back in action

I didn’t forget about you, I swear. It’s the end of my first week living at home since early August – my first week in 3 months in my own kitchen – and it seems like high time to resuscitate Sugarcured. I managed to eat pretty okay during my stint at the hotel doing off-site rotations. While I got a little burned-out on protein bars and cafeteria lunches, Joanna and I started a lovely tradition of Saturday suppers with enough leftovers to carry us both through the week. But with all the back-and-forth from Hyde Park to Evanston on the weekends those blogworthy recipes slipped through the cracks.

Last weekend was a long-awaited Golden which meant (a) belated Halloween celebrations with food-themed costumes, of course

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and (b) settling back into my kitchen. I chose a dish I’ve had my sights on for years for the occasion: homemade gnocchi. Every recipe I read was a variation on a theme: “OMG you guysssss gnocchi is so easy!! But don’t add a teaspoon of flour too much or you’ll be left to eat lumps of gruel for dinner and you might as well go back to your hotel kitchen and never cook again.” My trepidations were soothed by the masterful gnocchi instructions in Deb Pearlman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

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And yes, you guysssss, gnocchi is pretty easy. And yes, it’s tempting to over-flour the sticky mess of dough. I’ll direct you to the resources I mentioned (reproduced online on a gazillion cooking blogs) and add a few tips. Most importantly, flour the heck out of every surface that will touch that gooey excuse for a ball of dough: your hands, your rolling surface, your gnocchi-cutting knife, etc etc. The only place that extra flour doesn’t belong is in the dough! Second, many resources instruct the cook to use a fork to form ridges on the gnocchi. The purpose of this step is to form ridges to grab the sauce and it’s totally unnecessary here since the doughballs popped into a butter bath instead of a proper sauce. 

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Gnocchi usually have potato at their base but I went for pumpkin because ’tis the season and also it’s easier to imagine that the little dumplings are some semblance of good-for-you if they’re orange. 

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

adapted from Delicious Days

1 small pie pumpkin (or comparable winter squash) or 1 can pumpkin puree (about 1 3/4 c puree)

Yolk of one large egg

1 1/4- 1 1/2c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

salt and pepper, to taste

ground or freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

4T butter

2-3T chopped sage

grated parmesan cheese

If using whole pumpkin, roast, remove skins, and mash. Add egg yolk and flour (start w 1 cup), stir with a fork to combine, and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add flour bit by bit as necessary, using just enough to make the dough come together. It should be the consistency of sticky sugar cookie dough, not normal pasta or bread dough. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour. Generously flour your counter or table, flour the blade of a sharp knife, flour your hands. Drop a heaping tablespoon of dough onto the surface and gently shape into a finger-thick roll. Cut into 1-inch dumplings and transfer to parchment. Repeat with remainder of dough. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and stir once so they don’t stick to the bottom. Cook until most of the gnocchi float to the surface, 4-6 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon (draining them in a colander could smoosh them). Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet. Add the sage and cook until it begins to crisp and the butter begins to brown. Mix in the gnocchi and serve with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper. 

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