Monday, April 5, 2010

Potato Gnocchi with Bacon & Pea Cream Sauce

For Christmas, Ross and I bought each other gift certificates. I got him a massage at a spa, and he got me cooking classes at the Chopping Block, a local cooking school and gourmet store. I was ecstatic (truth be told, I felt a little outdone). The hardest part was picking out a class to begin with - a culinary tour de Argentina? Basic Knife Skills? Advanced Meat Cutlery?


Soon enough, my pasta tooth swayed me: I'd take a gnocchi class. We would learn to make gnocchi three ways, with three different sauces. I showed up on a cold February night with the attitude of the fiercest Top Chef contestant (I tend to forget that not everything is a competition). I showed up prepared to sharpen my skills (and maybe even suffer some Gordon Ramsay-style berating) and, to my surprise, it was immediately apparent that the class was supposed to be (gasp) fun.


In fact, I was surprised to see that I was the only one in the class that had come alone. It was about 90% married/engaged/dating couples and 8% other pairs - friends, coworkers, etc. And then there was me. So I did what any savvy single(ish) girl would do. I ordered a bottle of red and made friends! The class ended up being great, and the gnocchi were amazing. It only took me 2 tries to really get the hang of it at home, and I'm really, really glad I learned. Because this gnocchi is life-changingly delicious. Light, fluffy, potato-y - and with a few tips, not that hard!


A few tips that I picked up from Chow.com:

1. Don't use too much flour. It makes your gnocchi heavy and gluey.
2. Don't boil them - cook them in simmering water.
3. Treat them very gently - like little pasta babies.
4. Don't overboil the potatoes - if they absorb too much water, they'll be hard to work with.


INGREDIENTS

GNOCCHI:
2 large Russet potatoes
handful of all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

SAUCE:
1/2 lb. bacon, cut into smallish chunks
olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
8 oz. heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
frozen peas (a good handful or two)
fresh oregano, chopped
grated Parmesan for serving

STEP ONE:

Boil the potatoes with the skin on, whole, until easily pierced with a fork, but not overly soft. Peel them while still warm and push through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Sprinkle salt, pepper, Parmesan, and a little flour over the top. Mix together until the dough just comes together, adding more flour if needed, little by little. Turn out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead until the dough forms a sturdy ball, but is still quite pliable. Don't over-add flour.

STEP TWO:

Using a little more flour on your work surface, cut off chunks of the dough and roll them into about 1" wide tubes - just like making a Play-Doh snake. Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut them into 1-inch chunks. Set aside on a platter until ready to coo. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer - not a boil.

STEP THREE:

Add the gnocchi, about 10-12 at a time, to the simmering water. Cook them until they float, then remove them gently with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate, making sure they aren't crowded and sticking together. Continue this in batches until all gnocchi have been cooked. Set aside and cover lightly with parchment paper.


STEP FOUR:

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, cook the bacon until crispy, draining fat as needed. Scoop out the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon, leaving a little fat in the pan. Add a little olive oil and cook the shallots until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping all the brown bits up from the bottom.

STEP FIVE:

Add the chicken broth and raise the heat until it's simmering. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and cream. Simmer until it's thickened a bit. Stir in the bacon and peas and cook for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in gnocchi. Transfer to plates or serving bowl, top with parmesan, serve and enjoy!



If you're nervous to try gnocchi at home, don't be! Google some how-to videos and get cooking. Since they're really just potatoes and flour, even if you screw them up, it's not like you'll have to break the bank to throw them out and start over again. And if they turn out great, they may have everyone around you (including your feline roommates) opening up and begging for a bite.


There's really nothing more satisfying than eating a tender, handcrafted gnocchi that was handcrafted by - YOU! Good luck, eat well, enjoy life, and more soon!
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