Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Michael Symon's Crispy Gnocchi with Morels and Spring Peas Recipe

Here I go again squeezing in my Test Kitchen down to the wire, but you have to cut me some slack because I was hit two weeks ago with major seasonal allergies. I didn't feel like doing anything for more than a week.

But now that I can breathe again, I spent the weekend testing the winning recipe in this month's poll from Iron Chef Michael Symon's "Live to Cook" cookbook. It was a landslide as more than 70 percent of you voted to have me do Symon's crispy gnocchi with morels and spring peas. (I don't even remember what the other recipes were, but it doesn't matter because they didn't even come close in votes.)

This recipe is actually perfect for right now because all the ingredients are at their peak right now, namely the peas and morel mushrooms. But it was the first time I made gnocchi, which I love to eat but don't make because I just hate the idea of getting flour all over my new kitchen (also another reason why I don't make fresh pasta).

So here's how it all went down in my kitchen:

The first thing I had to do, according to Symon's recipe, is to drain the whole-milk ricotta overnight. So here's about a cup of ricotta I bought at the Pasta Shop in my neighborhood, sitting in a fine mesh strainer in a big bowl. You can really see, but there's just a bit of water on the bottom of the bowl. I guess the ricotta I got wasn't that wet.

The next day I was ready to make the ricotta gnocchi (Symon's recipe isn't potato gnocchi but the fluffy ricotta version of his grandmother's), starting with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour in a bowl with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, the zest of one lemon, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Then I added the ricotta along with one large egg and with my hand started to mix everything together until it started to form into a dough. But Symon warns not to overwork the dough, so I didn't do this very long.

On my new granite counter tops ;-), I rolled out the dough into a square and then cut them into thirds. Then each segment I lightly rolled them into a foot-long roll with an inch diameter (roughly). Occasionally dust your dough to make it more manageable and not let it stick. Then I placed all three rolls into the refrigerator, uncovered, for an hour. (The recipe says between 5 minutes and up to 2 hours.)

After letting the dough rest in the refrigerator, I took them out and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. You can imagine that this creates a lot of gnocchi, so I kept out the amount I planned to eat that night, and the rest I put into a plastic bag and froze them for future dining.

Now I could focus on the sauce, and here is where I just did half of the recipe since I was making enough for just me. So the amounts I list here is enough for one serving. This included one garlic clove, thinly sliced, half a shallot (also thinly sliced), 6 leaves of fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of shucked fresh English peas, and the juice of 1 lemon.

I also had to prep the morel mushrooms. To do this, Symon suggests soaking them briefly in a warm salted water and then rinsing them off and gently patting them dry. The recipe calls for 12 medium morel mushrooms, so I used about 6 or 7.

The sauce is also a brown butter sauce, so to start I use about 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat, and then started with the morel mushrooms, cooking them for about two minutes to allow them to soften. Then I added the shallots and a pinch of salt.

This all happens pretty fast, so next I toss in the garlic and parsley. I actually don't like the idea of throwing in the parsley so early because it pretty much disappeared by the time I was done cooking.

Next I add the peas and lemon juice, cooking just until the peas are brightened and then I took everything off the heat so I can crisp up the gnocchi.

In another pan, I heated up another 2 tablespoons of butter, cooking it over medium heat until it turned brown. Then added my gnocchi. Now, the recipe says to cook for about 5 or 6 minutes, so I thought I'll cook each side about three minutes but that didn't turn out since my new stove top was so hot.

So basically after I flipped them over, my gnocchi was more than crispy they were nearly burnt. So lesson learned is that the timing is just suggestions, and you really have to check the gnocchi based on the heat. If your butter is really hot, it shouldn't take that long for them to crisp up and get golden brown.

Once the gnocchi were crispy on both sides, I added in the morels and mushrooms and added the 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. The recipe said to add another tablespoon of butter, but I was already getting grossed out by all the butter so I skipped that.

Here's my finished gnocchi with morel mushrooms and spring peas. The peas were overcooked and several of them actually started to pop. The morels turned out a bit dark, so they blended in with my burnt gnocchi. Definitely not my most successful test kitchen.

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. Don't add the parsley when the recipe says. I would actually add it last with the Parmesan cheese.
  2. Be careful not to burn your brown butter. Once you have that nice brown color, turn down the heat.
  3. Watch your gnocchi to make sure they don't burn. Depending on your stove, they may cook faster than you think.
Ease of cooking: This is a simple recipe, even making gnocchi. Even though I burnt the gnocchi this first time, they did taste fluffy and nice with the lemon zest, so I'm looking forward to eating the ones in my freezer. The sauce was pretty easy to make, and it's a quick dish to make once you got the gnocchi prepped.

Taste: I did like the gnocchi, but the brown butter was just too much butter for my taste. I don't know if I got much other flavor, since the butter drowned out the natural flavors of the morel mushrooms.

Overall Grade: C. Even though it was my fault that I burnt the gnocchi, I think the recipe just gave bad advice about timing and I didn't like the fact that so much butter was used. I like the idea of crispy gnocchi, but I think I could crisp them up with olive oil and then maybe just make a light sauce.

Don't forget to vote in June's Test Kitchen poll in the upper right hand column. Since I've mostly been using cookbooks by male chefs, this month I'm featuring a female, Donna Hay, known for her quick and easy recipes. In fact, the book is called "New Food Fast." I've had this cookbook for awhile and mostly fell in love with the photography. Sometimes I felt the recipes were too simple, but right now after some complicated recipes I'm ready to do something quick and easy.


Anonymous said...

Can I use whole wheat flower to make this recipe more diabetic friendly. Thanks, love your cooking with kindness.

Hungry Dog said...

Hm, too bad it wasn't more satisfying--it certainly sounded like a fantastic recipe. And I admire you for braving homemade gnocchi!!

Single Guy Ben said...

I think the whole wheat flour should work, mixed with the ricotta it should be nice and fluffy, though the texture might be a bit more heavy? Give it a try and let me know how it turns out! :)

German said...

Love gnoccchi. I always i go for first time to a italian resturant i ask for them. If they are good the rest of the food will be great. Even i never have them fry! I used to cook the calsicc one with butter and sage sauce but the gnocchi boiled in water

Claudine said...

I'm generally not a fan of gnocchi but *love* ricotta gnocchi, especially with a crispy exterior crust! You must have a great stove that gives off so much nice heat. Thanks for the ever-so-handy tips... I'll have to try my had at pasta making some day...

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I was recently given a copy of this book and the gnocchi dish caught my eye. Perfect for Spring.