Wednesday, April 20, 2011
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...The adventurous swim uncharted waters and gasp thin air in search of something most can't see or understand. Why? There is, of course, the joy of discovery, but as important, is completion of the challenge, an effort so intense it holds a promise that just might free these wandering souls and allow them to rest and age with grace. We who love to cook and eat are explorers of a different sort, but we, too, seek out the new and different and love the challenge that demanding palates present to us. I recently made a dish that could be served with rice or pasta. The problem was I wanted neither and had a taste for something new. I happened on Jacques Pepin's recipe for gnocchi Parisienne and decided to give it a try. Italian gnocchi are small dumplings usually made with potato or ricotta cheese. In Italy the word gnocchi means lump and that pretty well describes their appearance. The French version of gnocchi is less grainy and is made from pâte à choux, the same dough that is used to make eclairs and cream puffs. While this is at best a judgment call, I've found French version of gnocchi to be lighter than its Italian counterpart. It is also easier to make. Once made, the choux paste is shaped using a pastry bag or two spoons. The pieces are dropped into gently simmering water and cooked until they rise to the surface of the water. If they are to be baked, the gnocchi are immediately plunged ice water. If they are to be sauced or warmed in brown butter, they should be cooked for two minutes longer, then tested to make sure the center is no longer doughy before dropping them in ice water to stop the cooking. I am using the simplest of the French techniques to make my gnocchi. Most recipes bake them in a Mornay sauce. While I pull out all stops when we have guests, that is too caloric for a family meal, so I simply sprinkle them with cheese and bake them off. These are delicious when served right from the oven. While I make sauce available, I serve them plain. Once you've tasted them, you'll see why. I really hope you'll give them a try. I promise you won't be sorry. The gnocchi in the photograph above have been magnified and appear much larger than they actually are. Here's the recipe.
Gnocchi Parisienne...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Jacques Pepin and Food and Wine Magazine
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyère or Asiago cheese
1) Combine water, salt and nutmeg with 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as water boils, add flour all at once and beat dough with a wooden spoon until it is thick and comes away from sides of pan. Cook, stirring to dry out dough, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to a medium bowl and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
2) Beat 1 egg into dough until incorporated. Beat in 1/4 cup of cheese and another egg until blended, then beat in last egg until dough is very smooth.
3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water near stove. With a large spatula, transfer the dough to a resealable plastic bag, pressing it into one corner. Cut off the tip of the bag; the opening should be about 1/2 inch long.
4) Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Carefully hold bag over the water and press out dough, using a small sharp knife or scissors to cut it into 1-1/2-inch lengths before it drops into pot (see Note). Simmer the gnocchi until it rises to top of water, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to ice water bath to stop cooking. Transfer the gnocchi to paper towels and pat dry.
5) Grease a 8 x 11-inch baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Arrange gnocchi in dish and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese. Bake until puffed, about 25 minutes. Preheat broiler. Broil gnocchi 6 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.
Cook's Notes: The gnocchi dough can also be shaped with 2 teaspoons and wet hands. The dough can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight before baking and broiling. It can also be frozen for 4 to 6 weeks.
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