Ladies and Gentlemen! I give you... drum roll, please... the first ever Daring Cooks Challenge!
You know about the Daring Bakers. I've blogged about all the yummy sweet and savory things I've baked with them for the past year or so.
But now there's a new wrinkle. The Daring Bakers have become part of the Daring Kitchen, and the other part is The Daring Cooks. And, since I had nothing better to do with the spare 15 minutes a week I have, I decided to do that, too. (Am I crazy, or what?)
The first ever challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi. (The recipe is from Judy Rogers and the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.) I never even made potato gnocchi, so this was all new to me. The ricotta was supposed to be fresh, rather than the kind from the grocery in the plastic tub. But, as you know, I don't live near a grocery store that has ever heard of fresh ricotta, and I really am too strapped for time this month to make my own. (I will try that some time soon, though.) So, I used the tub of ricotta, and hoped for the best.
The first step was to drain the ricotta overnight to get as much of the liquid out as possible. The next day I added two lightly beaten cold eggs to the ricotta mixture, and a tablespoon of melted butter (not margarine--eww!) Then I added some freshly grated nutmeg (just a pinch or two) and 1/2 ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated. The batter was soft, like grainy egg custard. I must not have got as much of the moisture out of the ricotta as I was supposed to. About now I was beginning to have my doubts about my chances of success with gnocchi.
I tried to take a small spoonful of it and roll it in flour as directed. Imagine dropping a spoonful of custard into a pile of flour and rolling it into a dumpling shape. It came out as a shapeless lumpy pile of mush, but I cooked a trial one, thinking maybe it would magically get solid as it cooked. Ha! It dissolved into the water, which now looked as though I had poached some eggs and removed them from the pan, and had the little squiggles of egg white still floating in the water. I dug out the cooked mush and tasted it-- it was really good! But the texture and shape needed a lot of work.
I tried adding egg white, as the recipe suggested, and that just made everything wetter. I chilled the mixture, but then I just had cold grainy egg custard. Thank Heaven for the Daring Baker blog-- some other folks had ended up with a wet dough, and had added some flour. I added 1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour and Bingo! The dumplings rolled out of the flour looking like gnocchi. I cooked a test gnocchi, and found that it held together beautifully and still tasted wonderful, but was a little more dense-- which suited me just fine, since I like pasta to be a little more al dente than mushy.
I chilled them for an hour or so (more like three hours actually) and then cooked half of them, and served them with a garlic butter sauce. Yum! The rest I froze, and I'll have them with pesto sauce at another meal.
Here is the recipe:
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