What are the holidays for if not to take on elaborate cooking projects that involve plenty of butter? Exactly. This week I decided to try out a gnocchi recipe from Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s tome on bistro cooking. Instead of the more typical potato or ricotta gnocchi, this is a Parisian dumpling made from pâte à choux, the same dough that makes gougères and cream puffs. It was much easier than I expected, although we did have to walk down to the kitchen store for a pastry bag, as we didn’t appear to own one.
Once the gnocchi are cooked and chilled, you could use them lots of different ways, or freeze them for later. This particular recipe combines pan-fried herbed gnocchi with squash, fresh sage and shiitake mushrooms. Keller wants you to use butternut squash, which is certainly easy to work with, but you could use any sweet squash. We had delicatas and what I think are Carnival squash, or perhaps Little Dumpling, that we bought at the farmer’s market in October - I used a delicata. They’re very mild, but I like how they do in this sort of recipe.
We served our gnocchi with a simple pork chop and a very nice aged Italian wine. It was delicious and festive – I’d definitely recommend it for a holiday dinner. And since I’d made a full recipe, there were plenty of leftovers…
…which made a very, very fine breakfast with an egg on top. Mmmmm. Buttery.
adapted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller (I halved the recipe and omitted fresh chervil, which I have never seen for sale anywhere)
- 3/4 cup water
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp chopped chives
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 Tbsp chopped tarragon
- 1/2 cup grated Comte cheese
- 3 eggs
Gnocchi with squash and mushrooms
- one medium delicata squash, peeled and cut into small dice
- 12 small sage leaves
- 12 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3 Tbsp minced shallot
- plenty of butter, salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp minced chives
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/2 lemon
- more butter
To make the gnocchi: Heat the water, butter and half a teaspoon of salt to a simmer, then dump in the flour and stir briskly until it comes together into a ball. Continue stirring over medium heat for a few minutes, until you get an aroma of cooked flour. Remove from the heat and beat in the mustard and herbs and the rest of the salt, then add the eggs one at a time. It will seem at first that the egg will never be absorbed into the batter, but then suddenly it will. Have faith and a strong arm. Or you could use a mixer. Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a plain wide tip and let it rest half an hour.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Adjust it to a simmer, then take the pastry bag and a small knife. Working over the simmering water, squeeze out about an inch of dough and cut it off at the nozzle so the dumpling falls into the pot. Do this about twenty times, then set the bag aside and watch as the gnocchi begin to float to the top. Give them an extra minute or two once they’ve floated, then scoop them out onto a paper-towel lined baking sheet to drain. Taste one – it should be slightly undercooked, as they’ll be getting cooked again later.
Continue cooking gnocchi until the dough is gone. I got about 100 gnocchi from this recipe, which didn’t take nearly as long as you might think. Once they are all cooked and drained, arrange the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them in the fridge until you’re ready to pan-fry them, at least half an hour and up to a day ahead.
Shortly before dinnertime, prep the squash, herbs and mushrooms. Set a nonstick skillet over high heat, drizzle a little oil in and add a pat of butter. When it sizzles, add the diced squash in a single layer (use an extra pan or do it in batches if it doesn’t fit) and sprinkle the sage leaves over the top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is done (taste to check) and golden brown on the outside. The sage leaves will crisp up in the butter – take them out and reserve for garnish. Set the squash aside.
Slice up the mushrooms (we can get gorgeous fresh shiitakes from a local mushroom farm, but I would say any good mushroom would work here), cook them until soft in a little oil, then add a pat of butter and the minced shallot and cook a few more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Finally, set out two skillets (you can re-use the ones you cooked the veg in) and heat with yet more butter. Add the gnocchi in a single layer and fry until crispy and golden. When they’re done, add the cooked squash and mushrooms along with the chives and mix it all together to heat through.
Dump the whole thing out onto a serving platter, decorating it with the fried sage leaves, and make a brown butter sauce (if you really think it’s necessary – I would feel free to skip this part if you feel you’ve used enough butter in one evening). Melt two tablespoons of butter in the skillet and let it get brown. Add the parsley and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Pour it out over the gnocchi and vegetables. Eat.