problem with sage
- sg Dec 9, 2004 11:23 PM
i made ravioli w/ sage and butter sauce for the first time yesterday and it was actually the first time i've ever tasted or cooked w/ sage (horrors!). anyway, i was terribly disappointed with the results and think i may have done something wrong. i julienned a small bunch of washed sage leaves, and threw them into a nonstick pan where i had melted about 1 tbsp of butter. i let it sort of saute up a bit, then added cooked ravioli into the pan and tossed it all together. the sage was so bitter and unpleasant and it ruined the taste of my mushroom ravioli. is this how sage is supposed to taste? or did i cook it too long or not long enough? help!, as i would love to try this again and do it right!
I think maybe you used too much. Sage isn't like parsley where you can add it by the handsful into a dish and be fine, it's *really* strong. Some herbs you can add loads of (for me, basil, cilantro) and just reaps more and more enjoyment but others (rosemary, sage) less is "more". Also, if you really do love the flavor and want to use a lot, don't chop it up, just toss in the whole leaves into the pan; that way, if you want more flavor, eat them, but if it's enough, leave it on the plate.
Too much sage is probably the right answer. For 1 pound of pasta I would use about six leaves which I slice with scissors. And I'd use more butter too, a minimum of 4 tablespoons.
I'm not exactly going to agree.
The usual sauce, to my mind, is for sage with burnt butter. When you melt butter, there are solids and the fat. The idea is to cook at high heat so the solids turn brown, and like most 'burnt' things (toast, roast chicken skin) are quite tasty. The sage gets fried at the same time, and gets crispy.
That said, sage can be woody and too much can overpower. However, I made ravioli this week with (approx) 1.5 Tbs butter and six sage leaves PER PERSON. And it was about right, or a little too much. Too much butter, not too much sage. The sage leaves were whole.
I would suggest to experiment some day when bored with a half stick of butter and some sage leaves to just fry the thing until it browns (not black, but way past saute). Then taste it.
I would suggest you didn't like the flavor of sage on its own. It does have an inherent slightly bitter taste. And, if it was a little old, it may have even worsened. Test it (if you still have some). Smell it. Do you like it? Make some up in a tea? Do you still like it? Drying or toasting it will also alter the flavor somewhat. And, there is always the chance you just used too much (in quantity or in the length of time you let it steep or fuse).
The first time I experienced sage, they were letting it flow from an incense lantern and I did not think it was a good incense at all.
As others have said, fresh sage can be quite strong and should be used more sparingly than other herbs for my taste. It's all about flavor balance (as I learned w/ bitter radicchio). Some tips that might help for next time:
Use more butter, say about 3 tbsp. Let the butter turn a light brown before adding sage leaves. Add 4-6 WHOLE leaves/serving; avoid slicing since it makes the flavor stronger as more oils are released and can cause burning more quickly (which may have been one culprit to your excessive bitterness). Once butter is browned (watch it like a hawk so it doesn't burn) and leaves are toasted a bit, add a splash of heavy cream & parmesan cheese. Toss in ravioli. Finish w/ cracked black pepper and more parmesan.
Browned butter adds nuttiness, some sweetness. Parmesan adds saltiness, some nuttiness. Cream adds luxurious mouthfeel and hint of sweetness. Pepper adds a sharp bite. This is not diluting the sage flavor but bringing it to its full potential IMO.
If the fresh sage flavor still doesn't agree w/ you, then consider using a pinch of dried sage powder.
For a slightly different take, you can make an infused butter with the sage by letting a stick of butter soften way ahead of time at room temp, then add in 2 or 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped sage. Let sit in the fridge overnight. When it's time, fry your parboiled ravioli in a little olive oil, then finish with the sage butter compound. Cook only long enough to melt the butter. Throw in a little parm and you're set.
I've found this way works better for a lighter sage flavor.