Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Suppertime Sky-Rocket!

Gnocchi di Patate e Rucola con Cipolle Rosse Caramellate
Potato & Rocket Dumplings with Caramelized Red Onion

Some simple dishes are great- they will take some ordinary, everyday ingredient, elevate it and raise it up, above and beyond... And then some other simple dishes, like this one, will take those same ingredients and knock them right off the map! This dish was intergalactic!

These were basically tender and fluffy gnocchi, formed using 2 spoons to scoop them from a soft dough and drop them directly into gently boiling water. The rich and earthy flavor of the rocket (or arugula- depending on which country you live in!), gave a deep and delicious flavor and the caramelized onions and salted ricotta added the contrast to make this into something a little more unusual and a lot more special!

I started off by boiling and mashing 3 medium-sized potatoes- I simply crushed them down with a fork, added a little more of the water they had been boiling in and fluffed them up whilst they were still hot. At this point, I added 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon of semolina and swiftly stirred them in too, seasoning with a little salt, pepper and grated nutmeg as I went.

Next, I took a handful of rocket, chopped it as finely as I could and added it to the still warm mashed potato, which immediately became a light, bright green and of course, cooled down considerably at the same time. Which was excellent, as it allowed me to add an egg and beat it into the mix without having to worry that it may curdle. The fact is, the dough will turn out best if you mix it whilst the potatoes are hot- the result will be much fluffier and lighter this way.

I added a handful of grated salted ricotta into the mix and another tablespoon of flour or two, always stirring, until the dough was soft but firm, with the consistency of a firm but creamy oatmeal. This was the time to get a saucepan of water boiling for the dumplings and also to start a little butter sizzling in a separate frying pan to caramelize half a finely sliced red onion... because in just 5-6 minutes time, dinner would be served! Yes- it all happens rather quickly from now on!

To form the gnocchi, I scooped up a tablespoonful of the fluffy potato dough, dipped a teaspoon into the boiling water, scooped the dough off of the tablespoon and dropped it gently in. Make sure the water is just at a gentle, rolling boil and that it is not bubbling away like crazy!

This takes a little practice, but really isn't that difficult after you have made 2-3 of them. As with all dumplings, they are ready as soon as they float to the surface of the gently simmering water. As soon as the float, scoop them out and drop them into a bowl of cold water to interrupt the cooking process- this will make sure they stay firm and do not stick together and fall apart.

Time for a little juggling now! Add a pinch of sugar to the lightly browned onion to give it that lovely, golden caramel-flavor and at the same time, heat a little butter with some crushed garlic in another pan, ready to toss the gnocchi or dumplings and let them also get gently browned and delicious. Once they become brown and start to stick to the pan slightly, deglaze with a splash of white wine, add a last little pat of butter, flip them through one last time and you are ready to go!

Serve with a few tender leaves of rocket, a little freshly-grated salted ricotta, a hint of grated nutmeg and a sprinkle of toasted chili flakes... and dig in! You are going to love these! I guarantee it!

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