Friday, September 19, 2014

A new found respect for the lowly potato

It's been a pretty long time since I've posted anything in this blog, mostly because like most people, I have a tendency to make the same meals over and over again and that's dull reading.
Another reason was because blogging can be a very lonely prospect when you don't get feedback, it feels like you are talking to yourself.

So I just sort of abandoned the blog and have spent my time subjecting my Facebook friends to half a million photographs of birds and bugs.

Out of the blue a couple of months ago I received a very nice comment from a woman named Maria Blanco who said she had stumbled on the blog and kindly said she would look forward to future posts.

So, Maria, this one's for you.

Potatoes are not my favorite starch. I like them baked, I like them mashed and one of these posts includes Julia Child's recipe for Gratin Dauphinois.
My whole opinion was turned on its ear when I decided to try potato gnocchi. I don't even know how to describe them.. they are light, pillowy potato nuggets that melt right in your mouth.
Little bites of heaven.
When you combine them with this rich ragu, they are positively sinful.
Potato Gnocchi baked in Ragu Bolognese
Ragu Bolognese
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces smoked pork chops, minced.
1 cup of diced carrot, minced
1 cup of celery, minced
1 cup of diced onion, minced
1 1/4 pounds freshly ground  chuck
1/2 cup of dry vermouth
1 six-ounce can tomato paste, diluted in 10 oz can
 Campbell's Beef Broth - the double strength one
2 cups of half and half
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Saute the pork chops in a heavy 3 or 4 quart saucepan over medium
heat for 8 minutes. Stir in the diced vegetables and saute on medium low until the onions are translucent.
Raise the heat to medium and stir in the beef and cook until the meat is
medium brown and almost, but not quite crisp. (don't let it get hard)
Stir in the wine and diluted tomato paste and reduce the heat to low. It is
critical the the mixture reduce as slowly as possible. Cook partially
covered for 2 hours adding a tablespoon or two of cream at intervals
throughout the two hours. At the end of the two hours the cream should be
used up and the ragu only slightly liquid.
I have tried a number of ragu recipes and like this one the best. Note: this
is not heavy on tomato and has a wonderful flavor

 4 small russet potatoes (22 to 24 ounces total), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
2 tablespoons whipping cream
 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 1 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour

Steam potatoes over boiling water until tender, about 12 minutes. Working in batches, press warm potatoes through ricer into large bowl (or place warm potatoes in large bowl and mash finely with potato masher). Cool until lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Add egg, cream, salt, and nutmeg and blend well. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix until soft and slightly sticky dough forms, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if too moist.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Divide into 6 equal portions. Gently roll 1 dough portion between hands and work surface to 3/4-inch-thick rope about 20 inches long. Cut into 3/4-inch-long pieces.
Roll each piece over wires of slender whisk or dinner fork to make grooves in gnocchi. Arrange gnocchi in single layer on floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 5 dough portions.
Cook 1/3 of gnocchi in large pot of boiling generously salted water until gnocchi rise to top and are cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes (check at 4 minutes). Using large strainer or slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to large baking pan; arrange gnocchi in single layer. Cook remaining gnocchi in 2 batches. (Gnocchi can be prepared ahead. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.)
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook until heated through, tossing often, about 8 minutes.

Put the gnocchi in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spread half the ragu from the recipe over the gnocchi and sprinkle generously with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cool for five or 10 minutes before serving.

A second meal can be made with the other half of the ragu served over fresh tagliatelle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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