I’ll admit it, I’m pretty self-centered at times. Just look at this blog, where I write about what I’ve been cooking, what I’ve been eating. Me, me, me.
But Jim, my culinary sidekick–and husband–is a pretty darn good cook as well. And this weekend he took charge in the kitchen, making Cook’s Illustrated’s ricotta gnocchi from the September/October 2007 issue.
As you may remember, Jim’s grandmother makes her own amazing potato gnocchi. During his most recent trip to Pittsburgh, Jim spent the afternoon making them with her. He learned how to recognize when the dough is ready, how to roll it out and cut the gnocchi, and why it’s necessary to indent each small piece with a fork (to create grooves for the sauce, of course).
But potato gnocchi are hearty, and we were in the mood for a light dinner. We thought back to Cook’s recipe for ricotta gnocchi, which we had always wanted to try, and which promised an airy version of the Italian dumplings we craved.
The secret to this recipe is twofold. First the ricotta is drained for an hour in the fridge. Then homemade breadcrumbs bind an egg, fresh herbs, flour, ricotta, and parmesan cheese together to create the dough. With both of these steps, less flour is needed in the dough mixture, resulting in a lighter dish.
Instead of supermarket ricotta, Jim bought fresh ricotta from Caputo’s, our Italian gourmet market. The fresh cheese was less watery than its packaged counterpart, and much more creamy and delicious. I’m still spreading the leftover cheese onto crusty bread for a quick snack; I can’t stop. Oh wait, I forgot, we’re not supposed to be talking about me.
Then, with moves that would make his grandmother proud, Jim went to work while I chopped the parsley and basil. While assembling the dough, Jim asserted that because we had medium eggs on hand, we would need to add 2 in order to equal the 1 large egg required for the recipe. Any deviation from Cook’s Illustrated usually fills me with anxiety, but I let the Gnocchi Whisperer do his thing.
After the dough rested in the fridge for 15 minutes, Jim rolled it out in sections, starting from the middle and gradually lengthening the roll down the counter. Then he cut it into small, delicate squares. We cooked them in boiling water for a few minutes, topped them with a simple tomato sauce, and took a bite.
The gnocchi were light, airy, and full of fresh herb flavor. The basic tomato sauce I made earlier in the day gently accompanied the small bites of dough, never overpowering the dish’s delicate nature. And for a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, the process was pretty painless. But maybe I’m just saying that because Jim did all the work. I can’t wait until he makes them for me again. It really is all about me.
(Unfortunately I cannot link directly to the recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website; you have to be a member of the website to see them.)