We’ve gotten to day seven of the Week of Eating In. I dreamt of sushi last night. Really. I want to go out to dinner, but now that it’s Sunday, I won’t want to eat sushi until Wednesday (Never eat Monday’s sushi. If you question this wisdom, read Kitchen Confidential.)
We had one of our favorite dinners on day five. Out of the freezer came Herbed Gnocchi. A spectacular recipe from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, this basic pate a choux is dressed up with cheeses and handfuls of herbs. It’s then piped into a pot of boiling water, like a dumpling, and poached for a moment or two. When dried on paper towels, then frozen on a flat baking sheet, they hold for three months, easily, and are ready to cook, out of the freezer, in just an hour. When I set out to make these gnocchi (not a daunting task, but not for a weeknight) I always make a double recipe to ensure some are in the freezer.
I chopped and roasted butternut squash and along with four large shallots and the gnocchi, brown butter made dinner. Voila. A truly special, delicious vegetarian dinner.
On Day 6 – I was invited to a birthday dinner party. We had delicious pisco sours, roasted salmon, saffron rice and roast fennel. Birthday cake – superb, spiced carrot/walnut cake with cream cheese frosting and a second cake of meltingly tender chocolate layers with mocha buttercream. Divine. Dennis? He was busy all day in his acupuncture clinic, and was happy it was a ladies-only party. He enjoyed carrot soup and no-knead bread with the Olympics and a soft couch to shared with the dog.
And now? I’m continuing to cook, and we’re still eating in, because that’s what we do. Tonight, I’ve got a beautiful sirloin steak for myself, golden roasted turnips, and a salad. Dennis is having yellow lentil daal, saffron rice and those turnips. It’s just another night at the Barrows. But you can bet we’ll be at the sushi bar on Wednesday.
Herbed Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Shallots
adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon
8 oz water
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1.5 T Dijon mustard
1 T each chives, chervil, parsley, fresh & finely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 t thyme, fresh (or 1/2 t Herbes de Provence)
1 c grated Comte or Emmenthaler
4 large eggs
Combine the water, butter, salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and then dump in all the flour at once. Stir it fast and with purpose using a wooden spoon or sturdy silicone spoon until it forms a dough and pulls away from the sides of the pan and is smooth and glossy.
You want to let the steam out of the dough, so keep stirring with the heat very low. Add no color to the dough, but – here’s how I do it – cook it until you no longer smell the flour cooking. Now, transfer to your mixer, add mustard, salt, herbs and cheese and start the mixer going on low. When everything is blended through, add the eggs, one at a time, and each time get the egg fully incorporated before adding the next.
Get the dough into a ziplock or pastry bag, and let it rest for about half an hour.
[Here is a BRILLIANT video demonstration of pate a choux by Michael Ruhlman. Mr. Ruhlman was first known for his contribution to all the Keller cookbooks (French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc) and most recently his own Ratio. I've been hooked on Ratio since I first opened it up and downloaded the Ratio IPhone app. So useful at the grocery/market, as well as in the kitchen. I realize I am a geek.]
Get a big pot of water boiling. Squeeze little dumplings out of the pastry bag, and use a sharp knife to cut them off into little dumplings or gnocchi. Allow the dumplings to fall directly into the boiling water. They’ll sink and then come up to the surface. Cook about 20 at a time. When they pop back up, cook for another minute or two (check one – it should not taste like flour, and will be tender) then strain and place on paper towels to drain.
Cook all the pate a choux in this way. You can hold it for a day or two in the refrigerator, on a flat sheet pan lined with paper towels. You can freeze it at this point, or go on to complete the following recipe.
1 large butternut squash
2 T olive oil
Salt & pepper
(here’s a little hint: look for squash with long necks. it’s easiest to cut the neck portion. I use the bulb portion for soup or ravioli filling – anything that allows me to roast it whole and not chop it.
4-6 large shallots
2 T fresh thyme
4 Tbls butter
Salt & pepper
1/4 c parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 425•
Dice the squash – Try to make it about the same size as the gnocchi.
Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread the squash on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 20-25 minutes, until some of the edges have begun to brown.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a large saute pan. Allow the butter to brown, it should begin to smell nutty. Add the shallots and cook until they are translucent, then add the gnocchi. Toss, saute and brown the gnocchi. Add the squash. Continue to gently toss and saute. Everything should be warm and ready in 4-5 minutes. Garnish with the parsley. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole dish and serve.
A crisp, acidic salad is the perfect side dish.