a personal challenge: potato gnocchi

I have always been intimidated by the kitchen. Even now, at times, I’ll see a recipe and feel a queasy sensation starting in the pit of my stomach if it looks a bit too long, a tad too complicated. You know the recipes I’m talking about – the ones that are so long that they carry over to the next page, or the ones labeled “intermediate” on the Food Network website.  Thoughts of “I can’t do that” start creeping back in my mind.

I have to confess – it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started learning my place in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem to come naturally to me the way it does for a lot of people. Over time, though, things are starting to make sense. It’s hard to explain how liberating it felt the first time I took the risk of not following a recipe exactly the way it was written…and it turned out fine! That was a great discovery, and I’m continuing to work on being more creative with my cooking. It’s a journey, but an exciting one to take.

Along this path to culinary wisdom, I’ve set some little challenges for myself. Making potato gnocchi was one of these hurdles that I was determined to overcome.  So, one day when I had an entire Saturday afternoon to myself, I did it. I made gnocchi. As it turns out, the process wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as I had built it up to be. In fact, it was a lot of fun. My technique could seriously be improved, but those gnocchi tasted darn good. I felt pretty proud of myself.

One challenge down, many more to go.

P.S. Shortly after making the gnocchi, I read about my friend Jennie’s experience making gnocchi. After reading her post, I almost couldn’t write this. Her little gnocchi were just so beautiful and perfect. She is definitely my pasta hero.

Yield: Serves 6.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients:

2 pounds whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cup flour
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet and cool slightly.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a work area and dust it with flour.

Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add the flour, toss to coat. Form a well in the center of the potato mixture. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg. Stir with fork until the mixture is evenly moistened and mixture looks shaggy.

Turn the mixture out onto the lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press lightly into each gnocchi, making an indentation in the pasta.

At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi by placing them into the freezer spread out on a baking sheet dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. Once frozen, place the gnocchi in a freezer bag. To cook them, place the frozen gnocchi into simmering water (next step).
Working in batches, cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, until they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl. Serve with your favorite warm pasta sauce.

Recipe blended and adapted from Elise Bauer's recipe here on Simply Recipes and from the Bon Apètit recipe from February 2010.


weekday wines – a south african rosé

Our weekend started off on a great note at our local wine shop, the Wine and Cheese Gallery, celebrating their 37th birthday with a fantastic wine dinner. There were some great items on the menu, but my favorite was an asparagus bisque with pancetta and a seared scallop. The two top wines of the night were a Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and a Turley Zinfandel.

But, I’m not going to tell you about those wines. I’m going to tell you about the $11 bottle we picked up on the way out.

I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about rosé wines, so when we left the dinner Friday night, I asked our friend Wade to recommend something. Wade also happens to be one of the owners of the Wine and Cheese Gallery, so with his at 37+ years of experience, I trust his recommendations. He handed me the 2009 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. And for $11, I really had nothing to lose.

I had intended the rosé to be opened one weeknight, but the weekend got a bit crazy after we got home Friday night. My daughter, Madeline, busted her little brother’s lip with a toy – a minor trauma with a lot of blood that nearly sent us all over the edge. Then, an unexpectedly severe thunderstorm cropped up and our house – or somewhere very nearby – was hit by lightning. A powersurge fried our refrigerator, my husband’s desktop computer, and our phone and internet. We spent the weekend dealing with the thawing mess in our fridge and freezer and waiting on cable repair people.

Needless to say, the wine was opened Saturday. I waited until around 6pm, but we were tempted to open it up around 11am that day.

And the wine was really very good. It’s not complicated, this rosé, but that’s what makes it a great wine for drinking before dinner – or with dinner, or after dinner. It was dry with a nice minerality to it, beautiful strawberry pink color, and I tasted berries (strawberry, maybe, or cherry?). For the price, it’s definitely a rosé worth keeping in the fridge. Once the fridge is repaired, that is.

rosemary cream drop biscuits

I have great memories of my dad’s cooking over the years. On weekends, he would make breakfast for my mom, my brother, and me. The usual specialty – or maybe just the breakfast that I most looked forward to – was French toast. I also remember other things, though, like pancakes, eggs with either bacon or sausage, eggs-in-a-hole, and biscuits with sausage gravy. I remember having Bisquick drop biscuits, and I loved them. Those biscuits were so simple, yet so filling and comforting, especially when topped with butter and grape jelly.

When I was searching for a recipe from Gourmet magazine to make for May’s Gourmet Unbound post, I found a recipe for cream drop biscuits from May 2001. And those biscuits called to me.

I made two batches of these biscuits. For the first batch, I made the recipe exactly as it is written. The biscuits were so rich and tasty, even when eaten plain. I topped a warm biscuit with apricot preserves, had a cup of coffee with it, and I felt like I was on vacation somewhere amazing. It was luxurious. Until the kids started bickering again.

For the second batch, I made some adjustments to make the biscuits more savory. I left out the sugar and added some chopped fresh rosemary. The biscuit tasted rich and wonderful, and the rosemary flavor was fantastic. A great idea for these biscuits would be to make tiny versions of them, slice them in half, and serve them like sandwiches with a slice of country ham or even some prosciutto nestled inside. Now, that would be my kind of appetizer.

The best part of these biscuits is that they are SO easy to make. It only took me about ten minutes to make up the dough and get it on the sheet pan, and another 20 minutes to bake. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go throw away that old box of Bisquick in my pantry.


Yield: 12 biscuits

Rosemary Cream Drop Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 cups chilled heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and chopped fresh rosemary in a large bowl. Add cream, then stir just until a dough forms.

Drop heaping 1/4 cups of batter about 1 inch apart on an ungreased large baking sheet. Place in the middle of oven until tops are pale golden and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Adapted from Cream Drop Biscuits, Gourmet, May 2001.