Thursday, October 25, 2012

Classic Potato Gnocchi

Snow is falling on Aspen, and has been for the past 24 hours.  We had an overnight transformation from fall to winter.  With the snow came a need for comfort food and red wine (and salad of course), and gnocchi sounded perfect.

Ahhh gnocchi.  Finally, as promised, the recipe is here.  The delicate texture of these dumplings mixed with a perfect sauce makes brisk nights seem warm.  I first had gnocchi on a trip to Italy in 2005, and completely forgot about it for many years.  One night we visited a new restaurant in Denver, only to find gnocchi on the menu.  I have tried (and failed) to make gnocchi in the past, but over the past 2 months I have been perfecting this technique i found at the Italian Dish, and am ready to share it. The keys to this method are baking the potatoes (to achieve the dry potato flesh needed for gnocchi), making the dough while the potato is still warm, and using only the egg yolks for a richer flavor and improved texture.

Potato Gnocchi
serves 3-4
 Barely adapted from the Italian Dish Blog

Note: While not required, a potato ricer makes gnocchi so much easier.  If you choose to mash the potatoes by hand, use a fork and be very gentle.  Too much mashing can break down the cells and allow excess water to be released, which makes for a gummy dough.

  • 2 medium baking potatoes, about 1.5 pounds total (doesn't have to be exact)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • almost 2 cups flour (you may not use all the flour)
1. Bake potatoes at 400 degrees until tender (about 30-45 minutes).
2. Lightly beat egg yolks, and set aside.
3. Allow potatoes to cool until you can just handle them, and scoop flesh into potato ricer and press into yolks while whisking to prevent scrambling of the eggs. The potato needs to be warm to allow binding with the egg and flour.
4. When the dough gets too thick, stop whisking and finish pressing the potatoes.
5. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and work into a cohesive dough with your hands.
6. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter or board and kneed lightly until dough comes together, adding additional flour 2 tablespoons at a time.  The dough should not be too sticky or firm.  You want a cohesive dough, with minimal visible flecks of potato. See photo.

Finished dough
7. Slice off a small piece of dough with a scraper or large knife, and roll to 3/4 inch diameter.  Slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch gnocchi.  Set aside on floured towel until finished cutting all. Remember the gnocchi will swell when they are boiled.

8. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add gnocchi in batches, and when they float to the top cook 1 more minute before removing with a slotted spoon.
9. Place gnocchi directly into the sauce of your choice, and allow to simmer gently for at least 3 minutes before serving. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Links: Halloween

Two weeks has come and gone, and I have sadly not posted any recipes.  It is not for lack of cooking, and I have an almost perfected gnocchi recipe which will be up soon.  However, I have been sticking to some old favorites like Chicken Chili and Roasted Chicken, which are already posted on this blog.  So look forward to some delightful gnocchi, and for now enjoy the Halloween links.

Healthy and festive: Quinoa Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Peppers
Pretzels to spook you: Ladies' Fingers and Men's Toes
For a gourmet sweet: Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Meringue
A kid-friendly treat: Devil's Food Whoopie Pies, with eyes!
Beautiful and bite-sized: Mini Caramel Apples

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Links: Pumpkin Recipes

The first Friday in October seems to call for an abundance of pumpkin recipes.  Pumpkin cans line the shelves and fresh pumpkins are in the produce section.  The trees are bright gold under a blue sky, and afternoon hikes are rewarded with baked treats and hearty meals.  Below are some unique pumpkin recipes to go along with the traditional pies and breads.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes: pumpkin for breakfast.
Curried Pumpkin Soup: a different type of pumpkin spice.
Pumpkin Lasagna: an excellent vegetarian main course.
Pumpkin Cookies with Chai Icing: sugar and spice and everything nice.*

and from SG:

Pumpkin Orzo with Sage: rustic pasta for a brisk night.
Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Cream-Cheese Muffins: not too sweet, just enough spice.

*I made these cookies a couple weeks ago and they were delightful.  Leave a comment if you would like the altitude adjustment.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dutch Oven Chicken and Rice

Served with a sunflower sprout and raspberry salad.
Happy October.  The sun has been shining here this weekend, but the nights have been leaving frost on the windows.  All of the ski movies were in town for a weekend event, and we have been dreaming of winter snow and comfort food.  Chicken and rice is a classic that can be done so many ways.  When I first started visualizing this recipe, I looked to google for inspiration.  I found that to some, chicken and rice was made with cans of cream of mushroom soup.  I knew it was going to take some creativity to come up with a recipe that was delicious and healthy.  This recipe uses chicken thighs for full flavor, but there are no cans of soup around here. The dish is a little time consuming, but requires very little hands on time.

Dutch Oven Chicken and Rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, for a lower fat version use 3 breasts cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut into half moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferred
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, I used sage and parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large dutch oven.
3. Sear chicken until browned, about 2 minutes per side.
4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate.
5. Reduce heat to medium and add onions and a pinch of salt.
6. Saute onions until translucent, then reduce to low and allow onions to caramelize.  This should form a fond on the bottom of the pot, as seen in the photo, and the onions should lightly brown (15-20 minutes).

7. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir for 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant.

8. Add rice and stir for 1 minute longer until rice is becoming translucent.
9. Stir in 1/2 cup of the stock, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.  Add the rest of the stock and nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Sprinkle the herbs on top.

10. Transfer the pot to the oven, and cook 60 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to sit covered for another 30 minutes.  Salt and Pepper to taste and serve warm.