Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Parisienne Gnocchi

There was a time not so long ago when all I could think about for two weeks was gnocchi, gnocchi, gnocchi... those soft pillows of pasta that almost melt in your mouth when you eat it. I was craving it like MAD and there was only one Italian restaurant in my city that I know of that serves it. However, the last time I went there with a couple of my colleagues to try their food (and gnocchi), we were extremely disappointed with the very little serving size so I didn't want to go back there again. I never like going to a restaurant where you leave still feeling hungry after your meal.
So I decided I would rather make my own gnocchi then. It wasn't the first time I've made it. I've made the Italian version of gnocchi before but I wanted to try something different. As I was gawking at drool worthy food photos online, I came across this recipe for a French version of gnocchi. Who would have thought that the same ingredients using the same process to make Eclairs or choux pastry would create these pillowy balls of goodness? 

They are the Italian Gnocchi's little cousins. Whereas the Italian version uses potatoes, these have no potatoes at all, resulting in a gnocchi that is less chewy, softer and almost melts in your mouth.

My agony for this dish! Not only was I craving it badly, it was also expensive to make because of the cheese, the mushrooms and the butter. So I had to wait after 2 paydays to be able to buy all the ingredients and the gratin dishes. The Parisienne Gnocchi with Mornay Sauce takes time to make, having 3 separate components to prepare: the gnocchi, the mushrooms and the Mornay sauce. After hours of carefully preparing, cooking and baking my Parisienne Gnocchi, in the midst of my hurry to put the dish on the table, it accidentally slipped from the hand and I watched helplessly as my gratin dish broke into pieces and my cooked Parisienne Gnocchi splattered all over the floor. 

I wanted to cry then. I was tired from cooking. My feet were hurting from standing for more than a couple of hours. I had already finished and was really looking forward to take photos of it, only to have to start all over again. Luckily, I made a huge batch and had some frozen gnocchi in the fridge as well as some extra Mornay sauce so all I had to do was cook the mushrooms, assemble the entire dish again and bake it in the oven.

So here it is. This dish was worth all that trouble. It definitely satisfied my cravings for gnocchi...for now...Eat in small portions as it is very rich.

Recipe adapted from Citrus and Candy

125 ml water
125 ml milk
4 tbsp butter
1 cup of flour, sifted
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 eggs

2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, diced
1 tbsp butter
200g mixed mushrooms ( I used shitake and button mushrooms, sliced)
grated cheese for topping (gruyere, gouda, cheddar or whatever suits your taste)

Thomas Keller's Mornay Sauce
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 c diced onion
1/4 c flour
2 2/3 c milk
1 1/3 c heavy cream
1 bay leaf
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
pinch of nutmeg and white pepper
1/2 c grated cheese (mix of gruyere and gouda might be nice, but I used mild cheddar cheese)

Bring milk, water and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the flour. Continuously beat with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and add the herbs and mustard and beat until combined and slightly cooled. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg until well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a 2 cm plain nozzle. 

Bring salted water to a boil. Pipe the mixture into the boiling water, cutting at 2 cm intervals with a sharp knife. The gnocchi is cooked when it floats to the top. Remove with a spoon and drain on a towel.

See this helpful video from JCCCvideo with Chef Jeffery Trioiola for a step by step tutorial on making French Gnocchi:

After making the gnocchi, prepare the mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the mushrooms, stir until cooked. Divide the mushrooms among the gratin dishes with the gnocchi.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, until transparent. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously so that the roux does not burn. Add the milk and cream and whisk constantly until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, and add the bay leaf, peppercorns and cloves. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, whisking occasionally.  Remove sauce from the heat. Season with salt, nutmeg and white pepper. Add the cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. 

Cover the gnocchi and mushrooms with the sauce. Top with more grated cheese and sprinkle a little bit of dried parsley.

Bake for 7-10 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cheese has melted or put it under a broiler for 5 minutes until the top is golden.