Monday, December 13, 2010

Dark Days Dinner #2: Fresh Gnocci

I probably over did it a bit with the camera this time around, but it was so great to be home with my boys and back in the kitchen again after a week travelling , I just couldn't help it.  While in San Diego, I didn't get nearly as much Mexican food in my system as I'd hoped, and the hotel food I did get was tasty, but not exactly "light" fare. I had the desire to make up for it last night with a home-made meal.

I went with Italian rather than Mexican, but now that I think of it, I might have to add an attempt at "local" Mexican at some point this winter!  This week though I wanted to try gnocci.  I had all those potatoes that I bought for last week's meal and wanted to be sure to do something with them before they started sprouting. I've helped others make gnocci before, but never have attempted it solo. The time had come.

First though, I knew I wanted the sauce for those little potato pillows to be butter, not oil based.  I finally found a source of somewhat affordable local heavy cream, got out the beaters, sat the little Bug down beside me and got to mixing.  Exactly 22 minutes later, we had the most tasty butter we'd ever had.  Doug put it well when he described the every-day Wegmans' butter we usually eat as tasting like margarine next to the fresh stuff!  It was sure easy, but I'm still looking for a cheaper source of cream before making this something we do all the time.

Here's photo smörgåsbord number one for the week:

The butter making process.  I started with four cups of cream and much to my suprise and delight, ended with a full pound of butter (yes, I tared my scale first!).

With that done, I moved on to the gnocci. 
I followed the recipe from Deb at one of my favorite cooking blogs:

Bake 2 lbs potatoes at 425° for about 45 minutes
Allow potatoes to cool until you can handle them (or just handle them any way, but exclaim "yipes - ouch - oook - ow" repeatedly while working as I did)
Peel and mash through the large holes of a standard cheese grater.
Mix in one slightly beaten egg and one teaspoon salt.
Stir in up to 1 1/2 c flour until dough is handlable.
Turn out on lightly floured counter and knead (like bread) 3-4 minutes.
Break dough into four balls, roll each into a rope 3/4" thick.
Cut into 1" long pieces (and supposedly then mark lines in them using either the tongs of a fork or the edge of a wisk - neither of these worked well for me, so I skipped this step!).
Boil in salted water until they start to float, then cook one minute more.

You could eat them just like that, but since I had all that great butter right there calling out to me, I went on to saute them until browned, then topped them with a sauce of:

Sauted Butter, Garlic, Onion, Sage and Tomatoes, then topped them with fresh (local!) basil and a sprinkling of grated Romano cheese.

Oh yes, and served it all up with a bottle of our home-brewed hoppy porter.

YUMMM.  Here's photo smörgåsbord number two for you:

A Polack's first attempt at home-made gnocci, with a little help from the peanut gallery!

What I learned / how local was I?:
  • The original recipe said to add only as much flour as absolutely needed, or the gnocci will become tough.  I think I erred on the side of too cautious and could really have added closer to the full called for amount rather than just the 1 cup that I did. They were good, but maybe just a bit too quick to fall apart.  I think just a bit more flour would have helped that.
  • I stayed within my 50-mile ring again this week, with the only exception that I hadn't previously listed being the cheese.  It was just too good to not finish off with something like the nice bite of a good Romano!
  • Our home brew supplies were not local, but at least we made it ourselves!
So there we have it - week number two. I think for next time my goal will be to include a dessert with our meal!  Anyone have any suggestions?

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