Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Three: Fine Cooking 2008

Recipe: Gnocchi with Sausage and Leek Ragù

How can one pass up a recipe that states "Making light, delicate gnocchi is easier than you'd think." I have always liked and often ordered gnocchi; a trait I think, my daughter has inherited. I recall the soft, chewy, little pillows of the potato pasta, swimming in a wonderful tasty red sauce, sometimes a creamy cheese sauce.

 I was to make gnocchi for a dinner party that we were invited to several years ago. Unfortunately I could not make the party. However Andy, my husband did attend, bringing with him the recipe and ingredients. From what I recall, they had fun making the gnocchi and it turned out well.

Leafing through my next book to cook from, I came across this recipe and just had to make it. As the recipe stated, it was easy, and fun!! And they were truly "little pillows" The sauce you choose really makes the dish. For basic gnocchi really has no flavor being made from only potatoes, flour, salt and egg. The dough actually invoked memories of homemade play dough with a less salty scent. Not sure if that is a good thing when your are making dinner.

There were three sauces to choose from: Browned Butter & Sage, Creamy Gorgonzola, and Sausage and Leek Ragù. I chose the latter, being "somewhat" health conscious, I passed on the cheese sauce and I knew that Andy would like the meat sauce more than the butter and sage, which I would have loved. And I was right. He raved over the sauce. He asked that I save this recipe to use in other pasta dishes. He even was recommending other ways to use it, such as a sauce over shrimp or scallops . The sauce was really good I have to admit. It was made up of sausage, leeks, tomatoes, parsley, thyme and marjoram. Fresh marjoram always smells like an old cedar chest to me. Good thing that scent does not come through in the recipe!

I was going to rate this recipe a two on the success meter for I thought the gnocchi did not have the light, chewy texture that I was used to; it seemed doughy. And I was right. I must not have cooked it long enough, though I cooked it as the recipe stated. We had second helpings of this dish, and the gnocchi sitting in the sauce had cooked a bit more and became more firm and had that pleasant chewy texture that I like.

Success meter (1-3): 3

Ooops! Ignore those beautiful mushrooms....for tomorrows breakfast!

Gnocchi with Sausage & Leek Ragù
Yields about 3 cups ragù; serves six
You can make this sauce ahead and refrigerate it, covered, for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
For the sauce:
28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
½ pound sweet Italian sausage (about 2 links)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek (white and light-green parts only), trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut crosswise into thin half-moon slices (about 1 ½ cups)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Gnocchi:
Kosher salt
1 recipe Potato Gnocchi (recipe follows)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Make the sauce: Put the tomatoes and their juices in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until the tomatoes are crushed but not completely puréed.
Remove the sausage from its casing and tear the sausage apart with your hands into coarse pieces. Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, further breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and almost completely cooked through, 3-5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil to the pan and then add the leek, parsley, thyme, marjoram, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring, until the leek is soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat if the garlic or leek shows any sign of burning.
Add the tomatoes and reserved sausage and stir well to combine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a vigorous simmer and then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan with the lid slightly afar and simmer gently for 45 minutes. If the sauce is bubbling too fast, reduce the heat to low. Remove the lid and if the sauce seems watery, continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick sauce consistency. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the gnocchi and toss with the sauce: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. To get the gnocchi into the boiling water, fold the parchment ends to form a chute and gently shake the gnocchi out, taking care not to clump them together as you drop them in. Give one gentle stir, wait until the gnocchi all float to the surface of the water, and then cook them for 1 minute. Carefully drain the gnocchi in a colander. Transfer them to the sauce and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately, topped with Parmigiano, if using.
Potato Gnocchi
Serves six
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
6 ¾ ounces (1 ½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for kneading and rolling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Put the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes until they are completely tender and easily pierced with a skewer, 30-35 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, let them cool just enough that you can handle them, and then peel them. Cut them in half crosswise and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. Let cool until almost at room temperature, at least 20 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the egg to the potatoes and then add the flour mixture. Mix with your hands until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to clump together; the dough will still be a bit crumbly at this point. Gather the dough together and press it against the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform mass. Transfer it to the floured surface and wash your hands.
Knead gently until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft, smooth, and a little sticky, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Don’t overmix it, or the gnocchi will be tough; the dough should feel very delicate.) Move the dough to one side, making sure the surface underneath it is well floured. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel.
Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour.
Remove any lingering bits of dough from your work surface and lightly flour the surface again. Tear off a piece of dough about the size of a large lemon and put the towel back on the rest of the dough so it does not dry out.
With the palms of both hands, roll the dough piece on the floured surface into a rope about ¾ inch in diameter. With a sharp knife or a bench knife, cut the rope crosswise every ¾ inch to make roughly ¾-inch-square gnocchi. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on the parchment-covered baking sheets, making sure they don’t tough. Repeat until you run out of dough, reflouring the work surface as needed. When all the gnocchi have been cut and spread out on the baking sheets, sprinkle them with a little more flour.
If you’re going to use the gnocchi within 2-3 hours, they can sit out on the counter, or freeze for later use. Put the gnocchi in the freezer while still on the baking sheets and freeze until they are hard to the touch, at least one hour. Transfer to a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to two months. Do not refrigerate fresh gnocchi for more than 2-3 hours, as they tend to ooze water and become soggy.

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