Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

22: French Gnocchi with Watercress Sauce — Girl in the Kitchen

22: French Gnocchi with Watercress Sauce — Girl in the Kitchen

I thought, for a very long time, that I was cursed when it came to gnocchi.

The first time I tried making it, it was a disaster (in fairness, because I didn’t follow the instructions). The second time, the gnocchi turned out alright… but my refrigerator died that day, taking with it all of the leftover uncooked frozen gnocchi, which defrosted into sludge. A few years ago, upon mentioning to a friend’s daughter that I thought I was gnocchi-cursed, she helpfully drew up a countercurse for me. But I hadn’t given them another try until this week.

I’m a sucker for dumplings. All kinds. If it’s related to the dumpling family in any way, I’m all in. And though gnocchi often align themselves with pasta, we know those tender li’l morsels are dumplings, especially Parisian gnocchi.

The Assignment: French Gnocchi with Watercress Sauce from Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats, and Drinks by Stephanie Izard

A few episodes into season 4 of Top Chef, Stephanie Izard cemented herself easily as my personal favorite. She went on to win the season, becoming the first woman to win the title. One of her Quickfire Challenge wins was a spectacular but simple dish of mussels, citrus, cilantro, and beer; I found the recipe online and made it and GODDAMN, it was gorgeous. (You should definitely make it if you have a good resource for mussels.)

Izard now runs her restaurant, Girl & The Goat, in Chicago (which is apparently getting an L.A. outpost and I! AM! PUMPED!) as well as several offshoots. She just opened a brand-new Peruvian joint in Chicago too — the woman is hella prolific, you get this.

So yeah, I had to get her book. But I was too intimidated to cook anything from it, so on the shelf it stayed.

Back to those Parisian gnocchi…

The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should check out if you want to tap into your inner Top Chef):

Things to Note About the Recipe:

  • French gnocchi is different from Italian gnocchi in that it has nothing to do with potatoes. Instead, it’s made from boiled pieces of pâte à choux. Baked pâte à choux is the base for a ton of French pastries like profiteroles and eclairs, but here, we boil it! (Pronunciation note: That’s pâte, pronounced “paht” not “pa-tay”. Paté is “pa-tay.” Pâte is French for paste. Pâte à choux is pronounced “paht a shoo.” Choux means cabbage, which has nothing to do with this recipe. And this is where I stop myself from spinning out into a mini French lesson.)
  • I absolutely made my 1-inch dots too big. Got carried away piping. Oops. There’s no picture of the finished recipe in the book!
  • I basically never measure my freshly cracked black pepper and I refuse to feel bad about that.
  • I looked at this recipe and was like, “WOW, that’s a lot of eggs.” And then I looked at the ratio of egg to other ingredients. And I looked at other recipes. And I was like, “Yeah, that seems like a LOT of eggs. I wonder if this is going to turn out to have been too many eggs.” I think it was too many eggs.

(guitar riff starts)
(bass joins in)

You need coolin’, baby, I’m not foolin’
I’m going make you, pâte a choux’in
Way down inside, the gnocchi, you need it
I’m going to give you my oeuf
I’m going to give you my oeuf
Ohhhhhhhhh
Want a whole lotta oeufs
Want a whole lotta oeufs

  • I refuse to feel bad about about any of that either.
  • This almost feels like sacrilege to say, but… I also feel like it also might be too much butter? It’s a LOT of butter, y’all. There’s butter in the dough, and then the gnocchi get tossed in oil to keep them from sticking, and then they get sauteed in butter, and then they get dressed in a very buttery watercress sauce and… Yeah. I think it was too much butter. Additionally…
  • This sauce desperately needs some acid. It’s crying out for a hit of acid louder than a broke hippie at Woodstock. I strongly feel that either a squeeze of lemon to finish or a splash of white wine vinegar blended in would make a huge difference.
  • Good god, this dish is so rich. Way richer and heavier than you would ever expect. Look at it! It’s a few bites in a sauce. It’s not a creamy sauce! The sauce is bright green, for god’s sake — the pigmentary harbinger of health!
  • Since I had 4 servings worth of choux nuggets frozen up and I’d never made pâte à choux before, I decided to throw a few into the oven and see how they baked up. The result? What I already knew — my oven sucks. Even compensating for the fact that I know my oven runs cool, it still screwed me. They looked baked and finished! But do you know how you know they’re not cooked through? About 30 seconds after you pull them out of the oven, your cute little puffs totally deflate. DAMMIT. I found some tips to combat this next time, but next time is not now. (I still ate them, though.)

********

THE VERDICT

How did they taste?

They tasted OK. The sauce is so easily fixable. The gnocchi… The flavor is good, but I feel like the texture is just heavier than what I’m looking for. I found Kenji’s recipe for Parisian Gnocchi, and I think I’m gonna give that a try, since it texturally looks more appealing. It’s just a whole lotta oeufs, y’all.

Would I make them again?

… probably not. They can’t all be winners.

Do I recommend this book?

I don’t NOT recommend this book. There’s a lot of good looking stuff in here. I’d initially planned to make the Seared Scallops with Goat Cheese-Yukon Puree, Asparagus & Sorrel Vinaigrette, but… that’s a lot. I still want to make it, and I still will. Just because I’m not 100% into this recipe the way I made it doesn’t mean the book isn’t good (or that I didn’t screw it up somehow).

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?

Not that complicated recipe I just mentioned. Probably one of her salads. Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Rhubarb Salad — that sounds amazing and spring-y as hell. I’d make that right now if I thought it would clear some of the cholesterol out of my bloodstream.

********

Is the gnocchi curse broken? Perhaps.

The biggest takeaway from this week’s project: Now I want to learn to really nail making pâte à choux. (I also officially need to get an oven thermometer so I can get my damn bake temps right.)

C’est un plus fichu recette…



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