Wednesday 24 April 2013

French Gnocchi

I'm always looking for recipes to make into vegetarian staples for the restaurant. Vegetarians seem to be a group of people all too ready to accept a lack of choice when eating out. Now I'm a meat fiend but I think they deserve more than simply pasta and cheese or something tasteless roasted with... usually cheese. I found this in Bouchon: Thomas Kellner's book of bistro meals (him of the French Laundry). These are French dumplings, nothing like their rubbery little Italian name-sakes, made using choux pastry.

This is the end result. They are wonderfully light little crispy pillows and fragrant too.

This one amount will feed about 20 as starter or side order I'd imagine.

Add 170g unsalted butter to 350g water and bring to a simmer. Throw in 270g of plain flour and beat smooth (as you would with a roux). Stir over a medium heat for a few minutes to remove some of the moisture from the dough. You should be able to smell cooked dough. Now add 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of sea salt. Balking at that amount? Don't be tempted to skimp on either, the finished result is neither too salty nor too Dijon-y. Add a handful of herbs of your choice (Dill, parsley and chives were mine) and a handful of flavoursome cheese (Gruyere). With your food mixer, beat in five eggs, one by one until you reach a firm but mobile consistency. You might need a sixth egg (I did). You're looking for something like cream cheese consistency. Put this mix into a piping bag and allow to relax for half an hour.

Now snip a half inch end off the bag (or use a half inch bit - should have mentioned that earlier) and over a big pan of salted, gently boiling water pipe and chop the mix into half inch sections. It's easy to do: squeeze and chop, squeeze and chop. Do batches of about 20. Any more and you risk over cooking the early ones. They look a little grim at this stage (like dismembered fingers - or maybe that's just me).

The dumplings will sink at first. When they float, cook for a further two minutes. Lift and drain on a clean tea towel. These can be refrigerated for 24 hours now or frozen for six weeks (or, let's face it, until you stumble upon them while looking for that frozen bottle of vodka at Christmas).

To serve the gnocchi, heat some butter and a dash of oil until it's foaming and browning (beurre noisette) and ease in the gnocchi. Cook over a medium heat for two to three minutes until crisp and golden on all sides.

This all might sound like a faff, especially when you can cook some pasta in ten minutes, but these are a delight and can be arsed around with indefinitely using different combos of flavourings/herbs/seasonings/cheeses I imagine. I wonder what sweet ones would be like. Oh! Cinnamon with hot apple sauce and Chantilly cream.

Also good with broad beans and lardons in a creamy garlic dressing.

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