Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013: Dish of theDay

 A Thanksgiving dinner is tricky to pull off because everything has to be done at the same time, but that doesn't mean you have to cut corners to get it done.  I actually challenged myself to make gnocchi for the very first time this Thanksgiving and boy am I glad I did. I won't say it was a simple task, but my efforts were rewarded with a decent texture and memorable flavor-at first I thought they looked a little like circus peanuts, but when I cooked the gnocchi their orange hue intensified and reflected the spirit of the season perfectly.  Go on...give 'em a try!
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter- adapted from Food Network
Don't expect this recipe to be exact.  I had to work my way through it making some pretty heavy adjustments the whole way through.  Most importantly, I froze the uncooked gnocchi in single layers on parchment lined baking sheets before transferring the pasta to a Ziploc freezer bag.  I boiled them from frozen-about 8 minutes per batch.  I could not imagine prepping these little buggers at the last minute.

For the Gnocchi:
2 pounds sweet potatoes
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup for the work surface-this is where I lost faith in this recipe-maybe my sweet potatoes were particularly wet, but whoa! I used at least double the amount of flour this called for.  Subsequently I mixed in an extra teaspoon of cinnamon and tossed in some extra salt.

For the Maple Cinnamon Sage Brown Butter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
20 fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I increased my butter to 1 Cup and adjusted quantities accordingly. I swapped out the black pepper in favor of red pepper flakes and the resulting butter was crazy good.  I finished the platter with some grey salts.

For the Gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pierce the sweet potato with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large measuring cup to make sure the sweet potatoes measure about 2 cups. Transfer the mashed sweet potatoes back to the large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and blend until well mixed. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough in a ball on the work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in 3 batches and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.

For the Brown Butter sauce: While the gnocchi are cooking melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the sage leaves. Continue to cook, swirling the butter occasionally, until the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Careful, the mixture will bubble up. Gently stir the mixture. When the bubbles subside, toss the cooked gnocchi in the brown butter. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving dish and serve immediately.

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