Friday, December 11, 2009

Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

I have been in love with gnocchi ever since my family went to Italy when I was 16. These little potato dumplings can hold up to many different kinds of sauces, and I ate them at least once a week when I studied in Bologna.
My mom made this particular recipe when I was home for Thanksgiving, and it was so delicious I had to make it again with Ari. It is a really great recipe to make with someone else, since one person can make the gnocchi and the other can make the sauce. You can also use store bought gnocchi, but I swear making them by hand isn't that hard or time consuming, and is really worth the effort. They practically melt in your mouth.

Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce (adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 4)

For gnocchi:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (2 large)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch nutmeg
7 (or more) tablespoons flour

For sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
6 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

3 cups coarsely chopped arugula or spinach
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bake the potatoes, pierced with a fork, at 450 degrees for about an hour. When finished, mash and mix with egg and spices. Add the flour and mix until firm but elastic, adding more flour as needed. Divide dough into four portions. Roll out one portion on a floured surface into a long tube, about one inch thick, then cut into 1 inch pieces. Roll each piece off of the tines of a fork to get a ridged effect. (This takes a little practice) Place gnocchi on a flour covered baking sheet. Repeat with other three portions. Cook for 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling salted water.
Meanwhile, sauté the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat for two minutes. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sauté for ten minutes. Add the stock and sage and simmer for eight minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the cooked gnocchi and simmer for another minute. Add the arugula or spinach and stir until wilted. Top with cheese.

We accompanied this with a really lovely 2005 Masi Campfiorin, from Verona. It was a birthday gift from my housemates, and was a perfect compliment to the gnocchi. I am a little biased towards Italian wines, but this one was full and smooth, with a wonderful taste in the mouth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thanksgiving (a little late)

I realize that it has been a couple of weeks since Thanksgiving, but due to the end of the semester and work piling up, I haven't had a lot of time to write. However, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so it really deserves a spot on here.
My parents started hosting Thanksgiving at our house more than 20 years ago when they moved to Woodbury and I was just a wee thing. Ever since then, it has only grown and just about anyone is welcome. In the past, we have had family, friends, (ex) significant others and a few random people who came along. It is inevitably chaotic, loud, messy, and delicious, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Since much of my family is based in Minnesota, a small year means around 30 people for dinner, and if my mom's side can come, there are about 60 of us. It sounds a little crazy, and it is never very calm, but it means that I get to see people who I haven't seen in a while and of course, there is the food.
My parents are always in charge of the turkey and the dressing. This year, they bought two organic free range turkeys from a nearby farm, and I have to say it was definitely worth it. It wasn't at all dry, and the skin was crispy and salty and delicious. The dressing is a classic, the same one my mom makes every year. I used to hate it when I was little, but now it is one of my favorite parts of the meal, especially on leftover sandwiches. It is pretty simple, just croutons, carrots, and celery and some spices, but it makes a perfect compliment to the turkey. This year she also made maple cranberries, which were fantastic. Instead of the typical jellied cranberries, these were sweetened just enough and tasted more like candy than fruit.
The rest of the meal consisted of dishes that all of the guests brought. This was a small year, only around 25, so there wasn't as much (but still a ton of leftovers). My favorites were an amazing corn pudding that tasted almost like a frittata, and a green salad with tofu with a really great dressing. Of course, the Minnesota classic of baked green beans with cream of mushroom soup, topped with fried onion bits also made an appearance. I know it sounds a little odd, but beleive me, it is wonderful. The meal finished with five different kinds of pie, which I only ate a few bites of because after two plates of food, I was about to burst. I actually tried to lay on my stomach, but it hurt too much. However, it was, as always, worth it, and this Thanksgiving was just as wonderful as the last.
There is never exactly the same group of people at our house, but every year there is always enough food for everyone, the kids are still running around outside, and the kitchen is always way too crowded. This is probably my favorite tradition, and I am really glad that it has continued for so long. Of course, the turkey sandwhiches the next day don't hurt either.