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.

 

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.

Sissy’s Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

This is a ridiculous recipe – ridiculous because goat cheese doesn’t belong in mashed potatoes, right?

Wrong.

They are symbiotic – the goat cheese adds a sour tang that rips through the mellowness of boiled potatoes. The texture of the chevre does a great job of lightening the texture of the buttery Yukon golds. And with enough mortar-&-pestled black peppercorns, you have that spicy, cracked pepper bite to break through the richness that is butter, heavy cream and cheese.

My little sister loves goat cheese. When we were living together, it was pretty easy to know what she needed from the grocery store, without me needing to ask. Goat cheese, Near East Rice Pilaf, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Goat cheese reigns supreme in her food world.

So when it came Thanksgiving time, I knew this would hit home for her. There was no need to hold back on the amount of goat cheese in this, because there’s no such thing in her mind.

I know from experience that not everyone loves the taste of goat cheese – I’d recommend making two batches if you’re serving picky kiddos or adults. Which is easy enough because these potatoes still fold in the musts – heavy cream and butter.

My mom makes her mashed potatoes with chicken stock – the added poultry flavor always reminds me of holidays, and it’d probably go great in this recipe as well. Just add a few splashes.

But I wouldn’t limit this dish to the holidays. It’s so &*^%ing good. It’s one of those recipes, like a song that you can’t get out of your head, that will ruminate in your mind for a while after you eat it. I started imagining all the different cheeses I could add to potatoes. Gorgonzola mashed potatoes? Velveeta’d mashed potatoes? The possibilities are only limited by your ability to list cheese.

One technique I’d recommend – at all costs, when you can, beat the mashed potatoes with a hand mixer. The handy dandy smasher works perfectly well in a pinch. But take the time to dirty up the beater for your potatoes. It makes them silky in a way hand mashing cannot, and that’s the texture you deserve. Restaurant-quality silkiness.

Happy mashed potato-eating season! What are some of your favorite mashed potato recipes? As always, I’m all ears. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6.

  • 1 5 lb. bag Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 12 oz. chevre, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1 / 2 sticks butter, room temperature, salted or unsalted
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar & pestle (alternatively, you can place the peppercorns in a Ziploc bag, smashing them with a mallet or rolling pin), plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid from the potatoes

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil the peeled, quartered potatoes for 20 minutes or so in salted water until fork tender. Reserve cooking liquid for later before draining. Strain potatoes into a colander, covering with a dish towel for 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to steam.
  2. Return the potatoes to the pot. Add the butter, goat cheese, heavy cream, garlic, salt and crushed black pepper.
  3. Beat the potatoes with a hand mixer on high speed, being careful that the potatoes and liquid don’t splash out of the pot. If needed to reach a silkier consistency, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.
  4. Serve the mashed potatoes hot, with the goat cheese crumbles and cracked black pepper sprinkled on top for garnish, if desired.

 

Vinegar Roast Chicken

Poulet au Vinagre, or vinegar chicken, is a famous Paul Bocuse recipe. A genius, genius recipe. His features tomatoes, which serves as a great acidic counterpoint to the vinegar.

Before I knew that this was in fact a world-famous concept of his, I cooked up a recipe for vinegar chicken years ago, found somewhere on Pinterest when I would spend hours a day pinning other bloggers’ posts.

Because this has the right elements, this roast chicken realizes the vinegar sauce from my memory. And I’ve regularly been making vinegar-y chicken, usually served with basmati rice, ever since.

I love vinegar. And brine. Pickled, salty anything and everything. By a quick scan of the recipes I post here, that’s pretty obvious. The reason I’m telling you this? To reinforce that if you like the same flavor profiles I do, trust me, this recipe will scratch your proverbial itch for vinegar.

I recently heard from someone on a health kick who said that they started adding vinegar to chicken and other saucy, red meat-based dishes. It’s a flavor booster, much like adding spices. It seems like vinegar does something to bolster protein, almost making them taste more calorie-heavy than they actually are.

I think that’s what this sauce does. It’s one of those “magic” sauces. The honey, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste, butter and vinegar all condense down to this perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and garlicky. With an added emphasis on the sour. Take out the butter, and I’m pretty sure it would be just as damn good.

Alas. This blog isn’t about leaving out the butter. Not here. This place is holy ground as far as butter is concerned, and I’m planning on keeping it that way.

With this relatively simply-prepared chicken and buttered rice, you really get a taste for the sauce. You will end up spooning more and more of it over additional helpings. Or at least I do.

Do you cook any meat-based recipes that have vinegar as a secret ingredient? I’d love to hear about them!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 1 4 to 5 lb. chicken, giblets removed
  • 1 1 / 2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bulb garlic, plus 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 / 2 large yellow onion, small diced
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature, salted or unsalted
  • Lemon slices, for garnish
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water, plus 1 cup
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Take the chicken out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pat the skin dry, including the cavity, with a paper towel.
  3. After an hour, sprinkle the cavity liberally with salt and pepper, and put a garlic bulb, cut in half lengthwise, in the cavity of the chicken. Truss the chicken legs with kitchen twine, and tuck the wings under the body of the chicken.
  4. Take 1 / 2 stick of softened butter, and rub all over the chicken. Slide your hands under the skin on either side of each breast, making sure to coat the top breast meat with the softened butter as well. Heavily sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
  5. In the meantime, heat the red wine vinegar, tomato paste, chicken stock or broth, 1 cup water, honey, minced garlic and diced onion over simmering heat for 5 minutes or so, until reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  6. Nestle the chicken in a small pan, barely big enough to hold the chicken. Pour the sauce in the pan around the chicken (not on top of the chicken), put lemon slices down the spine of the chicken, if desired, and place in the oven. Roast the chicken for 1 hour to 1 hour & 30 minutes, until the temperature of the chicken reaches 165* or you cut the groove between the leg and the breast and the juices run clear.
  7. In the meantime, run the rice under cold water in a sieve for a few minutes to remove extra starch. Put the rice in a small saucepan with 4 cups water, and simmer on medium heat until al dente consistency, about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the rice cooking instructions. Strain, return the rice to the pot, and add the remaining half of the stick of butter, stirring until melted. Set aside covered with a lid to keep warm until serving.
  8. Remove the chicken from the pan, turning the chicken upside down to allow any remaining juices to pour out of the cavity. Carve the chicken using Julia Child’s technique (carving starts at about 26:00). Retain the lemon slices and garlic bulb for garnish on the serving platter, if desired.
  9. Pour the roasting pan sauce into a pourable serving dish. Serve the chicken on a platter family style alongside a serving bowl of the buttered basmati rice.