Thursday, July 22, 2010

High maintenance gnocchi that is SO worth it

 This is the summer version of Thomas Keller’s herb gnocchi from his Bouchon cookbook.  This recipe is the reason that I own this cookbook.  One of my best friends insists on eating this each summer for her birthday and after years of watching her mom make it, I got the cookbook and attempted it myself.  The recipe seems intimidating at first but it gets a lot easier with practice.  My first attempts were relatively successful although it is very tiring to make it without a KitchenAid mixer because of all the stirring.  When I make this, I usually prepare the gnocchi a day in advance since it is the most time consuming component.  Putting all the vegetables together doesn’t even take very much time.  Although the last minute preparation sometimes leaves the kitchen a little messy and chaotic…I’m planning on making this for a baby shower that I am sort of catering for next month.  They haven’t gotten the exact guest count yet but I was told to plan on 25 people.  So I might be getting in over my head trying to prepare this for that many.  Luckily there are many other tasty items on the menu that are a lot harder to screw up.  I will post a menu when I finalize it. 

I have posted the recipe for the herb gnocchi below, along with a link to it on epicurious.  Unfortunately, I left my Bouchon cookbook on the east coast for the summer because it is incredibly heavy so I don’t have the actual recipe for the summer vegetable preparation!  I will add it to the post as soon as I get my hands on the book again.  Over the years of making this recipe, I’ve learned the most important part is the gnocchi; if they are yummy, anything you put with them will be yummy.  I believe Bouchon keeps this recipe on the menu year round and adapts the ingredients based on what is in season.  So feel free to get creative with the vegetables.

Herb Gnocchi
From Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook
Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups water
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 cup loosely packed shredded Comté or Emmentaler cheese
5 to 6 large eggs

Set up a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment. Have all the ingredients ready before you begin cooking.
Combine the water, butter, and the 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist.
Enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added: Continue to stir for about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and the aroma of cooked flour will be noticeable. Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard, herbs, and the 1 tablespoon salt. Mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat, then add the cheese. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Increase the speed to medium and add another 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Turn off the machine. Lift some of the dough on a rubber spatula, then turn the spatula to let it run off: It should move down the spatula very slowly; if it doesn't move at all or is very dry and just falls off in a clump, beat in the additional egg.
Place the dough in a large pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch plain tip and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. (If you have only a small pastry bag, fill it with half the dough two times.) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
Because this recipe makes such a large quantity of gnocchi, your arm may get tired: An easy way to pipe the gnocchi is to place a large inverted pot, canister, or other container that is slightly higher than the pot on the right side of the pot (left side if you are left-handed) and set the filled pastry bag on it so that the tip extends over the side and the container serves as a resting place for the bag. Twist the end of the pastry bag to push the dough into the tip. (From time to time, as the bag empties, you will need to twist the end again.) As you squeeze the back of the bag with your right hand, hold a small knife in your left hand and cut off 1-inch lengths of dough, allowing the gnocchi to drop into the pot. Pipe about 24 gnocchi per batch. First, the gnocchi will sink in the pot. Keep the water temperature hot, but do not boil. Once the gnocchi float to the top, poach them for another 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on the paper towel–lined baking sheet. Taste one to test the timing; it may still seem slightly undercooked in the center, but it will be cooked again. Repeat with the remaining dough.
When all the gnocchi have drained, place them in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day. Or, for longer storage, place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the gnocchi have frozen solid, remove them from the baking sheet and place in a freezer bag in the freezer. Before using frozen gnocchi, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and defrost in the refrigerator for several hours.

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