels (this is the very untraditional part!), and let this simmer until the potatoes were soft. I had added a scant pinch of sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper to season, and then added the three cans of baby clams, which were quite salty, and let it keep on the back burner just staying warm until dinner. It was really, really good–the whole pot was eaten, along with the big pot of tortellini, farro salad, fried chicken, sweet potato fries with Sriracha aioli, cake pops made from leftover funfetti cake, and the magic cake, and really a silly large amount of wine. I liked the chowder the best, and will definitely make again, either as a clam-less summer corn chowder, or once I get back to Boston with fresh steamers instead of canned clams–I can only imagine that fresh clams would make it that much better.

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