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.

 

Green Goddess Risotto

My now-nonexistent, tiny, indoor city garden – if you can call it that – was still a place for me to walk across the room to grab fresh herbs. I realized I have taken this for granted enormously.

I still have a way to stockpile fresh herbs, though. And it saves a few, literally, bucks in the process. But mostly, it allows me to sigh in relief when I realize – oh wait, I do have fresh dill.

Here’s all it is – grab a pack of ice cube trays, sprinkle desired fresh herbs into the cubes, and cover with olive oil, putting the tray in the freezer until you need it. It’s made a big difference in knocking down my shopping list, especially those times when my shopping list should essentially be one of everything in the store.

This recipe is a perfect example – fresh herb heavy dish? You’re covered!

When I have a new idea for a dish, I have to ask myself, is making this more complicated – adding more ingredients, introducing extra steps to recipes – really going to make it taste better?

Yes, there are times I want parmesan risotto. Perfect as it is, and it scratches that itch.

But I have those moments when I veer off the road, screech a u-ey and speed the other way. I call some of my recipes “Frankenstein” recipes because they mesh two dishes together. Pizza Carbonara. Surf & Turf Fried Rice. I think you get it. Follow this tag here to see what I’m talking about.

But risotto lends itself to being conjoined with another dish – not because it’s bland, but because it’s the perfect vehicle for other flavor profiles. It’s already starchy and fattening. Check. So bringing herbs, strong spices and other non-traditional ingredients into the mix doesn’t wipe out the risotto-ness of the dish.

The flavor is so spot on, that it tastes uncannily similar if you make or eat green goddess dressing regularly. The yummiest kicker though, is that one or two filets of anchovies you add. It sets the risotto off, and I can’t get enough of anchovies.

One fun fact to leave you with – the American-originated version of green goddess dressing, which hails from San Francisco, had chives, chervil and tarragon as its herb base, not basil. If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought green goddess dressing was basil-based. I use scallions here because I wanted a stronger onion-y bite, but a combination of those three herbs would be the most historically accurate.

This is another risotto for the books in my kitchen, and hopefully in yours too. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 1 / 2 cup arborio rice
  • 3 / 4 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 cup parm reg, shredded
  • 1 / 2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 / 4 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil, more as needed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the parm reg, parsley, scallions, anchovies, lemon juice and zest, and a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a food processor. While whirring, slowly add in 1 / 4 cup of olive oil. Continue to puree until it reaches a pesto consistency. If more oil is needed to thin out the sauce, add more a bit at a time. Set aside.
  2. Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan until simmering. It should stay simmering for the duration of the cooking.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the rice, stirring for 2 minutes or so until the rice toasts a bit.
  4. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  5. At this final stage, add the green goddess mixture to the risotto and stir until heated through. Taste the risotto for seasonings, and adjust if necessary.
  6. Plate the risotto while hot, sprinkling with additional herbs you have on hands for garnish, and a sprinkling of parm reg, if desired.

Octopus & Red Chard Risotto

I’m fascinated by octopus. The appearance of tentacles appeals to me, and I think it makes octopus different from any other animals we eat.

I hear as creatures, they’re enigmatic and highly intelligent. Although their aptitude for solving puzzles has nothing to do with how they taste, their uniqueness makes me appreciative of the animal as a cooking ingredient.

I’ve wanted a pet octopus ever since seeing the old-school James Bond movie, Octopussy. But taking reality into consideration, I’m still weighing the pros and many cons of housing an active aquarium in my apartment. Maybe one day, when I don’t have a dog who would knock that tank over within minutes of it being installed.

During our family’s trip to Spain years ago, I remember being served a simple charred octopus – a preparation widely used there. I remember loving that. Here, I saute the octopus on its own, which releases juices from the meat. Those juices are used as a cooking liquid for the risotto in place of seafood stock midway through the cooking, and gives it a gorgeous warm color and infuses the grains of rice with unadulterated octopus flavor.

Saffron is a great addition here as well, as it is with pretty much any brothy seafood dish. The threads contribute to the reddish color of the risotto. It really doesn’t take more than a small pinch to get that familiar saffron-colored tinge.

I didn’t intend to put red chard in the risotto, but came across it in the produce aisle. It must be a beet-chard hybrid, because eaten raw the stalks had a strong beet flavor. The combination of the distinct tentacles and the bright red chard make for a visually appealing dish, that happens to taste phenomenal as well.

Upon receiving the wrapped octopus at the seafood stall, the purveyor said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you planning to do with this?”

I responded with an octopus risotto – one that I’ve never made before. It was a good question. And a question I’d like to be asked more frequently. What’s more fun than giving boneless, skinless chicken breasts a break for once, and cooking those odd bits?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 3 / 4 lb. octopus tentacles, cut into 1 1 / 2 inch chunks
  • 1 1 / 2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 cups red chard, stems intact, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup parm reg, grated
  • 1 quart seafood stock
  • 1 pinch saffron, approximately 1 / 2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sautee pan. Add the chard, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes on medium-low heat, adding the sherry midway through the cooking to allow the greens to braise. If the mixture gets too thick, add 1 / 4 water as needed. The chard is done when the stems are tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In another sautee pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the octopus pieces, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee the octopus for 5 to 7 minutes on medium heat, until the octopus is firm and cooked through. If the octopus is translucent in places, it is not fully cooked.
  3. Remove the octopus pieces to a separate bowl, and keep the juices that were released from the octopus for later, when it will be added to the risotto as cooking liquid.
  4. In the meantime, heat the seafood stock in a small saucepan, until just simmering. Keep on low heat throughout the cooking process.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the stick of butter until melted, and add the onion, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Add the rice, and allow to toast slightly in the butter, onions and garlic, about 2 minutes. Add the first ladleful of seafood stock and stir until combined. When the mixture begins to get slightly sticky and dry, add another ladleful of stock.
  6. After 10 minutes, instead of the seafood stock, add the juices from the sautéed octopus. Stir. Add the saffron as well, along with a large pinch of salt, and pepper, as needed for taste. When the rice begins to get sticky again, continue to add the seafood stock. Cook for an additional 10 minutes with the seafood stock as a cooking liquid.
  7. Once the rice reaches a near al-dente consistency, add the octopus pieces, red chard from the sautee pan, juices and all, and the parm reg. Add an additional ladle of stock, as needed, to finish cooking.
  8. Serve hot immediately, topping with parm reg, if desired.

Sausage Gravy Macaroni & Cheese

I knew sausage gravy and macaroni and cheese would be fast friends. They both start out the same way, but with different fats. You have the roux that serves as the base for the mac, which is identical to the base of your average sausage gravy. The only difference being one starts with sausage drippings instead of butter.

What makes this macaroni and cheese stand out, though, is a whole lot of garlic powder. I strongly believe garlic powder is an unsung hero in the cooking world. Not in the world of everyday cooks like me – home cooks know it well. You’ll see it in every one of those one-sheet pan dinners, casseroles, or crockpot meals.

In my limited exposure to the upper echelons of the culinary world, I can’t remember one instance where a chef added garlic powder to a dish and owned it. At some level it’s understandable. Fresh garlic is a flavor powerhouse. Why use the tacky, outdated powdered stuff?

But when I add garlic powder, there’s an added yumminess, umami, whatever that magical flavor is. I don’t get that when I add freshly minced garlic. In some dishes, like casseroles, the fresh garlic flavor gets lost. Garlic powder does a better job of permeating the entire dish, and the garlic flavor is tastier, somehow.

All things considered, garlic, is garlic, is garlic – fresh is better in some dishes, while I’ll exclusively use powdered garlic in others.

I saw a recipe for homemade garlic powder on Serious Eats – this is my next frontier. With this mac you’re going to get a whopping sausage, cheese and garlickly bite, and you have good, old, been-there-done-that garlic powder to thank for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 box short pasta, of your choosing
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 Kraft American Cheese singles
  • 1 quart whole milk, scalded
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 / 4 lb. sausage of your choosing, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Brown the sausage, breaking it down into smaller pieces in a large pot on medium heat until the meat is cooked through, and a bit crispy in places. Add the flour and butter, and cook, stirring until the flour is fully dissolved into the meat, and the butter is melted.
  3. At this point, add the scalded milk, keeping the heat on medium. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. In the meantime, heat a pot of salted water until boiling. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. Strain and set aside.
  5. Once the sauce coats a spoon, add the cheeses and stir until completely incorporated. Add the pasta, salt, pepper and garlic powder and stir to combine.
  6. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish, and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling hot, and the top is browned.