Venison and Ricotta Ravioli w/ Sage "Buerre Noisette"

I guess this is an East meets West kind of dish, only because of the wonton wrappers. The idea came from a cook book I got just before I started college, called How to Cook Without a Book. :-P. Anyway, I think using wonton wrappers is pure genius. Do you own a pasta maker? Because I don't.

Filled with ground venison, ricotta cheese, shiitake mushrooms and thyme, then topped with sage infused "hazelnut butter" or "beurre noisette," these aromatic and earthy tasting raviolis will sure raise a few eyebrows around the dinner table.

Servings: 2-3; makes about 18 raviolis  
- 1 pkg. of wonton wrappers (12-ounce)
- 1 tbs. table salt, or 1-1/2 tbs. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. vegetable oil
- grated Parmesan cheese for topping
- ground black pepper for topping

- 1 tbs. olive oil, separated into two 1/2 tablespoons
- 1/2 lb ground venison
- 1/8 cup of onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 5 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- one medium egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste

Sage Hazelnut Butter ("Buerre Noisette")
- 8 tbs. salted butter (1 stick)
- 16 sage leaves

I. The Filling
1. Clean shiitake mushrooms with a dry paper towel or brush. Remove stems. Many people make the mistake of washing mushrooms. Mushrooms are like sponges and they will absorb water. If you really need to, you can use a damp paper towel. Most store bought mushrooms are clean anyway. 

2. Chop mushrooms into small sized pieces. Keep in mind that you have to fit everything inside the ravioli.  And remember that the mushroom will shrink when you cook it. 

3. Crush 2 cloves of garlic. In a nonstick pan, heat 1/2 tbs. of olive oil over medium heat, and saute mushrooms and garlic together for about 5 minutes, or until mushroom shrinks and all liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl big enough to fit the rest of the filling.  

4. In the same pan, heat 1/2 tbs. olive oil and brown ground venison, chopped onion and thyme over medium heat. Use your spoon to break up the venison as much as you can. This will take about 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Transfer the ground venison into the bowl with the mushrooms. Mix in ricotta cheese and beaten egg. 
* If a lot of liquid cooks out of your venison, then drain it. The mixture should be moist, but not liquid-y.


II. Making Raviolis 
1. In a large, deep sautee pan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low simmer. Do not let it reach boiling point.

2. Fill a small bowl with water. On a clean, dry surface, lay 6 wonton wrappers. Drop 1 tbs. of filling onto each.

3. Dip your index finger in the water bowl and moisten the outer edges of each wrapper. Seal them with a second wrapper, pressing as much air out as you can. 

4. Set aside on a wire rack (any non-stick surface will do, really) and do the next six. These raviolis will be cooked in batches.  
 * You can fill the wrappers ahead of time and keep them loosely covered in plastic wrap for up to one hr. at room temperature, or 4 in the fridge.

5. Heat up your ravioli plates in the oven at the lowest setting, 200 degrees F. Raviolis are not good cold and must be eaten immediately. So serve them as you finish cooking each batch.  

6. Once water begins to simmer, add the vegetable oil and table/kosher salt.
7. Press the ravioli edges again, just to make sure, and carefully lay 5-6 of them in the low simmering water. It is VERY important that your water stays at a simmer. Boiling water is like the perfect storm to raviolis and wontons. Cook until wonton wrappers turn from opaque to translucent and begin to wrinkle around the filling, about 3-4 minutes. 

8. Use a solid spoon to transfer raviolis and some of the cooking liquid to heated plates. The cooking liquid helps to keep the ravioli moist and shiny.

9. Top with sage infused "hazelnut butter" (read below), crushed black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. 

III. Sage infused "Buerre Noisette"
1. Roughly chop the sage leaves. 
2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small sauce pan. When the thinnest liquid becomes a golden brown or "hazelnut" color, take it off the heat. Be careful not to burn it.
3. Drop in sage leaves. Be careful though, because the liquid in the leaves will make the butter pop and sizzle.

*Store left-over wonton wrappers in a zip lock bag in the fridge. You can even freeze them if you don't plan on using them soon. 

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