Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crab Agnolottis ala Julie Hyzy from BUFFALO WEST WING

Hello my friends, the merry murderous mistresses of the Mystery Lover's Kitchen have struck again.  Julie Hyzy had a 4th in the White House Chef Mysteries series published last week.  The series features the White House (yes, that White House) chef, with lots of behind the scenes trivia about life in that political bubble.

As usual for the books from the 6 different culinary mystery authors of MLK, recipes are featured at the back of the book.  This current book in the series features a full menu for a White 
house state dinner.  It's on my list to one day recreate the entire menu for a dinner party.  But for my book review, I chose to replicate Julie's Chesapeake Crab Agnolotti.  I have to admit, I needed to do a bit of research just to figure out what the dish was (never heard of the word)...
Agnolotti (pronounced anneeolottee) are Piemontese stuffed pasta, and come in a great many different varieties, some filled with cheese, others meat, and others still meatless. They are, in any case square and small, about 3/4 of an inch to an inch on a side, and are made using very thin sheets of pasta. They also are often made from cooked meat, in other words, leftovers
Ah... Agnolotti is a pasta dish.  Now I can proceed.

But first, let's talk about BUFFALO WEST WING.  This is the 4th in Julie's series on White House Chef Olivia "Ollie" Paras.  While it is the 4th in the series, it is the first of the series I have read.  It is a perfect book to start on.  The book opens with the inauguration of a new president.  Julie made catching up very easy with introducing the regular kitchen staff, the old guard (literally, the Secret Service is crawling all over the place) and glimpses into her personal life (including a former significant other, Secret Service agent who still works closely with her).  We are also introduced to new staff, new First Family (first time young children have been in the WH in a long time), a First Lady that is less than thrilled with the Ollie and the awaited arrival of a new chef brought in by the disgruntled First Lady.  I never felt like I was coming into a party midway.  4th in the series was an easy fit for a first time reader.

The book starts with a bang, with the attempted poisoning of the First Children.  When the hospital that the President's children would have been taken to is attacked, the obvious connection is made.  Soon the plot threatens the organization of the kitchen (as well as the free world).

I LOVED this book.  The series reads like an action/adventure espionage genre as much as a kitchen/cozy.  Danger and chases in and out of the White House.  A terrific ending, a very fast read, as the action moves along very fast.  The well researched details of a world we can only imagine is a real treat.  While the characters are imaginary, the setting and the possibilities are never visibly compromised for the story.  It all seemed possible.

And besides, what else could you read where you can picture yourself saying, "Well, I certainly would not serve the President THAT!".

But I would serve him this...

 Julie Hyzy's Chesapeake Crab Agnolotti...

One side note, Julie serves this with a Basil Oil (recipe in the book).  

The sad and pathetic "worst garden in the world" that I grow fresh basil was having a very rough time of it.  I had enough to make the crab stuffing used in the agnolotti (I now love saying that word), but did not have enough to make the basil oil.  Her recipe sounded wonderful, but I didn't have the ingredients. Instead I went with a Green Onion Cilantro Honey Vinaigrette as the sauce for the pasta.  

But, the Agnolotti recipe is all hers (or Ollie's if you don't want to break the illusion of fiction)...

Serves 6

2 packages Wonton Wrappers
(Julie does provide instructions on making your own flat pasta (what she calls the "Hard Way", but she also provides the "Easy Way" of using wonton wrappers... I chose the "Easy Way"!


1 cup Ricotta Cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 cup fresh Basil Leaves
1 lb lump Crabmeat (preferably fresh Chesapeake crabmeat, carefully picked over to remove any shell fragments (Yeah right, I live in Kansas... I used a can, sorry Julie))
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all the filling ingredients.

Lay out a wonton wrapper.  Place about a teaspoons worth in the center.  Moisten the edges and top with a second wrapper.  Press the edges to seal.

Place the Agnolotti s in boiling salt water for about 3-5 minutes (fresh pasta cooks much faster than dry).  Arrange on warm plate and drizzle with Basil Oil and garnish with Basil Leaves.

OK, I made the basic recipe, but I altered the form.  i made a sort of hat, single wonton style.  Rather than a main course, I was serving these as an appetizer, so small single bite pieces was what I was after.

I also used a whipped egg as the moistening agent for the edges.  Forming the pasta is very easy.  Lay out a single Wonton wrapper.  Place about 3/4 of a teaspoon worth of the filling in the center.  Brush the egg wash around the 4 edges.  Fold over top corner to bottom corner to make a triangle.  Wash the center and one of the edges, fold that over, was the final edge and the top of the center (which has the first folded edge now on top) and fold that edge to the center.

here's a montage of that process...

And here's my final product...

Like I said thou, I was out of basil to make Julie's preferred sauce, Basil Oil to accompany the dish.  here's the recipe for...

 The Green Onion Cilantro Honey Sauce I used instead...

1 cup Sliced green Onions (white and green parts)
1/4 cup fresh chopped Cilantro
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
2 TBS Honey
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar

Put everything EXCEPT the oil into a blender and blend well.
With the motor running, slowly add the oil until completely emulsified.

Serve as a dipping sauce or drizzle over the pasta...

As I said before, the recipes included in the book are all recipes served for a State Dinner.  main course to dessert to appetizer, every one sounds fabulous and served to impress.  I even made a second one of the recipes, Julie's Creamed Spinach with Olive Oil and Shallots that I served as a side dish for a salmon recipe I will be bragging about on Friday (Fish Fridays is one of my New Year's resolutions).


Julie Hyzy's Buffalo West Wing, 4th in the White House Chef Mystery series is a terrific read, filled with action, adventure and an introduction to a world we can only imagine.

And her recipes are winners (I loved the 2 that I made) as well.  Highly recommended.  In the interest of fair open disclosure, I spent my own hard earned retirement money to buy this book.  Nothing was given or offered in exchange for this honest review.



  1. Thanks for the step-by-step agnolotti instructions Dave! And honestly that green onion cilantro honey sauce sounds amazing. THe perfect topping!

  2. Oh my gosh, Dave!! You are the best, you know that? Thank you! And, btw, I adore anything with cilantro -- sometimes even more than I love basil, so I will have to try your version. This is such a wonderful post. Love your photos and your take on it all. Thank you!!

    You totally made my day!!
    PS - that spinach is one of my go-to recipes. Always a favorite around here.

  3. Great recipes Dave! I am defiantly going to try that creamed spinach recipe!

  4. Both seem to be great dishes, Dave. The wontons sound tasty with the basil (lol...aka known as green onion) sauce. The spinach looks like it would be ideal with a nice grilled fillet. Great post.