We’re baaaack! Now, let’s eat some gnocchi!May 2, 2008
Yes, it’s been much longer than we promised, but I have a litany of excuses. (New York is distracting… Our baby is distracting… We are preoccupied by our jobs fighting international crime… The usual.)
But I promise that what my husband has been cooking will be worth the wait. First and foremost, he has an actual culinary degree. (Applause!) Yes, he has been trained by real, live fancy-pants chefs at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Does this really make his cooking taste better?
Actually, it kind of does.
In fact, he is a better cook — if that’s possible. He has learned these things he calls “TEK-NEEKS” which he uses to prepare my increasingly delicious meals. And (bonus) he’s learned to cook more neatly — and to estimate dinner time more accurately. That’s right: As opposed to using every pot in the cupboard and telling me dinner would be at 7 p.m. (read: 7:45 p.m.), he actually keeps the kitchen tidy and puts dinner on the table at — dramatic pause — dinner time.
Let’s just say, my gratitude toward those Frenchies in toques is great and unwavering.
Second, the husband has become a student of spirits. Indeed, while in New York he took “classes” on wine and liquor. (I write “classes” because he came home with purported certificates of completion… but, let’s face it, his assignment was to drink wine and cocktails. Um, what kind of school was this exactly?) And since returning to the DC area, the husband has also become a devoted student of beer.
So, why should you care about this, dear readers of My Husband Cooks? Because a beer-soaked chef is a creative (and happy) chef. And because he is about to drop some serious knowledge on you guys.
That’s right. My husband and I have decided to turn our attentions back to this beloved blog, where we’ll invite you to share in his new obsessions: Fresh, seasonal and, when possible, local (to the DC area) ingredients… simple and delicious American fare… and, finally, tasty and exciting brew possibilities.
I hope you enjoy it as much as my stomach does!
And now, the husband’s take…
In our absence, I suspect you missed my wife’s clever wit. And while this is one of her best qualities, the one I’d like to point out is her devotion to my crazy cooking obsession. I mean, when your lawyer husband says, “Let’s move to New York City so I can go to culinary school,” and you are behind it 100%… you are pretty amazing. (Oh, and by the way, you’ll also be moving into a tiny apartment, in a city with no family, and you’ll be bringing along your two-month-old son.)
So, my wife is really the hero of all this. I can’t say that enough to her.
… But enough of this sentimentality, this blog is about the food.
Alas, everything she writes above is true. Dinners come out on time. Food looks better, but is also more complicated. And it’s true, I have focused on libations of various types. Yet, in my defense, I contend that all of this “research” is about understanding the food better. It’s about the experience of eating and sharing time together.
In secret, though, I bet my wife would tell you that the biggest benefit of all of this is actually (whispering) the side dishes. My wife is one of those people who at holiday feasts is more interested in the various concoctions of vegetables and starches than the main protein. Quite frankly, she wouldn’t notice that the turkey was missing at Thanksgiving… provided there were enough side dishes.
So one of the biggest things she coos about these days is the variety of sides that I produce. Frequently, it’s the multiple vegetables of various preparations and the perfect carbohydrate-laden starch dish that first disappear from her plate. I hope this recipe for potato gnocchi elicits similar responses from your family and friends.
Now most people think of gnocchi as either fluffy or gut-bomb dense dumplings that are rolled off the back of a spoon, boiled, then covered in some sauce at an Italian eatery. Well, I’m here to suggest an alternative. This recipe is in the vein of French-style gnocchi, which are made using pate choux (the same dough used to make cream puffs) that is boiled and then sautéed.
Here, we keep the more Italian-style potato pasta, but dispense with the fork shaping. The pasta is shaped quickly with a knife, then boiled, drained and sautéed to finish. When done right, it’s impressive, delicious, light and true to the potato.
Yield: 6-8 servings as main dish
4 Idaho/Russet potatoes
8 oz. / 225 g all-purpose flour (approx. 1 ½ cups)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tbsp. parmesan cheese (grated)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (grated)
parsley (finely chopped)
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes until the largest one is soft. Let cool until the skins can be removed.
3. Run the skinned potatoes through a ricer, food mill, or blitz quickly with a stick blender. If you use the stick blender, take care not to overblend. You don’t want to create glue. The goal is to get a fluffy, consistent texture.
4. Set a large pot of water to a boil and, at the same time, make an ice bath.
5. Add the beaten eggs, cheese, nutmeg and 1 cup of flour to the potatoes. Mix together until integrated. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. You want to add only enough flour to get the texture right. It should be firm, but easily malleable. Also, try not to overwork the dough. Too much flour or work will result in dense, hard gnocchi.
6. Work with about a quarter of the dough at a time. Roll into a 3/4 inch log about 18 inches long. Using a knife or pastry scraper, cut the dough into 1/2 inch pieces.
7. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float. Remove from the water and add to the ice bath to cool quickly. Remove to a paper-lined sheet tray to dry.
8. Once relatively dry, you can store them covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. These are great to make a day in advance, or for multiple meals as a dish. Once to this point, they are quick to finish.
9. For final use, you may need to work in batches depending on how many you are making. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter to the pan. Once butter melts and stops bubbling, add the dumplings to the pan and toss until brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add any herbs (such as parsley) right before removing from the heat. Drain any excess fat with a paper towel. Serve hot.