Sifted flour and cocoa powder
Today, I play sous chef to a chef I deeply admire, Eyal Liebman who promised to show me how to make his showstopping Chocolate Pasta with Vanilla Port Braised Short Ribs. Eyal is an Israeli born French inspired chef, who has an affinity for pastry and sweets, and a real talent for creative savoury preparations. He owns his own company, L is For…, and organizes a series of very cool dinner parties like this one I hosted.
Quick Lessons I Learned about Eyal:
-Like me, Eyal didn’t grow up in a foodie home with a passionate Nonna or a mom with a fabulous palate (sorry, mom). According to Eyal, “My mom is the worst cook on earth… I started cooking to save my soul.”
Get that dough hook on!
-Some of Eyal’s inspirations include his previous employer Didier Leroy, Thomas Keller, Allan Ducasse and Pierre Herme.
-Eyal describes his style as “Tasty first, always. Then, French.” He uses his intuition to cook, much more than any precise rules.
Nice firm dough, ready for resting
-This recipe was born in preparation for one of his Chocolate Dinner events (a tasting menu dinner with chocolate in every course). He was searching for inspiration when he suddenly thought he had an epiphany- why not make a chocolate pasta? Well, apparently, it’s quite common in Sicily, Italy so he compared a Sicilian recipe to a Thomas Keller recipe and made a midway compromise.
Rolling by hand first
Quick Lessons I Learned about Making Pasta:
-Always use unbleached flour. When flour naturally ages, it begins to turn more white, so manufacturers bleach their flour to mimic the natural process. But who wants to eat bleach?
Now the easy part
-You can find Semolina flour at St. Lawrence Market and other specialty markets.
Well, kind of easy.
-Always buy quality cocoa powder and you can freeze it between uses. Eyal recommends using Valrhona.
-When you separate your egg yolks from whites, DON’T do it in your hands (eek, that’s what I always do… I like the manual feel of doing it this way). You should always separate them by transferring the yolk back and forth between two shells. This is not so much a problem for the pasta as we don’t need the whites, but if you were trying to make something with egg whites (meringue, for example), the oils from your hands will prohibit it from whipping to full volume.
Marinate that meat!
-Pasta dough always need to rest about 2-3 hours in the fridge before rolling to allow the glutens to relax.
Time to start braising!
-You can also freeze pasta dough if you make a double batch.
Starting the sauce
-When you roll out any kind of dough, always roll with a harder flour then what you used in the recipe so that it won’t absorb too much extra flour and make your dough dry. For example, if you use cake flour (very soft) in your recipe, roll with All Purpose flour. If you use AP flour as we did, roll with semolina (which is the hardest of flours).
-After you cut the pasta, you can use it fresh or dry it. If you dry it (hang it loosely and let it air dry), you can save it for future use. But fresh, non-dried pasta must be used that day. It should be wrapped and left at room temperature.
Quick Lessons I Learned About Braising the Short Ribs:
-When braising (cooking in a liquid for a long period of time), Eyal prefers to use root vegetables rather than the traditional mirepoix (celery, carrots, and onions), which have more water and thus, offer less flavour over the long cooking time. Plus, root veg offer a nice sweetness that compliments braised meat beautifully.
-To quickly get the skin off of your tomatoes, simply cut a little X on the base of the tomato and pop it into boiling water for 4 seconds (no more, no less). Plunge it into an ice bath and then they will easily peel.
Thank you Eyal for sharing this recipe! If you want to taste delicious and creative dishes like this, then I highly suggest you check out Eyal’s website for updates on his events. There is still time to grab your tickets to this Saturday’s dinner, so get on it quick!