Cheesy Skillet Gnocchi

Gnocchi is essentially mashed potato-based pasta dough. It’s no wonder I’m obsessed with it.

Can I claim expert execution every time I roll that dough out? Nope! Not by a long shot. But it still tastes, and looks, like gnocchi every time.

My secret? This general rule of thumb – 1 medium-sized potato to 1 / 3 cup flour. It leaves ample room for error, all while helping avoid the consequences of dumplings that fall apart in the boiling water, or too-rigid dough.

And once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll have a better feel for the potato to flour to egg to water ratio. Or at least you’ll know when you completely botched the whole thing. Hopefully.

Of the dishes I cook, I make macaroni and cheese most often. In all shapes, sizes, and colors. If there ever was an expert – and I’d be hesitant to make this claim if it weren’t true – I might be it. Besides professional chefs. They actually know what they’re doing.

Here are some tips & tricks I’ve teased out –

  • Too much flour in the roux leads to a cakey sauce, and poor texture if you’re reheating leftovers.
  • More moisture is key – including pasta water, milk, cream, or half and half.
  • For better or for worse, pricey, aged Gruyere and cheddar cheeses are the best cheeses to use as a base. Ina Garten is all about this combo, and for good reason. It’s because she’s right. Use goat, blue, or other cheeses as accent cheeses. If you’re going with a homier stovetop mac, it’s not a bad idea to throw Velveeta in the mix. If you’re wondering how restaurants manage to serve you mac & cheese in that impossibly gooey & silky sauce, I’d bet my life that Velveeta had something to do with it.
  • If you’re baking your mac, you need to undercook the pasta by at least 2 to 3 minutes, beyond just the time it takes to boil the pasta to al dente consistency. A hard-biting noodle should be a feature of every macaroni and cheese you serve.
  • Add a splash of neutral cooking oil into your cheese mixture. Trust me.

I wanted this gnocchi to encapsulate the culmination of these mac & cheese lessons learned. The sauce came out as saucy as sauces get – rich, thick, over-the-top.

Reheated in a microwave, it tasted like the first bite out of the oven. I’m far from having my macaroni and cheese deemed perfect by the gods, but these pointers have well along the way.

What are some of your go-to tricks for the perfect mac? Any mac & cheese recipes you swear by?

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  G n o c c h i

  • 6 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & quartered (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Flour, as needed
  • Water, as needed

F o r  t h e  C h e e s e  S a u c e

  • 3 cups sharp, aged cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 3 / 4 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g

  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Combine with the panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the potatoes, and cook until fork tender. Strain. Turn the potatoes into a mashed consistency using either a hand mill or a hand mixer (a hand mill is better).
  4. On a floured, hard surface, lightly combine the mashed potatoes, flour, salt until uniform throughout. Create a well in the middle of the dough and add the egg. Continue to fold the dough until the egg is fully incorporated, and the dough is a light yellow color. The dough should be sticky, but should not stick to your hands. If it is too dry to combine, or too sticky to handle, add small amounts or water or flour until it reaches the right consistency.
  5. Form the dough into a small disk, cover in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, melt the 3 / 4 stick of butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the flour. Whisk for a couple minutes, until the flour mixture is bubbling. Add the milk, the salt, pepper, nutmeg and vegetable oil. Allow to thicken on medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. The mixture should coat a wooden spoon at this phase. Once thickened, add the cheeses. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat until ready to add the gnocchi.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out the dough to 1 inch thickness. Cut the dough into long strips. Form a long tubular piece of dough from each strip, using your hands to stretch and roll the dough back and forth. Once the dough reaches about 1 inch in diameter, cut the strips into 1 inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on a plate, and sprinkle with flour.
  8. Boil a pot of salted water. Put the gnocchi in the water a dozen or so pieces at a time. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are done. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into the cheese mixture. It’s encouraged for some of the cooking liquid to make its way into the cheese sauce as you’re transferring the gnocchi. Stir until the gnocchi are incorporated into the cheese sauce.
  9. Pour the gnocchi into a baking pan or cast iron skillet, and top evenly with the panko mixture.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the panko is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linguini with Clams Carbonara

The story behind this recipe can be found in Hankerings’ latest post, Bonita Springs, Florida. I hope you enjoy!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 / 2 lb. linguini
  • 1 / 3 lb. bacon, small diced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 dozen clams, washed and rinsed
  • 1 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 2 eggs, whisked, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup parm reg, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, and cook the linguini according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In the meantime, brown the bacon in a large sauté pan. Once browned, add the garlic, and sauté on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the clams, the cup of reserved cooking liquid from the pasta, butter, lemon juice, and cover. Steam the clams on medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until the clams have opened. Remove any clams that didn’t open from the pot.
  3. Off the heat, add the pasta, parm reg, and 2 whisked eggs. Using tongs, stir the pasta until the sauce is thickened and the cheese has begun to melt.
  4. Plate the pasta, topping each with an egg yolk, garnish with lemon wedges, and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

 

Salmon Carpaccio

The story behind this recipe can be found in Hankerings’ latest post, Bonita Springs, Florida. I hope you enjoy!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 lb. filet of fresh, fatty salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 / 4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon capers, plus 1 teaspoon caper juice
  • 4 oz. parm reg
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. With a thin, flexible knife, shave thin slices of the salmon and place them on a platter. Continue to shave until most of the meat has been removed from the filet, cutting off dark red pieces of the salmon for better presentation and taste.
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Combine the juice from half the lemon with the sour cream, capers, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, and a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Cut the remaining half of lemon into slices. Arrange them on top of the salmon. Pour half the sauce over the top of the salmon, saving some for additional use later, if desired.
  4. Shave the parm reg over the salmon, and sprinkle with minced parsley, if desired. Garnish with cracked pepper as well, if desired.
  5. Serve room temperature.

Bonita Springs, Florida

My family has roots in Southwest Florida. On both mom and dad’s sides. So going down there isn’t so much a vacation anymore as it is going home.

My favorite part about getting down there is the gulf air smell that hits you when you step out of the airport. It’s always a windows-down ride to our house.

The upside of going somewhere home in a vacation-y setting, is you can do absolutely nothing. Or you can do everything.

As a kid, we were pretty active. It was tennis, golf and beach every day, all day. Now, I don’t beat myself up for sitting on the couch with the doors and windows open.

I had my heart set on fishing this trip – and we actually managed to get our butts out the door. We headed to been-there-forever Master Bait & Tackle on Bonita Beach Road to rent a couple fishing poles and walked out of there with three dozen live shrimp.

Take a second and read that shop name again.  Cheeky, right?

I love fishing. Even better – fishing that actually pulls fish up. We’ve been on fishing ships with a bartender-turned family friend, self-dubbed Captain Vince, in the past. He boats us out to the highly populated fish havens in the gulf, baits the hook, and helps us reel the fish in. It’s idiot proof, and he does all the legwork. We are almost always guaranteed a fish, or two, or three to bring home. After he guts and filets them, of course.

I had my doubts I’d be able to reel something from the key waters on my own without the help of a fishing pro. I was happy to say I was wrong. After a couple hours of re-lining caught hooks and assessing the intentions of several large birds who decided to watch this clown show, we caught three.

mattbird

I had my suspicions one of the Sheepshead fish we caught once, was the same fella the second time around. But who can know for sure.

meandfish

Note to future fishing self – have a local fishing chart handy with size minimums. I couldn’t be sure if the ones we pulled up were large enough to keep, which apparently they were, according to the guys at Master Bait & Tackle after a quick debrief.

It would’ve taken an extra second to do the research on my iPhone, but we were flanked by an aggressive Egret who was eyeing the shrimp bucket. I worried one look away would’ve been bye-bye bait. Or bye-bye my eyeballs.

Because we went home without fresh fish in hand, I took the 21st century approach to acquiring seafood. Specifically, buying local-caught clams and salmon from the fish shop with my credit card.

I knew what I wanted to make. I’d been salivating over both these recipes since I thought them up. I felt an instinctual hesitation to combine raw egg with shellfish, and parmesan with salmon, but they were home runs.

Lemon was the key ingredient in both. So necessary to cut through the bacon, butter and cheesy richness of the carbonara. Same deal with the fatty salmon and sour cream caper drizzle.

I had fun cooking that night in my parent’s kitchen. But the other meals, we had covered.

We went out to dinner at a local Hibachi place, Tokyo Bay, because I had a flashback to Michael Scott’s trip to Benihana post-breakup around Christmas-time. Our chef, Beto, did not disappoint.  Another night, after some outlet shopping, I ate Culver’s for the first time. I had their butter burger, an Oreo concrete, and most importantly, I had cheese curds for the first time in my life. We went to Doc’s Beach House, too. It’s been there since the paleolithic era, and I have such good memories associated with it.

Altogether, this was not my typical eating routine – I cook dinner every night. That’s what vacation will do to you. With the help of a quick Delta flight, and some sunshine, vacation allows you to throw your obligations out the window.

And make it OK for you to do exactly what you’re feeling like doing. Whether that’s all the things. Or nothing at all.

Salmon Carpaccio

 

Salmon Carpaccio

Serves 2.

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 lb. filet of fresh, fatty salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 / 4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon capers, plus 1 teaspoon caper juice
  • 4 oz. parm reg
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, if desired
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. With a thin, flexible knife, shave thin slices of the salmon and place them on a platter. Continue to shave until most of the meat has been removed from the filet, cutting off dark red pieces of the salmon for better presentation and taste.
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Combine the juice from half the lemon with the sour cream, capers, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper, and a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. Cut the remaining half of lemon into slices. Arrange them on top of the salmon. Pour half the sauce over the top of the salmon, saving some for additional use later, if desired.
  4. Shave the parm reg over the salmon, and sprinkle with minced parsley, if desired. Garnish with cracked pepper as well, if desired.
  5. Serve room temperature.

 

Linguini with Clams Carbonara

 

Linguini with Clams Carbonara

Serves 2.

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 / 2 lb. linguini
  • 1 / 3 lb. bacon, small diced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 dozen clams, washed and rinsed
  • 1 / 3 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 2 eggs, whisked, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup parm reg, shredded

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, and cook the linguini according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. In the meantime, brown the bacon in a large sauté pan. Once browned, add the garlic, and sauté on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the clams, the cup of reserved cooking liquid from the pasta, butter, lemon juice, and cover. Steam the clams on medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until the clams have opened. Remove any clams that didn’t open from the pot.
  3. Off the heat, add the pasta, parm reg, and 2 whisked eggs. Using tongs, stir the pasta until the sauce is thickened and the cheese has begun to melt.
  4. Plate the pasta, topping each with an egg yolk, garnish with lemon wedges, and sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

 

 

Thyme & Shallot Rack of Lamb Persillade

I present to you a show-offy dinner that doesn’t take a lot of time, or a lot of technique.

Ina Garten has a killer recipe for rack of lamb persillade. As anyone who has made her recipe before can attest, there’s much to love about the traditional parsley-based approach she uses there. But here, I opted to do a version with shallots and thyme.

I’m normally not a fan of breadcrumbs on meat. They get soggy. Fast. What’s more disappointing than a soggy chicken parmesan? That’s why we went with panko breadcrumbs. Sogginess risk eliminated, and the breadcrumbs’ butter coating gives the crust an even roastier, toastier flavor.

Man, I wish lamb prices would drop. If it were on par with beef, I would eat it just as often. Maybe more. What does lamb offer that beef is missing? The thin layer of fat that runs down the bone. Go ahead and get that nicely seared and rendered in a pan. If you’re like me, you will gnaw on the bone to get every last bit of flavor.

As with many Hankerings dishes, there’s more butter in this recipe than meets the eye.

After pre-cooking the lamb for a few minutes, I coat the entire rack with a thick later of room temperature butter. This helps the coating stick, but I won’t pretend this is the only reason I’m slathering a rack of lamb in butter. That butter seeps into the meat, and the burnt bits you get on the lamb make this the sensical thing to do.

What are your favorite ways to prepare rack of lamb? Hopefully, you find this worthy of your recipe arsenal.

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched (most fat removed from bones)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 6 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 / 2 stick butter, room temperature, salted or unsalted, plus 1 / 4 stick butter, melted
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 425*.
  2. Prepare the panko topping. Combine the thyme, shallot, panko, melted butter, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a bowl, tossing to coat. Set aside.
  3. Put the rack of lamb in a small roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly for 10 minutes.
  4. Spread 1 / 2 stick butter on all surfaces of the lamb. Pat the panko bread crumb topping on top of the meat. Some of the coating will fall off into the pan – this is OK.
  5. Place the rack of lamb back in the oven immediately, cooking for an additional 10 minutes, for rare.
  6. Remove from the oven, allowing the rack to rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting into chops.
  7. Cut the rack into chops using a sharp knife. Serve warm or room temperature.