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« kale and barley soup with guanciale: office lunches have never been so good | Main | cinnamon plum cake: fresh fruits take the cake »

gnocchi with chanterelles and sage butter

Making gnocchi, the ever-elusive pillows of potato pasta, can drive a cook mad. The variables stupefy: the type of flour (ranging from all-purpose to fine semolina pasta flour to the prized Italian "00"), the type of potato, egg or no egg, KitchenAid stand mixer or by hand. How much flour to potato? Cooks approximate but can't know for sure until the dough is formed. It's all about the feel. When gnocchi are cooked well, their texture becomes silky and soft. When they are cooked badly, which I have done, they become dense or chewy, or worse, they fall apart.

Gnocchi are best paired with simple sauces that highlight the softness of the pasta. I love gnocchi with a simple tomato and meat ragu, which I learned in Italy, but I also like tossing them in butter with fresh, seasonal ingredients. I spotted these gorgeous chanterelles in the produce aisle and couldn't resist buying them and incorporating them into my gnocchi.

For more than a year, I've been making gnocchi without egg (just potato and flour), the way I learned in Italy, but this time I wanted to try it with the egg. The truth is, I couldn't discern a difference. The gnocchi made with the egg were delicious and tender. The dish was so good, in fact, that the Jennifer Aniston movie we watched during dinner, The Bounty Hunter, brought it down. Of course, that movie would have brought down a tuna sandwich. (I still love you, Jen!)

Don't make our mistake. Sit at the table, sip wine, and give full attention to the simple, earthy flavors of sage and chanterelles tossed with the melt-in-your mouth gnocchi.

Gnocchi with Chanterelles and Sage Butter

Serves 4

For gnocchi

2 large russet potatoes (Yukon gold also work well but I prefer russets)
1 egg
About 2 cups all purpose flour*

For the sauce
6 - 8 tablespoons butter
30 sage leaves
1/2 pound of chanterelles, cleaned and sliced in half
Parmesan shavings for the top
Black truffle oil (optional)

*The trick to making tender gnocchi is adding enough flour to the potato mixture to hold together the dough but not too much or it will be tough. Add enough flour so that the dough doesn’t stick to your board. Also, before preparing your batch, test a single gnocco in boiling water. If it falls apart, your dough needs more flour.

Boil the whole potatoes in their jackets until they are soft, about 45 minutes. Remove them from the water, quarter them and pass them through a potato ricer onto a large plate. Let the potato cool completely.

In the bowl of a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook, add the potatoes and egg. Stir at the lowest setting until the egg is combined and then slowly add in the flour.  (If you don't have a KitchenAid, you can mix the potato and egg together in a bowl with a wooden spoon and then work in the flour with your hands). Knead the ingredients together until the dough scoots along freely without sticking when pushed across a cutting board.

Cut the dough into quarters.

Roll out each piece into 1-inch thick logs. If your space is limited, grab a smaller chunk of dough and roll it out to a shorter length. Press the dough with back of a fork down the length of the log, creating even tine marks.

Cut each gnocco off the roll in a forward motion, pushing them away from the roll as you go. Keep the pieces well floured so they don’t stick together.

When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add about 4 tablespoons of salt. Lower the gnocchi into the water with a slotted spoon, small colander, or my favorite, an Asian spider skimmer, (to avoid splashes of boiling water) and cook until they float to the surface, about 1 minute.

Over a medium flame, heat the butter in a pan until it sizzles and then add the sage leaves. Sautee for 3 minutes on medium and then add the chanterelles. Continue cooking until the chanterelles are soft.

When the gnocchi float to the top, lift them from the water using a slotted spoon or small colander, shaking the excess water off, and place them in the pan with butter, sage, and mushrooms. Toss them to coat. Season with salt and pepper, a drizzle with black truffle oil, and serve with parmesan shavings on top.

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