Photograph by Paulette Phlipot

Cooking with Apricots

Words by The BigLife Mighty Team 


Adam Kreisel, chef/owner, Chaia Cucina Catering + Consulting

From Adam: “While my cooking background is wide and varied, much of its focus has been split between strict Tuscan-Northern Italian flavors on one side, and the flavors of Southeast Asia and Japan on the other. Given that my food is very much an amalgam of all of my culinary experiences, the flavors and style of this dish are the perfect example of that approach. Here you have a marriage of Italian technique and Asian foodstuffs. I love to cook in a way where I can seamlessly blend traditions and products from different cultures and ethnicities.”

Serving size really depends on the size of the ravioli you ultimately make, but I would say that regardless of whether they are big or small, you can probably feed at least 6-8 people from this recipe.

Freshie Venison-Stuffed Pasta with Shaoxing-Apricot Sauce


Pasta Filling:

5 oz. dried apricots, cut in halves, plumped in equal parts cooking-grade brandy and mirin* (about 1 cup of each)

2 tbsp. grapeseed, avocado, or blended olive oil + 1 tbsp. whole unsalted butter

5 oz. fresh shallots, rough large dice

13⁄4 lbs. venison Denver leg, cut medium dice (may also substitute lamb leg or elk leg if venison is unavailable)

4 oz. prosciutto, cut small dice

5-6 tbsp. picked fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

kosher salt and pepper (both black and white) to taste

sherry vinegar to deglaze (about 1⁄4 cup)

reserved liquid from plumped fruit

Pasta Dough:

2-to-1 ratio of “00” flour to semolina flour (a total of 11⁄2 lbs of flour mixture should make a very adequate amount of dough)

3-4 eggs per pound of flour mixture (depending on size of eggs)

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil per pound of flour mixture

2 tbsp. fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Pan Sauce:

whole butter

fresh shallots, finely diced

Shaoxing wine*

good quality beef, veal, or dark chicken stock

minced chives

fresh apricots (preferred) – cut into 1/8’s, or dried apricots, cut in half and rehydrated in

warm water

kosher salt and pepper to taste

fresh mint sprigs

pancetta lardon, cut in 1⁄4” dice and rendered crisp

* Product notes: Mirin (Japanese rice-based cooking wine) and Shaoxing (Chinese rice-based cooking wine) can typically be found in almost all decent Asian markets.

For the filling, plump the apricots in the brandy/mirin mixture over medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes, remove from the heat, and let them cool. In a good size cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron vessel, sweat the shallots mildly in the oil and butter on medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced prosciutto and render for about 2-3 minutes. Add the diced venison and nicely brown the pieces evenly on all sides, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the entire mixture with sherry wine vinegar, allowing it to cook down until almost dry. Remove the mixture from the stove and allow to cool until warm, but not hot. Add the fresh mint, salt and pepper to taste, and reserved apricot plumping liquid to taste, then allow the entire mixture to cool to room temperature. Transfer the mix to a Cuisinart or similar food processor and pulse briefly to evenly break the filling down into a more blended consistency. How much you pulse the filling is really a matter of personal preference depending on whether you enjoy a chunky or smooth filling. Filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored refrigerated in an airtight container.

Make a standard Italian “filled” pasta dough using a two-to-one ratio of “00” flour to semolina and the ratios of eggs and olive oil listed above. Work the dough in a Kitchenaid or similar-style mixer on low speed with a dough hook for ten to twelve minutes, adding the fresh parsley for color after about 5 minutes. Using a hand-crank pasta roller or Kitchenaid pasta attachment and following the manufacturers instructions, roll out your pasta dough to make ravioli (I usually roll to about a 6 or 7 on the thickness dial), cutting to desired size and filling with appropriate amount of venison filling for the size ravioli you choose to make. Be sure to crimp the edges of your ravioli or ravioloni with a pasta crimper or the tines of a fork and to make sure that no air is in the pocket where the filling sits. Taking care with these steps will ensure that your pasta doesn’t “blow open” when you cook it.

(NOTE: Finished pasta can be held in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped for several hours or frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets lined with wax paper, then bagged in resealable bags when frozen for longer storage.)

Bring a good amount of lightly salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking your ravioli. Timing is key here as is understanding that your ravioli will only take about 3-4 minutes typically to cook through.

For the sauce, start with a pat of whole butter, browned slightly, and add some chopped shallots, deglaze with shaoxing wine, cook down halfway, and add veal or dark chicken stock. Finish with another very small pat of whole butter, minced chives and plumped apricots. Reserve warm.

Add your pasta to the water and cook until tender but still al dente. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ravioli and drop them just briefly on a plate lined with a paper towel or clean dish towel. This will allow you to suck up any water they are still carrying from the cooking. Gently transfer the ravioli by hand to a warm bowl and spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the top. Garnish with mint sprigs and the crisp pancetta lardon.