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    • Randy Graham

    • February 17, 2014 in Columnists

    Laugh at the chef, not the Gnocchi

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    Gnocchi plated with burnt butter-sage sauce.

    I like to think I am a good cook. I know my limitations, however, when it comes to speaking foreign languages. More than once I’ve made a fool of myself by mispronouncing the dishes I bring to our dining room table. Take the word Gnocchi, for instance.

    Gnocchi is a small potato dumpling originating in Italy. I know that. I also know how to prepare it. But when I first served it to my wife and son, they laughed out loud for more than a minute.

    I proudly brought plates of Gnocchi to the table announcing, “Your Yon-Kee is served”. Hearing them laugh, I tried again and pronounced it “Ga-Noh-Kee”. There was more laughter. Our son, Robert, who had been working at an upscale restaurant in northern California, stopped laughing long enough to teach me to accurately pronounce Gnocchi. I now say “Noh-Kee”.

    Robert has my passion for cooking. One day, at our home in Ojai, he and I experimented with various Gnocchi sauces until we got one just right. Here’s what we created:

    Sauce Ingredients:
    1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (re-hydrated)
    1 ounce dried oyster mushrooms (re-hydrated)
    4 tablespoons sweet butter
    1 cup white wine
    3 cups heavy cream
    ½ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

    Gnocchi Ingredients:
    2 large russet potatoes
    1 ¼ cups flour, plus extra for kneading
    1 tablespoon butter
    ¾ teaspoon salt
    1 egg

    Garnish: Fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    Sauce Directions: Sauté mushrooms and butter in medium saucepan for approximately 3 minutes. Add white wine and continue to cook until liquid is reduced. Set aside while preparing Gnocchi (see below). While Gnocchi boils, reheat mushroom mixture on medium to high heat. Add heavy whipping cream and mix well.  Continue to heat until sauce almost – but does not – boil. Remove from heat.

    Gnocchi Directions: Start a large pot of water to boil. Wash the potatoes, but do not cut or peel them. Boiling them unpeeled lessens the water that penetrates the potatoes while they’re cooking. Add potatoes to boiling pot of water and boil for 30 minutes.

    Remove from water, drain and cool until you can easily handle them. Peel potatoes and mash them well. You don’t want any lumps. A ricer or a fork work well here. While mashed potatoes are still warm, stir in flour, butter, salt and egg, forming soft dough.

    Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and knead dough for about a minute or until smooth. Do not over-knead. Roll dough into ¾ inch thick tubes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

    Use a fork to form Gnocchi into soft pillows

    Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float to the top – about 3 minutes. Drain water from Gnocchi as soon as they are done.

    Serving Instructions: Place Gnocchi on four shallow soup bowls. Ladle sauce on Gnocchi. The mushrooms in the sauce provide the flavor to this dish. Be sure to parcel the mushrooms out so each bowl has its fair share. Sprinkle a tablespoon of freshly grated cheese over the top. Serve with fresh French bread and your favorite salad.

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