For my Top Chef meal, I had one goal in mind: gnocchi. I’ve tried to many times before. Potato ricotta gnocchi. Goat cheese gnocchi. Beet gnocchi. Each time it hasn’t quite worked. Too mealy. Too goopy. Too mushy. Too firm. So this time I decided to go back to an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated and put their “no fail” gnocchi to the test.
I started off the meal with a light winter citrus salad with arugula. Although my knife skills didn’t produce perfect skinless slices of the blood orange, the mixture of the tart vinaigrette with the sweetness of the almonds and the spicy arugula hit a lot of notes for such a light simple salad.
Gnocchi time! With as much direction-following focus I could muster I succeeded in making gnocchi that did not suck! Victory!!!!! I’m not saying it was melt in your mouth perfect texture. Each dumpling did not have a perfect sear. But it was not mealy, goopy, mushy, or firm. They were actually pretty good. Once again Cook’s Illustrated came through. I paired the gnocchi with a mushroom broth, roasted shiitakes, and Parmesan. It was a satisfying and hearty bowl of winter comfort.
To end the meal, I decided to go all Minnesota-Christmas-spirit and make some desert bars. I followed a recipe in Bon Appetit this time and made chocolate bars topped with either spiced nuts or sea salt popcorn. Served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. I have to admit, these were the first bars I’d ever made that did not involve Rice Crispies or Corn Flakes and marshmallows. Owen shivers in disgust every time he sees me devour those neon green Christmas wreath cookies, but I have to indulge my low-brow Minnesota roots upon occasion.
I was so pleased with my first successful gnocchi that I did a mental happy-dance at the end of the meal. Had I indulged in a little more wine, I’m sure there would have been a physical manifestation of my “My Gnocchi Does Not Suck” interpretive dance. Maybe next week…?…