Saturday, March 8, 2008

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Butternut Squash

Gnocchi, part 2. I wanted to write gnocchii or gnocchies or gnocchis, but I couldn't figure out which one was correct. This is the first actual finished recipe I've made from the book, so hopefully these reports get a little more interesting as time goes on. Not to say this one is going to be boring...

This dish is basically prepared in three steps. First comes the squash, then the mushrooms, then the gnocchi. After all was said and done, it was really pretty easy to put together. That doesn't mean it turned out perfect, but that wasn't the recipe's fault. Here's the 'before' picture:

Preparing the squash consisted of cooking it in a skillet with some butter, sage, salt and pepper. Very simple really. The recipe says to cook it for four to six minutes over medium heat and then to lower it and cook until done. I managed not to wait long enough and the squash was a bit underdone. I don't totally blame myself for that though. Given the 4-6+ minutes guideline, I cooked them for a solid 15 minutes. I thought they would have been done by then, and in fact some of them were. Either way, it was decided that the squash was probably the best component of the finished dish. It could easily be a side on its own. So two lessons here:
  • Cook stuff until it tastes like they're done, not by time.
  • Dice your food evenly, or else half will be done and half will still be rock solid.
Next up was the mushrooms. Same general principle here, except for use shallots and thyme instead of sage. Mistake number two came in here. The recipe called for 1.5 teaspoons of salt. As I was pouring it over the mushrooms I thought to myself, 'Man, this little adventure is going to raise my cholesterol by 50 points.' Well, they were very salty. So here's lesson number 3:
  • Trust yourself. If it looks like more salt than you'll like, it probably is.
So now you have some squash and mushrooms hanging out with nowhere to go. We'll remedy that by putting some of the already made gnocchi into a skillet with some olive oil and butter. Heat those mustard-y pillows of dough up until they're nice and browned on all sides. This again was longer than I thought it would take and longer than the recipe seemed to think as well. Who knew recipes could think? Anyway, once they're finished add in the squash, mushrooms, and some chives until everything is nice and warm. Almost done...

The last step is to make a brown butter sauce. I had cooked the two gnocchi in two skillets for space reasons. One was stainless steel, one was nonstick. Since the stainless steel one was larger, all the gnocchi went into there. That means the butter for the sauce went into the nonstick skillet. Cool right? Not so much. It turns out that it's really hard to see when butter has browned if the skillet is black on the bottom. So after a half minute or so and a smell that was suspiciously close to the smell of burning I added the parsley and a spray of lemon juice. And that was that.

Add the vegetables and gnocchi to the plate, spoon on some sauce, and it's dinner time. Everything turned out deliciously well. How could it not with a stick of butter involved? I decided that if I had received this in a restaurant it would have passed, but probably only with a grade of B- or so. That certainly wasn't the recipes fault though. Almost all of the points lost had to do with my ability to tell when things were finished cooking, with the exception of the salt on the mushrooms.

So we'll end it there, blaming it on the book. Yeah, the book. Here's the picture, which I was pretty proud of:

Update: I made this again with the rest of the frozen gnocchi. After showing a little more patience and a more judicious use of salt, it was absolutely fantastic. I used cremini mushrooms instead of shiitake, but I believe that was the only deivation. Right now it holds the claim to the best Bouchon recipe yet.

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