At the supermarket, I spend most of my time avoiding "convenience" foods. But, if I snub the frozen pizzas and star chefs' fancy prepared meals, there is one pre-made food I have come to love: the little ravioli variously known as ravioles de Royans or ravioles du Dauphiné.
At the supermarket, I spend most of my time avoiding "convenience" foods. In my basket you might typically find flour, butter, eggs, plain yoghurt, lentils, oatmeal, raisins and Lindt "Menthe Intense" chocolate (I am human after all). But, if I snub the frozen pizzas and star chefs' fancy-sounding prepared meals, there is one pre-made food I have come to love: the little ravioli variously known as ravioles de Royans or ravioles du Dauphiné.
A specialty of the Dauphiné region, once an independent state and now bridging Provence and Savoie, these cheese-filled ravioli come in sheets of four dozen, three of which make a grosse (12 dozen). To give you an idea of their diminutive size, Sam and I can easily eat two sheets (eight dozen) each. We love them for their very delicate, almost translucent dough and their filling of comté, emmental and fromage blanc, the only French cheeses of which Sam actually approves. They also come with other fillings such as basil or goat's cheese, but we have never strayed from the classic version. If you read the ingredient list carefully you will find no dubious fillers, additives or preservatives, only things like flour, eggs, cheese and parsley. You can pay up to €6 for four sheets at a cheese shop or around €3.50 at the supermarket, and I haven't been able to detect a difference. Royans refers to the specific area in which they are produced, but even those not labelled Royans or Dauphiné are very good.
For a long time I did nothing more with ravioles than slip them into a pot of simmering water or vegetable stock for exactly one minute (don't make the mistake of letting the ravioli boil or they will turn to mush). A gentle stir is enough to break them up, and it's best to lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon rather than pour them into a colander. All they need as a topping is a little melted butter or warmed crème fraîche, and with a crunchy salad on the side you have an instant meal.
Delicious as they are this way, ravioles took on a new dimension for me when I happened to read a blog post by the French writer Cléa suggesting that they could stand in for lasagne sheets. This opened up a whole world of possibilities, especially as the mother of a vegetarian. For my first experiment, I layered the sheets of uncooked ravioles with sautéed mushrooms, poured over a mixture of crème fraîche and vegetable stock and topped the gratin with grated emmental. It was such a success that I never really got beyond that recipe, which has become part of my official weeknight repertoire.
When preparing it for this post, I threw in some leafy chard that was hanging around; baby spinach leaves would work well too, though I liked the substance and slight bitterness of the chard. I can imagine that it would also be good with sautéed cubes of zucchini or squash, or perhaps roasted eggplant and peppers... if only we didn't like the mushroom version so much.
Gratin de ravioles
OK, Sam and I have been known to eat the entire gratin in one sitting, but as this is not exactly a light dish it should probably serve three.
1 packet (4 sheets) ravioles du Dauphiné
2 tbsp olive oil
11 oz (300 g) brown or white mushrooms (I prefer brown)
Thyme or herbes de Provence, to taste
A large handful Swiss chard leaves, sliced (keep the stems only if they are very thin)
1/2 cup (125 ml) stock, homemade or not
1/2 cup (125 ml) crème fraîche
2 oz (50 g) emmental, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
A little oil for the gratin dish
Oil a gratin dish just large enough to hold the ravioli sheets. Heat the oven to 375 F (180 C).
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over high heat and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with fresh or dried thyme or herbes de Provence. Sauté until golden, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
In the same frying pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil and sauté the sliced chard until soft, 1-2 mins. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the sautéed mushrooms.
Whisk together the vegetable stock and crème fraîche. Pour this into the frying pan in which you sautéed the vegetables and warm for just a minute, scraping any caramelized juices from the pan.
Place a sheet of ravioles in the gratin dish and top with 1/3 of the mushroom-chard mixture. Repeat this twice. Top with the fourth sheet of ravioles and cover with the cream-stock mixture. Spread the grated emmental on top and bake for 30 minutes, until golden.
Serve hot with a green salad.