Monday, February 1, 2010

My obsession

I have noticed, as I have perused magazine articles, cookbooks and blogs, that those who find food more than just fuel tend to move from one recipe induced obsession to another. This is the pattern that most often occurs in my experience:
Step 1. I read about a new recipe (or see it when I am lucky enough to have time to watch Food Network). I think, 'I should try that. It's different, I have most of the ingredients or could come by them easily enough and it sounds so good.'
Step 2. I pull the recipe out of a magazine and place it in my 'to make' pile. (PS I would not recommend doing this as I have found that they get lost and/or misplaced. It is easier to just leave it in the magazine) After reading and rereading the recipe several times over so I know what I need for it, how much time it will take, etc. it somehow makes its way to my menu sometime in the next month. That, or, if I am especially excited about this particular recipe, I just randomly decide one night to make it. So I go out and buy any ingredients I need and make a night of it.
Step 3. We decide that it was decadent. So much better than a restaurant. So much cheaper than a restaurant, and just absolutely delicious.
Step 4. Repeat with minor alterations.
Step 5. See step four.
Step 6. See step five.
You get the idea.
Take for instance, gnocchi with peas and chanterelles. In case you are wondering, chanterelles are mushrooms (you know who you are out there). I look at the recipe and decide to leave them out, because my husband is not a big fan of mushrooms. Now, he would eat them if I made this dish, and he probably would really like it, but I don't keep mushrooms around all that much because they are not that popular with the family (oftentimes our dinner party includes my mom, dad, and teenage sister). So, I would probably substitute something safe, like proscuitto, ham or bacon, that has been fried up real crispy and tossed in with the peas and cream sauce.
The possibilities are endless. It is great with tuna in place of the meat. No truffle oil? I use plain extra virgin olive oil. I had extra gnocchi, so I threw them in the freezer before I cooked them and just threw them into the boiling water frozen. 
The next time I went to make gnocchi, a sad thing happened. I couldn't find the recipe I had pulled out of the magazine. So, I looked up the recipe online, and lo, and behold, discovered a recipe for gnocchi with butternut squash, mushrooms and sage in brown butter. Again, we omitted the mushrooms, but I had a butternut squash sitting on my counter, waiting to be roasted and pureed for muffins and soups. I cut up the leftover and reserved it to use in this recipe.

The recipe also called for purchased herb gnocchi, but part of the joy of eating it is making it from scratch. So I continued searching until I found the recipe I had used before. I found it, and combined the two. I heated olive oil and some butter in a saucepan and cooked the sage in it. I then removed the sage with a spatula and dumped the roasted squash in. I had cut it into about 3/4 in. pieces, and I sprinkled the entire thing with salt and pepper. I waited until a nice crust had formed and then turned them in the pan. The aroma was delightful. The sweet, mellow flavor of the roasted squash combined with the browned butter and some freshly grated Pecorino Romano is absolutely seductive. Sprinkle the crispy sage leaves on top and you have a comfort meal to cozy up with on a cold winter night.
The funny thing is, gnocchi won't be my favorite for long. As a matter of fact, I feel it being slowly replaced by something else...

· One 2 1/2- to 3-pound butternut squash (one with a long neck)

· Canola oil

· 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

· 12 small sage leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 lb. russet potatoes (about 2), unpeeled

1 1⁄4 cup flour, plus more for dusting

3⁄4 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. Olive oil

1 egg, beaten

For the squash:

1. It is easier to dice the neck of the butternut squash uniformly than the bulb, which is important for this recipe. We use the remaining bulb for soup. Cut off and discard the stem end of the squash, then cut off the neck. Use a paring knife or sharp vegetable peeler to slice away the peel deep enough to reach the bright orange flesh of the squash. Trim the neck to straighten the sides, then cut it lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut the slices into 1/2-inch dice. (You need about 3 cups diced squash.) If you have less than 3 cups, peel the bulb of the squash, cut it in half, and scrape out the seeds. Trim and cut as much of the bulb as you need into 1/2-inch dice. Reserve the remaining squash for another use. Roast the squash. Cut squash in half lengthwise and brush with olive oil. Roast at 350 for 30 to 45 mins until tender.

2. Make the gnocchi: Boil potatoes in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes; let cool slightly and peel. Work potatoes through a food mill or a potato ricer onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potatoes and mix together with your hands. Form a mound and create a well in the center; add olive oil and egg. Gently knead dough until it just comes together, adding a little more flour if it begins to stick.

3. Lightly flour a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1⁄2" thickness. Cut into 1⁄2"-wide strips. Roll each strip between your hands and the work surface to form ropes. Cut each rope into 3/4" segments. Working with one segment at a time, roll it down the back of a small fork so that the tines make ridges on the surface of the dough (see How to Roll Gnocchi). Transfer gnocchi to the prepared baking sheet; cover with a kitchen towel and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat a thin film of canola oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the squash in a single layer (or cook the squash in two batches). When the oil is hot, add the butter and brown it lightly. Add the squash, salt and pepper to taste, and the sage leaves. Cook, stirring the pieces to brown them on all sides, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until tender throughout. Reduce the heat as necessary to cook the squash and brown it lightly, without burning; the best way to see if the squash is fully cooked is to eat a piece. Drain the squash on one end of the paper towel–lined baking sheet and set aside the sage leaves for the garnish. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and set aside.

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Boil gnocchi in the salted water until they float, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to colandar to drain.

The gnocchi should be cooked in two skillets: Wipe out the mushroom skillet with paper towels and add a light coating of olive oil to it and to a second large skillet.

To complete:

Heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to each skillet. When the butter has browned, divide the gnocchi between the two skillets and season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the gnocchi have begun to brown, shake and rotate the skillets, tossing the gnocchi so that they brown and crisp on all sides, about 2 1/2 minutes.

Add the squash and heat just through. Spoon the gnocchi and squash onto serving plates. Garnish with the reserved sage leaves.


1 comment:

  1. Haha, I love it! This sounds soooo much like me, especially steps 4, 5, and 6! :)


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