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Posts Tagged ‘Gorgonzola’


First off, let me start by saying one word, “WOW”. Okay, one more word, “GREAT”. These are the words that sounded off at the table last night!

Being Italian I’ve made multiple versions of gnocchi in the past few years. In fact it was one of the first things I attempted to cook when I started this whole “cooking quest”. Jacob and I have made at least 4 or 5 different versions in the past year. We have baked the potatoes, with salt and without salt, boiled the potatoes, put them through a ricer and through a food mill. We have made them with bolongese sauce, with cream sauce and browned butter. So in other words, we have made our share of gnocchi.

Last year I was looking through Thomas Keller’s book “Bouchon”. I noticed a recipe for gnocchi that didn’t use any potato, but used a dough made with flour, butter and boiling water. At the time I had no idea what this was all about, but vowed to make it one day. I vaguely remember Nancy telling me then what the dough was, but I was lost in thought at the time, or maybe I wasn’t really paying attention. Sorry my love!

A few weeks ago I was looking through the “Cafe Beaujolais” cookbook from Mendocino, California and another gnocchi recipe caught my eye. This one too had the same dough in it. What was this stuff? So yesterday I told Nancy and our baker Joannie about it and asked them for details on this mystery dough. At exactly the same time they both said in a loud voice from two sides of the restaurant, “that’s a choux pastry, a pâte à choux”. Then Joannie, who is Italian, said “Gnocchi, that’s not gnocchi! Well I guess you could call it a gnocchi,” as she made quote marks with her fingers in the air.

So I started to do some research on what a pâte à choux is. Here is what I found… It is a versatile dough of flour, water, butter and eggs distinguished by the fact that the flour is combined with the butter and water and partially cooked before the eggs are added to it. The resulting dough, which puffs when it bakes, has a light and elegant texture. It is used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, and gougeres.

I was excited. I get to try something new and adventurous… new dough, new fancy name, piping bag.. yeah! All I had to do was get out of the restaurant at a reasonable time so I could get home, work out and make dinner before I fell over with exhaustion and delayed my cooking for another day!

It was going to be questionable since our refrigeration guy was supposed to be coming at 4:00 to do regular preventative maintenance on all of the refrigerators and freezers and display cases. He’s a great guy and often times after he finishes we end up spending an hour hanging out and trading stories. For the record, refrigeration has been the bane of my restaurant-owning existence. If it’s not one thing breaking it’s another. There is nothing worse than coming in in the morning to find out that $500 of product has to be thrown out because a compressor froze up and stopped working overnight. Fortunately Nancy found this guy 6 months ago and he has kept everything in tip top shape since.

He is a very busy guy though and I was hoping he would call me to reschedule so I could take off and get home… fortunately or maybe unfortunately, not sure, he did and I was out of there like a rocket ship blasting off.

Nancy was going to be gone with her running group so it was going to be all me. She would get home in time to eat the results, but if something went wrong it was going to be up to me to figure it out. Fortunately nothing went wrong, in fact other than dropping a half cup of flour all over, things went smoothly.

The dish was incredibly rich, the gnocchi were light and airy. In fact the texture was what I have only dreamed of when making traditional potato gnocchi. I can’t wait until we have our next dinner party, because I’m going to make this for the first course. I think I will present them in a small ramekin with just about 12 pieces per person. What a way to start a dinner… I’ll have Nancy do the main course since I’m not sure I can top them!

All I can say is make these as soon as you can. You will love them and so will your family or guests. These as a primi, maybe Osso Bucco as the main and a tiramisu for dessert. WOW!

Baked Gnocchi with Prosciutto & Gorgonzola (serves 4)

(adapted from the Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 stick butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 oz. chopped prosciutto (put in the freezer for 15 minutes before chopping)
  • 4 oz flavorful cheese (Stilton, Gorgonzola, Muenster) I used half Gorgonzola and half Muenster

Fill a 6 quart pan 3/4 full of water and bring to boil. You are going to par-cook the gnocchi in this water, meaning you will drop them into the boiling water for a bit, then finish cooking in the oven.

In a medium-sized pan, place 1 cup of cold water and butter and bring to a boil. You want the butter to be melted fully just as the water boils.

Add salt to flour and then add the flour/salt mixture to the water all at once. Remove the pan from the heat and beat with gusto with a wooden spoon or whisk, to make a smooth paste.

Put the pan back on the stove, with medium heat, and dry the paste by scraping it toward you with the wooden spoon or a spatula, flipping the paste over. Keep the paste moving to dehydrate it. The less water remaining, the more readily the paste will absorb the eggs. (I did this part for 2 or 3 minutes.)

The paste with steam, form a film on the bottom of the pan, and butter will glisten on the surface.

Remove pan from the heat. Add whole eggs, one at a time. Each time an egg is added, the paste with appear to separate. Continue to beat with the wooden spoon and it will come back together.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put the finished paste in a pastry bag, cut off enough of the end so that when you push through the dough it will be about 3/4 inch thick. Hold a knife or clean scissors in one hand, the pastry bag in the other over the boiling water. Squeeze and cut after 1 inch of paste emerges. The knife or scissors may get gummy, so you can dip them in the boiling water to clean.

The dumplings will fall into the water and sink to the bottom. When they rise to the top they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon to a buttered plate.

Butter a medium-sized 8×8 inch baking dish and pour enough cream to coat bottom. Cover with the chopped prosciutto, half the cheese, then the gnocchi, then the remaining cheese and finally the remaining cream. Bake for about 1hour until cream is mostly absorbed and gnocchi turn golden. Eat right away.

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On Thursday of this past week I had to have a tooth removed. No, it was not because of bad oral hygiene and yes I do brush my teeth two to three times per day and floss fairly regularly. Actually I cracked the tooth some time back and it was not getting better. I had the dentist do a root canal last year, but it never worked. Now I guess I need to figure out if I should get a bridge or implant and what the heck the difference is.

In true fashion of my family, even though I just had a tooth pulled, had a huge piece of gauze in my mouth and I couldn’t feel half of my face, I was thinking about what I should have for dinner. Ice cream sounded really good, yogurt and pudding might do, then Nancy suggested polenta. Wow, great idea actually. I love polenta. It’s a super simple dish and can be spruced up many different ways. In fact one of the favorites in our household is to make a sugo, or meat sauce and serve it on top of creamy polenta with some vegetables on the side.

Meat sauce was out of the question on this occasion, seemed a bit much for my traumatized mouth and I didn’t really have the time or the desire to make something that would take too terribly long. In fact I was having second thoughts as I drove into the parking lot of Whole Foods about the time it would take to prepare proper polenta.

My grandparents on my mothers side are from Sicily and if I’m going to cook Italian food I like to do it right. I’ve never used instant polenta, but I hear it works fine. In fact it might be a good place to start for anyone who wants to get their feet wet. I like the huge level of satisfaction that comes with preparing polenta, standing at the stove and stirring and watching the dish for 30 or 40 minutes. I suppose you could even cook it for 60 minutes on super super low heat, but that is even too much for me. The end result is well worth it. The texture is creamy and smooth, so much more than the instant polenta I have eaten.

Howard McGee says “long cooking at the stove develops the corn flavor by the constant application of higher than boiling heat to the pot bottom and the exposure to air and drying that takes place at the surface.” In his book “On Food and Cooking” he also mentions “busy cooks can develop just as much flavor with less labor by partly covering the pot of just-thickened polenta, putting it into a low over 250 degrees, which heats the bottom and sides in a controlled and even way, and stirring only occasionally.” If you try this, or already have please post a comment and let me know how it works.

The key to making polenta is the pot you use. It must be a high quality, heavy bottomed number or you will have trouble keeping the grains from burning. We have a Le Creuset 5.5 quart round Dutch oven. Yes it was an investment at $200, but it has been worth every penny. In fact we use it almost every day for something.

So here I am, half my mouth is numb and I’m hoping that nobody will recognize me in the store because I can barely talk, mouth full of gauze, and I can’t smile at anyone because when I do only one side of my mouth works. It is scary to say the least. In fact I was looking at myself in the mirror before going into the store and the only way I looked presentable was if I keep my lips securely pressed together. haha. I was fortunate enough to get in and out fast. I picked up some medium ground yellow cornmeal (use medium or coarse), some Gorgonzola cheese from Italy and some heavy cream and I was ready to go.

When I got home I popped one of the pain pills the doctor prescribed and I got to work. It was going to be just Randy and I because Jacob was out with a friend for dinner and Nancy was catering a wedding rehearsal dinner.

Polenta & Gorgonzola (serves 4)

  • 6 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 2/3 cups of medium or coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, cut into small cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add salt and bay leaves to 7 cups of cold water in a medium pot and then stir in polenta. Some recipes will have you whisk in the polenta once the water is boiling, forget it, this is easier and you will not have lumps!

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring almost constantly with a wooden spoon, until polenta thickens and pulls away from the bottom of the pan, 30 or so minutes. You can walk away for a minute here and there, go to the bathroom, etc. Just make sure it doesn’t burn and stick to the pan. Turn off heat add cream and Gorgonzola and stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Other Possible Ways to Prepare

Instead of using water to cook the polenta, you can substitute a few cups of chicken stock or whole milk. This will make it creamy. If you want to make grilled polenta cook the polenta until it is thicker.

You can make the polenta into a gratin. Omit the cheese and the cream. After it is done cooking pour it into a buttered baking dish that will give you a layer about 1 inch high. Top with a cup, or more, if you like, of grated Parmesan cheese and broil until the cheese is melted and is slightly browned. You can then cut into squares and serve hot or at room temp.

You can grill it, again make sure it is fairly thick when you cook it. Omit the cheese and cream. Pour the polenta onto a board or into a pan. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes, can be longer, then cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. When ready to cook, brush with some olive oil and grill or fry with a little salt and pepper or brown them in a pan after heating up some olive oil.

You can also top the polenta with a meat sauce or a tomato sauce. In fact there are a zillion things you can do. Please share some ideas!

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