Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leek Roulade with Ricotta, Red Pepper and Walnut Filling

Roulade. Rolled foods. A few months ago the challenge of filling and carefully rolling a cake, a pork loin or a souffle-like shell would have been far too daunting. They seems so elegant--and by default--beyond my skills.

How wrong I was. This particular recipe is as elegant as it is light. And proof yet again that vegetarian dishes needn't be boring.

It is another time consuming treat, but I found it easy enough to multitask--roasting the peppers while I prepped the roulade, mixing the filling while the roulade baked and the like.

For the more visually inclined, this video provides the same recipe:

adapted from Main Courses 365 edited by Jenni Fleetwood

serve 6-8

The Ingredients:

butter or oil, for greasing
2 Tbsp fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
salt and pepper to taste

2 large red peppers
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
scant 1 cup chopped walnuts
4 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil
The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375

Grease and line a 12 x 9 jelly roll pan with baking parchment, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and 2 Tbsp of the grated Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the leeks for 5 minutes, until softened.

Stir in the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to make a thick sauce.

Stir in the mustard and nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper. Reserve 2-3 Tbsp of the remaining Parmesan, then stir the rest into the sauce. Cool slightly.

Beat the egg yolks in the sauce. In a scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Stir 2-3 spoonfuls of the egg white into the leek mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining egg white.

Pour the mixture into the tin and gently level it out with a spatula. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until risen and just firm to a light touch in the center. If the roulade is to be served hot, increase the oven temperature to 400 after removing the roulade.

Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Halve and seed the peppers then broil them skin sides uppermost until black. Place in a bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Peel and cut into strips.

Beat the ricotta with the walnuts and spring onions. Chop half of the basil and beat it into the mixture. Season to taste.

Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Turn out the roulade on to it. Strip off the lining paper and allow to cool slightly. Spread the cheese mixture over it and top with the red pepper strips. Tear the remaining basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top.

Using the parchment paper as a guide, roll up the roulade and roll it on to a serving platter. If serving hot, roll the roulade on to a baking sheet. Cover with a tent of foil and bake for 15-20 minutes.

My Modifications:
These weren't modifications so much as errors I caught after the fact. Had I caught them sooner I may not have run into the dryness issue I had with the final product...

First, my pan was not a jelly roll...but not to worry. Any baking sheet with a bit of a lip should work just fine. The roulade doesn't raise to terribly high as it bakes. However, my pan was closer to 16x11, resulting in a much thinner layer that needed far less time to bake.

Second, I forgot to tent foil over the filled roulade during its second foray into the oven. The layers still heated through beautifully, however the out-most crust dried out slightly and began to crackle along the surface.

The Review:
I know I've had a success when my husband goes back for seconds...especially if the dish had nary a trace of meat or potatoes. However, a dear foodie friend and classmate recently shared a secret on her own blog, Good Graces. The same holds true to husbands...they will eat what you offer them...

The roulade was light, if a little dry. But the filling made up for what the crust suffered. The ricotta was piping hot and creamy. The red pepper smokey and sweet. The walnuts earthy and, well, nutty. The fresh basil was perhaps a touch overpowering at times...infusing an almost licorice like flavor.

For a dish so light we found it incredibly filling. Little needs accompany this to round out a meal. Perhaps a small salad of arugula or frisse...or a chunk of crusty bread dipped in oil. Ideal for a dinner. Impressive for company. Holding its own at room temperature for a holiday buffet. A bit time consuming for everyday cooking, but a treat when you have time to appreciate the journey.

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