I'm really excited to be getting in on the ground floor of the newly formed Daring Cooks group! It's a spin off of the Daring Bakers who have a monthly baking challenge. Imagine all of the fun stuff I will get to cook and I won't miss a single opportunity to challenge myself to try new and exciting dishes. First up is definitely one I've never tried or even eaten! ~Ricotta Gnocchi~ I barely know how to pronounce it. Thank goodness for a recent Olive Garden commercial where the waiter serves up some Gnocchi soup. Even Randy learned how to pronounce it!! I did have the opportunity to visit Italy during my college years...but being on a college student's budget I didn't really get to venture too far into the gastronomic arena. Lots of bread and salami and maybe some pizza thrown in. I do recall an exceptional grilled cheese type sandwich I had in Venice. So Gnocchi was no where on my menu and I really don't recall ever seeing it on the menu at the Italian restaurants I ate at growing up. But now it seems I hear about it everywhere! Even Olive Garden commercials. :-) So high time I give it a try. I have bought and tried the potato version recently, but homemade and ricotta....definitely not.
I've been thinking about this gnocchi since first reading what the challenge would be, but let the date creep up on me. I stayed home sick today...terrible cold! So I was hoping and praying I had all of the ingredients. Survey of the fridge told me that I was one very essential ingredient short. The ricotta I had was well past its use by date..so in the trash it went. In the forums where the Daring Cook challenge is posted there were a few homemade ricotta recipes that people had shared and they looked easy enough so I figured I'd give it a try. I used this recipe with very good success and I promise you it won't be the last time I make homemade ricotta. So I really got two challenges in one!
Fresh, Homemade Ricotta
From Gourmet, April 2006
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine the milk, cream, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Separately, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it in a large bowl. Measure out the lemon juice and set it aside.
Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula to prevent scalding. Once the mixture has reached a steady simmer, add the lemon juice and stir gently with the spatula — quickly, just to blend. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, turning down the heat slightly so it stays at a simmer but doesn’t reach a hard, rolling boil. Stir with the spatula after about 1 minute, then let it sit another minute until it looks like most of the liquid has separated into curds and whey.
Drain the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl, and let it drain at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.
Makes about 1 cup.
I wish I had a picture of the cheese itself, but I was pretty anxious to get the main recipe started and forgot to get my camera out. This produced a pretty dry cheese..which is a good thing when using in a gnocchi recipe. I drained it for probably 2 hours tops.
The main recipe was chosen by Creampuff and it comes from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook. WhenI printed it out, it was 5 pages long..very detailed and with pictures. So I'm not going to copy the whole thing here. I will give you the Reader's Digest condensed version with my additions. You can check out the original on Creampuff's blog. I halved the original recipe because the ricotta only made 1 cup and I didn't think to double it.
Garlic Chive Ricotta Gnocchi with Oyster Mushroom Browned Butter Sauce
For the gnocchi:
1/2 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (1 cups)
1 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
3 garlic chives, snipped into very small pieces
lemon zest, a couple of pinches
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated (I ended up using shredded because it's what I had)-although I halved the recipe I left this in it's original amount.
¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt), pepper
2-3 Tablespoons flour
More flour for forming the gnocchi
For the sauce:
1-2 cups roughly chopped oyster mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Step 1: Drain your ricotta in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or coffee filters like I used. Very wet ricottas should be drained over night. My ricotta was dry and only required 2 hours but apparently wet ricotta can be the doom of ricotta gnocchi, so heed this warning.
Step 2: Making the 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. 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. I did push mine through a strainer. Add the lightly beaten egg to the mashed ricotta. Melt the tablespoon of butter and add it to the ricotta mixture along with. Add in lemon zest, garlic chives, parmesan, salt and pepper. Beat all the ingredients together very well. At this point I added a small amount of flour (2-3 Tablespoons) based on comments I'd read regarding other's experience with the recipe. You want the dough to be slighty sticky but not wet.
Step 3: Forming the Gnocchi
After watching a video on making gnocchi I chose a method where you roll the dough into logs then cut your pieces rather than forming one at a time using a small bit of the dough.
I then made light fork marks in each piece (don't mash) so that the sauce had something to rest in. You can also make a slight indention with your finger to make a little bowl.
Lay the pieces in a shallow layer of flour
Step 4: Cooking the Gnocchi and Sauce
At this point you should be prepared to eat soon (or refrigerate or freeze the gnocchi)! Coordinate so that your sauce is ready when the gnocchi come out of the water. For the sauce, brown butter and garlic in skillet then add mushrooms and cook down until mushrooms are beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a separate bowl but don't clean skillet. For the gnocchi, bring a large pot filled with water to boil. Drop the gnocchi one by one in the water. Once they float to the top cook them for 3-5 minutes. You may have to bump them off the bottom of the pot. As the gnocchi were done I added them to the hot skillet with a slotted spoon and quickly browned them. I served them with the mushrooms mixture on top and added more chives for a little color.
I'm not 100% sure, since I've never eaten them anywhere else, but I think these came out very good. Soft and fluffy...little pillows which is what their names means in Italian. It was a very nice thing to eat on a day when I felt very flo ho..comforting and warm. Plus it actually cooked up very very quickly. I can imagine if you had to cook for lots of people this could be a much longer process with all those tiny little balls. But still worth it!!
If you're interested in joining in on these fun challenges go check out the Daring Kitchen here for more information!
These days there is always something new happening in my yard. So I can't let the opportunity pass without sharing a little bouquet.
Store bought dahlia
Himalayan Blue Poppy (my second but probably not my last try with one of these!)
Yummy smelling Lilacs