Contributed by Bryce Lambert
One of the best foodie deals in town (yes, even better than restaurant week) are the cooking classes at Season to Taste Catering. Season to Taste uses the term "cooking class" loosely (something they're upfront about), as these events are better described as multi-course sit-down dinners with instructional introductions there to allow diners to better engage with their food.
After being late to sign up for (they fill up quick!) both a duck confit and braising class, I finally made it to a recent gnocchi class. And by "class," I mean I munched on crostinis and cauliflower soup while Season to Taste's Robert Harris rolled out two kinds of gnocchi and then sat down to a four-course dinner with strangers. For just $35, I left with a firm understanding of how to make gnocchi, a gourmet food induced hangover, and a list of restaurants to check out, courtesy of my well-informed dinner companions.
If you didn't know, gnocchi isn't that difficult or time-consuming to make at home. Unlike fresh pasta, it doesn't require multiple passes through a specialized hand-cranked machine or KitchenAid attachment, and it doesn't occupy your whole kitchen for an entire Sunday to dry. The ingredients are common and so is the equipment. And because it's so simple, inexpensive, and delicious when served fresh, I think gnocchi is best served at home with a quick cream or ricotta based sauce rather than at a restaurant.
Robert covered two kinds of gnocchi--your standard potato as well as a Parisian style dough based one. The latter used the classic French pastry dough pâte-à-choux, which is easily flavored for gnocchi with fresh herbs like chervil and chives. (Robert likes to add some dijon mustard and a generous helping of Fiddlehead tomme.)
It's impossible to fully communicate in a blog post what one learns by spending half an hour in the kitchen with a guy who used to poach 2000 eggs at a time (yes, that's three zeroes), but I hope you find this recipe useful.
Robert Harris' Gnocchi
- 2 starchy potatoes, like russets
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup flour
- salt & pepper to taste
- Poke potatoes with a fork and roast them at 350° for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the (hot) potatoes from the oven, split them in half, and run the halves through a ricer, letting them pile up on your counter. If you don't have a ricer, use your food mill. If you don't have a food mill, send someone out to buy a ricer--everyone who eats your mashed potatoes afterwards will thank you. But, if you're really in a bind, get out the box grater.
- Round out your potato pile and make a well in its center. Crack an egg into the well and season all over with salt & pepper. (A little nutmeg works well here, if you're so inclined.)
- Dust the pile with the flour and mix everything together slowly with your hands (use your knuckles!), until it looks like dough.
- Knead the dough until it's supple--firm, yet with a little give. With a pastry scraper, divide it into six equal parts.
- Take one part into your hands and roll until you have a potato-snake about 3/4" in diameter.
- Roll out the rest of the dough portions and lay them out onto your counter. With the pastry scraper, cut them into 3/4" sections.
- Use your thumb to make a depression on one end of each gnocco.
- And with the tines of a fork, make a depression on the other end. (Some claim this helps gnocchi hold its sauce. At the least, it makes it look pretty.)
- Toss the gnocchi lightly in flour and toss again, into a large pot of generously salted boiling water. (I'm hoping you already had the water on.)
- Boil until the gnocchi float. This will only take 1-2 minutes, since the dough is fresh and made from pre-cooked potatoes.
- Alternatively, you can flash freeze the uncooked gnocchi on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and bag them when frozen for later.
Robert served his with yellow foot mushrooms and a simple tomato sauce. When I make mine, I'll probably sauté some garlic, shallot, and pancetta, deglazing the pan with white wine, and finishing the sauce with cream and maybe a little spinach.
Upcoming classes include "Fresh Pasta Cooks Fasta!" and "Free Range Chicken Academy." Visit sttcookinglessons.blogspot.com for more information.