Thursday, May 14, 2009

Daring Cooks, yup, I'm a Daring Cook indeed.

I love being a part of the Daring Bakers, I know, I sing their praises all the time but it is the truth. It's the camaraderie, the challenge, the learning, the togetherness, that I enjoy so much. So I joined the Daring Cooks. I was rewarded with a recipe that I wanted to try anyway. I had seen a video of this on Epicurious and have wanted to make it since. I didnt have the nerve. Enter the Daring Cooks and voila, courage abounds.

Courage does not mean success as you can see. While they were a bit mushy they did hold together. I blame my failure on not draining the ricotta long enough. I did about seven hours. Next time I will go for the 24 hours. Even though they don't look stellar, they sure taste stellar. Light, despite the thousands of calories within.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.

Here's what I made for the sauce.

Lemon Wine Sauce

juice of half of a lemon
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup ap flour

Saute onions in butter over medium high heat until onions begin to turn golden. Whisk in flour and let cook until it becomes golden. Whisk in broth and wine. Add salt to taste. Add lemon. Let mixture boil for a few minutes to thicken.

I spooned the sauce over the gnocchi and then sprinkled with chopped fresh tarragon, oregano and chives.


Anonymous said...

Lori, mine went kaput too, although yours look fabulous and I love the lemon wine sauce! As usual, everything looks 'lip-smacking' :)

Lucy said...

Lori, your gnocchi look wonderful and I'm just loving the sauce you went with.. the freshness yea!!

Hoping you had a wonderful Mother's Day too!! <3

Heather B said...

I drained my ricotta for almost 24 hours and I still had mushy gnocchi. Oh well! They were tasty! Great job on the challenge, they look delicious!

Susan said...

I feel your pain about the draining. Even so, looks like you got something delicious!

Mary said...

Love the sauce you used Lori. I did OK with the gnocchi but the brown butter sauce I used was too heavy for something so light.

Bunny said...

Your more Daring than I am Lori! They look good to me!

Anonymous said...

They look like they came out great! Along with draining I squeezed out the ricotta through the cheesecloth, and that I think worked out really well, I didn't really get any liquid coming out when I drained them...

Irene said...

Oh my goodness, my mom used to make these for us when I was younger and sweeten them a bit so that we could eat them for breakfast with butter and sour cream. Yeah, those were the days before calories were invented! I can just imagine how the grown up version tastes!

Audax said...

Don't worry about the looks taste the pillows of yummmmminess that these certainly are. Bravo on your honest posting and this shows how the Dcooks' gives it members true bravery. Cheers from Audax in Australia

Abby said...

the mix of herbs looks wonderful - i stuck to sage with mine.

Grace said...

i'd still call that a success, lori--after all, they were edible, yes? that's all i need to consider something successful. :)

kat said...

The couple other people I read who did this also have the issue with the mushiness from the ricotta so good for you getting a tasty edible version

Sheila said...

Ooh, I don't mind mushy with gnochi. You are an amazing cook! I signed up for daring cooks but keep forgetting :0

And, by the way, I love your little play list; Spanish guitar is so relaxing and thought inspiring.

The Blonde Duck said...

I would be too scared to attempt this!

The Shulls said...

Lori, thanks for visiting my blog. I can't wait to try your wine-lemon sauce, it looks so delicious!!!

As I wrote at the DK, my homemade ricotta turned better than the one I bought at the store... the second batch was definitely a real challenge!

Lauren said...

Mmm, your gnocchi look awesome!! Great job on this challenge =D.