Since opening Equinox in 1999 to universal acclaim, Todd Gray has emerged as one of the surest culinary talents in the nation's capital, as well as a tireless champion of sustainable farming and fishing practices, and a passionate promoter of local, mid-Atlantic foods. Gray practices what he preaches every day, and Equinox is widely acclaimed as an oasis of sophisticated yet unpretentious seasonal cuisine.
With an artist's vision of the beauty in both his raw ingredients and his finished plates, classical training in culinary techniques gained in DC's top French and Italian kitchens, and a down-home Virginia boy's appreciation for food that just plain tastes good, Todd Gray is the culinary mastermind of Equinox, infusing the atmosphere with his passion for the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic. Todd continues to work with local farmers developing food of all varieties, form lettuce to beef, taking personal stock in the animals and produce being raised.
Gray's cooking has earned him five nominations for the prestigious Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic award from the James Beard Foundation. He also is a four-time nominee for Chef of the Year from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. Equinox has consistently been rated one of the city's top restaurants by many local publications, and has appeared on numerous "best of" lists in national epicurean magazines. Equinox has achieved Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence six years in a row, and is consistantly recognized with the Award of Excellence from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNa). Todd has also just received a nomination for Chef of the year through the RAMW for 2008
How to Make Orecchiette Pasta Dough
Chef Todd Gray demonstrates how to make orecchiette, the ear-shaped pasta dough.
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How to Make Orecchiette Pasta Dough
Ingredients2 cups semolina flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 cups of warm water
Rainbow swiss chard
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1. Add the flour to a mixer, turn it on low and add the salt and warm water. When the dough starts to pull away from the side increase the speed to a number 4 on the mixer.
2. Put the dough on a floured work surface and being kneading it. Wrap the dough and place it in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.
3. Cut the dough into pieces and roll the pieces into even cylindrical shapes. Cut the cylinders into small quarter inch rounds and push the dough into ear-shaped pieces to form the orecchiette pasta.
4. Put salt into boiling water and drop a wire basket filled with pasta into the water. Have a bowl of ice water next to the boiling pasta. When it is cooked for 4 minutes, plunge it into the ice water and shock it for 30 seconds. Toss the pasta in a bowl with olive oil.
5. Cut the asparagus into 1 inch lengths. Salt the boiling water and place the asparagus into a wire basket in the water. After 60 seconds, remove the basket and plunge it in the ice water.
6. Place a pan on medium heat and add olive oil and butter. Add shallots and minced garlic and saute for a minute. Add the Swiss chard, asparagus and diced carrots.
7. Add the orecchiette pasta to the pan with pepper, mustard and heavy cream. Mix the pasta, vegetables and sauce together. Let it simmer for about a minute.
Todd Gray: Hi, I am Todd Gray from Equinox Restaurant. We are making orecchiette, the ear-shaped pasta dough.
We are going to start by adding our semolina flour to our mixer. We have two cups of semolina flour and while thats running, we will turn it on low. A quick pinch of salt and our warm water, slowly drizzling our warm water in, so our dough begins to form, a little bit at a time, the dough needs to absorb a little bit of the water. Two cups of the warm water to our two cups of semolina flour and a table spoon of salt. You can see now the dough has started to come together. It starts to pull away from the side we can increase the speed up to about at number 4 on our mixer and our dough is together.
So we need to turn our dough on to cutting surface, continue kneading. What I like to do is with a little help of a little all purpose flour and a little additional semolina; just place this on our cutting board to prevent any sticking of the dough to our work surface. Just turn this dough on to our board and we will knead this gently just to bring it together. Just a couple of times with the back of your hand rotating in 90 degree motions and our dough is nice and smooth and should be silky with not to many pocket or holes in the dough. We need to wrap our dough, place in refrigerator for at least one hour or even overnight.
So I have brought my dough out of the refrigerator. This one has been in the refrigerator overnight. Unwrap it, put a little semolina again and flour on to our cutting surface and with the knife we are going to cut into pieces with our hand we are going to take them and roll them into logs gently pulling them out working from center and pulling toward the ends using all of your fingers to help elongate the pasta dough and make it into an even cylindrical shape with the help of again a little more semolina and a touch of flour.
Its often nice to take your knife and do the same when we are cutting as it will help prevent pasta dough from sticking to the knife. We take our knife and we will cut this in to small little quarter inch of piece rounds. That would be the beginning shape of the orecchiette pasta. You can put this up. Now with our thumb we are going to lightly flour our thumb again to prevent sticking and we are going to push out our orecchiette into these little ear-shaped pieces. Ever so often you can a get little more flour on your thumb, little semolina and pushing out to form the ear-shape. So you want to make probably 15 to 20 pieces per person. Again using our finger to push away using that technique, so there we have the ear-shaped pasta.
Now that our pasta has been completed and the ear shapes have been formed we need to now blanch and shock the dough.