Some years ago, I was asked to do a cooking demonstration. In front of a lot of people. Who thought I knew what I was doing. It’s that darn title: food editor.
So, I cooked like I was at home on that stage, which is to say I made a mess, was a bit disorganized and the food didn’t turn out as pretty as anyone would hope.
My only redeeming quality during this event was that I smiled and joked my way through the mistakes. People evidently found it amusing. They laughed and nodded their heads.
The recipe I made that day evades me, but I remember one key ingredient: wonton wrappers. They didn’t let me down and I have since then used these Asian pasta-like pockets in a variety of recipes.
Wonton wrappers are nothing more than a thin square-cut slice of dough made of flour, egg, water and salt. You can stuff them with all kinds of things and cook them in a variety of ways, from steamed, baked and fried to treated like pasta and quickly boiled.
They make good substitutes for ravioli, though the wonton is thinner than typical pasta. In the following recipe, the wrappers are stuffed with a butternut squash filling, boiled and then browned in butter.
A reader asked for a squash filling for ravioli; I would use this one for both pasta or wontons.
The recipe I made on stage was an appetizer, where the wrappers were arranged in a muffin tin, filled and baked. The wontons make nifty holders for finger food. The Mini Lasagna Cups could be a fun dinner or served as hot hors d’oeurves.
In case this is your first time working with wonton wrappers, look for them in the supermarket produce section wrapped in clear plastic.
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You should know ...
- Wonton wrappers are fresh pasta sheets. While working with them, cover the ones you aren’t using with a damp towel to keep them moist because they dry out easily.
- Freeze unused wrappers for up to two months.
Easy Butternut Squash Ravioli
Melted butter is delicious, but there is something special that happens to it when it’s browned. Composed of milk fat, solids and water, when butter is heated for a period of time, the milk solids turn brown, and the flavors deepen.
1 cup mashed, cooked butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese*
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 (16-ounce) package round wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
Chopped fresh sage, to taste, optional
1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Place cooked squash into a mixing bowl. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir in mascarpone cheese, egg yolk and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, mixing until the filling is smoothly combined.
Place a wonton wrapper onto a working surface. Wet the tip of a finger in water, and run it all along the outer edge of the wonton skin to moisten. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of the wonton. Fold the wonton in half to make a half-moon shape, and press the edges to seal. (The edges of a fork tine may help here.) Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers.
Place a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in butter and unpeeled clove of garlic. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.
Drop the filled raviolis into the boiling water, a few at a time, and cook until they float to the top, about 2 minutes. Drain the ravioli and transfer them to the skillet. Turn the heat under the skillet up to medium-high, and cook just until the ravioli are infused with the butter and garlic flavor, about 2 or 3 more minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped sage, if desired, more black pepper and extra Parmesan cheese to taste. Makes 6 servings.
*No mascarpone cheese stocked in the fridge? A good sub is a mixture of 8 ounces cream cheese, 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream and 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream.
Mini Lasagna Cups
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chorizo sausage, chopped
Pinch of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
12 wonton wrappers
Chopped basil for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a skillet, add the ground beef and cook until it’s no longer pink. Add the cumin, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the chorizo sausage and spaghetti sauce and cook for another 5 minutes, over medium heat.
3. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin well with cooking oil or nonstick spray. Arrange a wonton wrapper in each cup. Add to each cup 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese, followed by a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture and top with some Cheddar cheese.
4. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve warm.
Serves 6, each 2 mini lasagna cups with 380 calories and 11 grams fat.