Alright, let’s just get this over with, shall we?
Here it is, the last Keller recipe in the pipe-line. Not that any of you have been complaining, in fact, over the past few days I’ve received more than a few requests from readers to “Keep Cooking Keller”, but in an effort to offer you all a better balanced and wide ranging selection of recipes to cook with your kids, this will be the last we see of our friend for a while…..I’m all verklempt.
I don’t know about you, but I do find that I’ll roll with a particular chef, a new cookbook, or even a style of cooking for some period of time in order to really pull a lot from the experience. I do think it helps to spend some unhurried time with a chef, or perhaps a “regional” style of cooking to really come to understand him/it, and so I have enjoyed finally cooking some of Keller’s fab food, and I hope you have too. I’m sure we’ll get back to his great food some day in the not too distant future, like maybe if someone buys me his new book “Ad Hoc at Home” for my birthday this year….anyone….anyone?
This dish is one of the more approachable that he offers in his cookbooks, and is one that your kids will have great fun helping you with. Until I had lived in France, I had never heard of “Parisienne Gnocchi”, just their more famous Italian cousins. As much as I love a good potato (Italian) gnocchi, in my opinion, they are much trickier to make well, than our French version here. An Italian gnocchi well done, is ethereally light and tender, like a little tasty cloud of warmth that melts in your mouth. When they are not done well, they can be like flour flavored gummi bears, all chewy and dense and disgusting. Unfortunately, the line between a good and bad potato gnocchi is difficult to navigate. Good ones require just the right ratio of potato to flour, and a light hand in working the dough. Add too much flour, or overwork the mix and you’re left with a pasty, leaden bit of nastiness to roll around in your mouth as you try to think up a clever way of spitting it to the floor for the family dog.
Parisienne Gnocchi, on the other hand, is not made with potato but rather pâte à choux, which is the same “batter” that is used to make eclairs, gougeres, and profiteroles. When piped into various shapes and baked, pâte à choux puffs into lovely pastry shells used to hold ice cream, pastry cream, or any other number of delectable fillings. To make the gnocchi, the pâte à choux is not baked, but piped into a gently boiling pot of water and lightly poached before draining, cooling and then finishing with a quick saute. They are wonderfully flavorful, light and airy, and so much easier to make than their Italian counterparts, that I bet they’ll become a regular in your household in short order.
Peyton helped me whip these up the other night, wielding a Japanese blade like a samurai warrior as she lopped each gnocchi from the tip of the pastry bag. She then scooped them from their poaching bath and laid them to dry on a towel covered sheet tray. After letting them cool in the fridge for a bit, we finished them in a little oil and browned butter, then served them up with some lamb bolognese. They would also be amazing with a great marinara, a creamy pesto sauce, or with some quickly sauteed spring vegetables. YUM!
It’s bath time, Mr. Gnocchi…..
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped chervil
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
- 1 cup loosely packed shredded Emmentaler cheese
- 5 to 6 large eggs
- Set up a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment. Have all the ingredients ready before you begin cooking.
- Combine the water, butter, and the 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist.
- Enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added: Continue to stir for about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and the aroma of cooked flour will be noticeable. Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard, herbs, and the 1 tablespoon salt. Mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat, then add the cheese. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one. Increase the speed to medium and add another 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Turn off the machine. Lift some of the dough on a rubber spatula, then turn the spatula to let it run off: It should move down the spatula very slowly; if it doesn't move at all or is very dry and just falls off in a clump, beat in the additional egg.
- Place the dough in a large pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch plain tip and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. (If you have only a small pastry bag, fill it with half the dough two times.) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Because this recipe makes such a large quantity of gnocchi, your arm may get tired: An easy way to pipe the gnocchi is to place a large inverted pot, canister, or other container that is slightly higher than the pot on the right side of the pot (left side if you are left-handed) and set the filled pastry bag on it so that the tip extends over the side and the container serves as a resting place for the bag. Twist the end of the pastry bag to push the dough into the tip. (From time to time, as the bag empties, you will need to twist the end again.) As you squeeze the back of the bag with your right hand, hold a small knife in your left hand and cut off 1-inch lengths of dough, allowing the gnocchi to drop into the pot. Pipe about 24 gnocchi per batch. First, the gnocchi will sink in the pot. Keep the water temperature hot, but do not boil. Once the gnocchi float to the top, poach them for another 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on the paper towel–lined baking sheet. Taste one to test the timing; it may still seem slightly undercooked in the center, but it will be cooked again. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- When all the gnocchi have drained, place them in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day. Or, for longer storage, place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the gnocchi have frozen solid, remove them from the baking sheet and place in a freezer bag in the freezer. Before using frozen gnocchi, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and defrost in the refrigerator for several hours.