Friday 3 May 2013

New spring starter - gnocchi, bacon and broad beans

I've been waiting for the end of winter. Waiting. And waiting. Now a climate less frigid has arrived in Palmers Green, I've flung open the patio doors and embraced the new season veg. Only one problem... you'll see. Read on.

I'm currently in love with herby French Gnocchi. I've tried a few recipes (mainly Thomas Kellner) but wanted to produce one of my own. This is it: Gnocchi with bacon and broad beans in a creme fraiche dressing.

You need two types of bacon: streaky and lardons. Both should be smoked. Unsmoked bacon is an offence to man, God and nature. It's like licking a damp pig. Avoid.

The lardons should be cooked slowly to render out much of the fat. The streaky should be cooked flat under a weight - a flat lid perhaps. You want soft lardons and crispy streaky.

Set your bacon(s) aside. 

Meanwhile, fry up your gnocchi in much brown butter. Keep an eye on the heat though, you don't want black butter: it's disgusting. Don't overcrowd your frying pain either - as I have here. Better to do batches and keep them toasty and crisp in the oven.

Make up the dressing:
3 big tablespoons creme fraiche with half a tablespoon of red wine vinegar infused with garlic (leave them jam-jarred in the fridge for a few days), 2 teaspoons of dijon mustarda scant half teaspoon of English mustard, two big pinches of freshly grated parmesan (you'd never be tempted to use the shop bought dried stuff would you?!)
a squeeze of lemon juice - to taste, pinch of smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne

So it's a little bit like a caesar salad dressing but without the anchovies. It should be quite an acidic dressing and with a bit of a bite. There's much fattness to cut through here.

Now to the issue of veg. Put simply: unless you are podding peas or beans on your apron, minutes after plucking them from the vine... frozen are better. I'm not alone in this opinion. So blanch your frozen broad beans for two minutes in boiling water, refresh in icy water and then set aside.

To assemble the dish, toss the beans in the bacon fat of the lardons to briefly warm through and then plonk on plates with the gnocchi and lardons. Drizzle the plate with the dressing and some chopped chives (or herb of choice) and garnish with the wafer of streaky bacon and a good clutch of parsley.

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