When Greek-American chef Michael Psilakis was growing up on Long Island, his mother would make a traditional Greek cheese pie. To resurrect the comfort of that dish, Psilakis, who runs Manhattan's renowned Kefi and is set to open another restaurant in Brooklyn this year, deconstructed that cheese-pie memory and reassembled it in the form of sheep's milk ricotta dumplings.
The ability to thoughtfully remix the past has always been a hallmark of great chefs, and it's why these dumplings, served with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes and spicy lamb sausage, make such an eloquent statement. The recipe may not be the quickest, but Psilakis says that it's well worth taking the time to make the dough. "The dish does require undivided attention," he says. "No multitasking." Psilakis is also adamant about keeping all of the ingredients well chilled, and he flours his surfaces generously. "Be careful not to knead the dough [either], but gently work it," he says. You should sprinkle on more flour than the recipe calls for if the dough should get sticky.
To be sure, these rules sound a bit strict, but that's the other thing that keeps Psilakis' food relevant: He does things the right way. In that spirit, any cook attempting this recipe should follow the chef's last tip and put the dumplings in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up and keep their shape while cooking.
Sheep's Milk Dumplings with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach, and Spicy Lamb Sausage
(Makes 6 servings)
Ingredients for Dumplings
- 1 lb sheep's milk ricotta
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pinch of white pepper
- 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, salt, pepper, and Pecorino Romano. Mix well with a spatula.
Beat egg and add to ricotta, folding in well.
Sprinkle a third of the flour onto a clean, flat working area. Transfer ricotta onto flour. Begin to incorporate flour until the ricotta pulls away from the surface. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cut into 4 equal parts. Dust the area with flour, and begin to roll into logs 1/2 inch in diameter.
Using a knife, cut logs into 1/2 inch-long dumplings. Transfer to a tray lined with parchment paper, dusted with flour. Continue until all dumplings have been cut from the logs.
You can freeze dumplings for 3 to 4 days. Wrap in plastic on trays spaced far enough apart so air can flow in between.
Ingredients for the Sauce
- 1 lb loukanika - Greek lamb sausage (Sweet or hot Italian sausage can be substituted.)
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 shallot chopped
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tsp
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup sliced, sun-dried tomatoes marinated in extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 oz triple-washed fresh spinach, chopped
- 4 oz crumbled feta
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Remove the sausage from its casing and crumble.
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown the sausage lightly in the olive oil. Add garlic and brown lightly, then the shallots.
Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and add the tomato sauce, the sun-dried tomatoes, and the spinach.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the dumplings for 2-3 minutes.
Add the cooked dumplings to the pan of sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss.
Plate the dumplings. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, drizzle with one teaspoon of olive oil, dot with toasted pine nuts, and serve.