Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Discoveries

Fall comes and so does comfort food!  Warm, cozy comfort food! 

My comfort food tends to be mashed potatoes and warm biscuits.  Chowders can do the trick if they're not too complicated in flavors - a good creamy potato chowder can definitely make that slow easy smile come across my face!

With my daughters, Mac n' Cheese tends to be the go-to comfort food.  Bad day at school?  Warm Mac n' Cheese after school brings that slow smile to their faces.  Boyfriend problems?  Mac n' Cheese makes them disappear for just a moment while they smile through the cheesy goodness.  For me, that's not the case.  I could never eat Mac n' Cheese again and be completely content - until now!

I found an alternative that meets all the criteria of comfort food for me (and maybe you too)!

Gnocchi Mac n' Cheese (serves 6)
1 recipe French Gnocchi
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp spicy mustard
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375F.  Coat a shallow baking dish with non-stick spray.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and add mustard.  Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Combine Gruyere and Gouda then add by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful.  Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper.  Arrange gnocchi in prepared baking dish in one layer.  Pour sauce over gnocchi and sprinkle Parmesan over top.  Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

The flavors are subtle and smooth while the texture of the gnocchi gives it a melt-in-your-mouth warm goodness!  Although this may not replace the girls' mac n' cheese fixer-upper, it's definitely been added to the Comfort Food section of the cookbook!

Bucket List

There are a few things in cooking that I feel I have to try before I retire my pans and let someone else do the cooking for me!  I'm not talking about using liquid nitrogen or some weird slimy ingredients, just some foods that look yummy that I haven't made before.

I've always been fascinated by Gnocchi...  I think it's because of the way it's spelled!  It's delicious, creamy texture in soups and other dishes also entices me but I think it mostly that darned spelling.  After all, I make my own pasta so I'm sure it's not the challenge that has Gnocchi on my bucket list, it's that darned double "c" in there!

Time to get that bucket out and take a shovel full of Gnocchi out of it!!  But first, I needed to discover the correct pronunciation so off to Google I went!  I discovered a whole lot of arguments from Italians and French, chefs and experts, men and women!  I came away with the conclusion that I'm left to pronounce it however I want!  Some say gnawkee (kind of like in onion) and some say no-key...  I say "yummy"!

French Gnocchi (makes 6 servings)
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
3-4 eggs

Boil butter, water, milk, salt and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.  Just as mixture begins to boil, stir in flour; beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball around the spoon.  Reduce heat to low, beating dough 1-2 minutes to dry it.  (A film will form on the bottom and sides of the saucepan.)  Rest dough 10 minutes, then with a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, beat cheese, basil and parsley into dough just until combined.  Heat water in a saute pan to 160-175F.  Meanwhile, add first 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition until blended.  Lift dough with spoon to test consistency.  If it drips off the spoon and forms a V shape, it's ready.  If not, beat the remaining egg and add a portion of it to dough, beat, and test again.  Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a medium straight tip (or freezer bag with corner snipped off).  Pipe dough in batches into steaming water in 1 inch pieces, slicing off at the piping tip with a paring knife or scissors.  The gnocchi fall to bottom of pan but float as they poach.  Poach 3-5 minutes; remove from water with a slotted spoon.  Transfer gnocchi to parchment lined baking sheet; spread into a single layer.  Use gnocchi immediately, or cover and refrigerate.

This was so easy and so rewarding!  As I gazed at all my little gnocchi on the parchment I couldn't help but wonder why I'd waited so long to try something that is so versatile and simple to make.  Now let's try all kinds of new creations with these little doughy dumplings!