How to make Gnocchi

November 17, 2009 10:30:32 AM PST
If you like Italian food, you've probably tried gnocchi, a pasta-like potato dumpling found on many restaurant menus. In Italy, dumplings are collectively known as gnocchi, which means "lumps" or "knots", and are made in several different styles. The most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (cooked, peeled and mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough, which are pressed with a fork to form ridges. The dough balls are then cooked in a pot of boiling water and served as a main dish. It has been a traditional Italian dish since Roman times over 2,000 years ago.

While you might try your hand at making some Italian dishes, you may find the idea of making gnocchi a bit intimidating. Most chefs know that making perfect gnocchi isn't easy, but well worth the hard work. That's why Executive Maurice Bonhomme is hosting a Gnocchi Making class at Pane Caldo www.pane-caldo.com on Saturday, September 12. It's part of the restaurant's month-long tribute to the popular pasta that culminates in the First Annual Gnocchi Battle on September 26; the grand prize is a trip to Italy.

Pane Caldo wants to find the Chicagoan who can make the perfect gnocchi -- whether it's a newly created dish or great-grandmother's tried-and-true recipe. Gnocchi Battle contestants must submit an original recipe along with a short story about the dish explaining why it is special. Entries must be submitted by Monday, September 14. Chef Maurice will narrow the submissions down to ten recipes, then prepare the dishes himself to choose the four finalists. They will be asked to bring their prepared gnocchi dishes to Pane Caldo where they will personally prepare and present their Gnocchi dish to a panel of judges. A combination of chefs, reporters, local vendors, and high profile Chicago foodies will determine whose dish reigns supreme and crown "Chicago's Gnocchi Champion."

The winner of this battle will boast no small prize. The winning dish will be featured on Pane Caldo's menu, with $5 of every order going to the charity of their choice. The Gnocchi Champion will also win a trip for two to the heartland of it all: Italy (including airfare, hotel stay and a tour of an Italian vineyard courtesy of Beivuma Distributing and Ghiomo Winery). Dinner for four at Pane Caldo will be awarded to the first place runner up, and dinner for two will be awarded to both the second and third place participants.

Beyond the Gnocchi Battle, Pane Caldo will provide plenty of inspiration for aspiring gnocchi champions and potato lovers. Known for its outstanding handmade gnocchi Pane Caldo will offer a different gnocchi menu each week, highlighting all types of flavorful and creative ways to prepare and enjoy the Italian specialty.

The weekly gnocchi menus will include dishes such as:

  • Spinach and Gnocchi Frittata
  • Molten Cheese Gnocchi
  • Hazelnut Gnocchi with Sage Glaze
  • Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto
  • Gnocchi di Latte
  • Pane Caldo will give diners the opportunity to see how it is done. Chef Maurice will hold a gnocchi-cooking class for 20 people at The Walton Residences, 70 E. Walton, directly above Pane Caldo. The class starts at 10:30 am on Saturday, September 12; cost is $30 a person. The chef will demonstrate how to make the blissful pasta-like pillows from scratch. Participants will also enjoy a special lunch consisting of gnocchi with a variety of sauces, salad, and wine. To top it all off, each class member will receive a $25 gift certificate to Pane Caldo.

    For more reservations and information about the Gnocchi Battle, call 312-649-0055, or visit www.pane-caldo.com.

    To submit Gnocchi Battle recipes and stories, sign up in person at the restaurant, send an email to gnocchibattle@pane-caldo.com or mail entries to Pane Caldo, 72 E. Walton, Chicago, IL 60611. The deadline for entries is Monday, September 14.

    If you want to try your hand at making gnocchi at home, Chef Maurice shares one of his favorite recipes.

    White Truffle Gnocchi

    Ingredients:

  • 1lb russet potatoes
  • 3 to 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4tsp. of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of kosher salt
  • Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

    1. Spread a layer of Kosher salt on a baking sheet, arrange the potatoes on top

    2. Bake for 45 minutes ( let it sit until cool)

    3. Cut potato in half and scoop out the flesh of the potato

    4. Grate the potato on the side of the larger wholes of the grater

    5. Begin to make a mound of potatoes. Make a bowl like shape in the center and add egg, cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix the potatoes

    6.Sprinkle a half cup of flour over the potato (press into the potato using your knuckles, fold the dough and sprinkle a little more flour and continue the same step of pressing)

    7. Cut the dough into 4 pieces, roll each piece into a rope like shape. Cut the shapes into 1/2 inch long pieces

    8. Lightly flour the Gnocchi as you cut them. Take each piece and squish lightly with your thumb against the cooking board ( the indentation holds the sauce and helps the Gnocchi cook faster)

    9. In a pot of boiling water, boil the gnocchi approximately 2 minutes until it rises to the top of the water.

    White Truffle Sauce:

    Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of shallots
  • 2 cubes of butter
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 3 pieces of truffle
  • 1 quart of whipping cream
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. of truffle oil
  • Directions:

    1. Place the cubes of butter and chopped shallots into a sauce pan. Set fire at medium

    2. After 2 minutes of cooking, add white wine and let the wine settle

    3. Add chopped truffle into pan along with the whipping cream, salt, and pepper. Let simmer for 15 minutes

    4. Place sauce into blender and add truffle oil. Blend it down for 2 minutes and its ready to serve

    About Executive Chef Maurice Bonhomme
    With a multi-cultural background and a history of working with some of the world's most celebrated chefs, executive chef Maurice Bonhomme brings his love of creating "beautiful" cuisine from fresh, organic ingredients to Pane Caldo. Born in Petit Goave, Haiti, Bonhomme grew up surrounded by exotic Caribbean cuisine, and then traveled to Montreal, Canada to pursue a culinary career. After working his way up to the elite kitchen of Chez Louis, Bonhomme moved to Chicago in 1973 and worked for several great kitchens including Ciel Bleu. He joined Pane Caldo in 1991 as executive chef.

    At Pane Caldo, Bonhomme enjoys the freedom of creating unique dishes, which he describes as "enhancing" a natural food by cooking with the freshest local market finds and experimenting with new ingredients and sauces in order to conceptualize a brand new menu every day.

    Bonhomme has two grown children and lives in the Chicago area with his wife. He is involved with the Green Tie Ball as well as charities for cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy. In his spare time, he enjoys football, photography, travel and gardening


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