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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ever Thrown a Party and...

felt like the only one who didn't have a good time?

Gah.

Before I get into it, I guess I've got some apologizing to do.. mainly to myself for being such a slacker. :P The three of yous that still read my blog, did you know that the brand new The Daring Kitchen website has been up and running since March 7th? Yeah.. it has been. And quite swimmingly too! Did you also know that we've got a whole new exciting theme with brand spankin new logos/badges created especially for the Daring Bakers and Cooks?? DID YOU KNOW we have a brand spankin' new addition to the Daring family called The Daring Cooks????

Jebus. I'm like the world's worst mom. I haven't even bragged about what a fabulous new website we have.. I haven't introduced ya'll to my youngest, lil Daring Cooks (she's the lil one at the end.. with the curls, cute eh?) and I haven't been passing out the wallet-sizes for ya'll to carry with you to show off to your own friends and family. Hell, I've even failed to mention that ya'll can own your own merchandise featuring these gorgeous logos and be the ENVY of all that know you!! I'm so ashamed.

This is all true! And today, today is lil Daring Cooks' inaugural introduction to the world! Today, after months and months of awaiting her arrival, she comes to us all fluffy and cheesy.. lightly fried or slightly boiled.. dressed in the most finest of fashion.. look at her positively glow in that clarified butter and glitter with peeps of chopped fresh sage. Why she's absolutely a vision. Isn't she?

I really couldn't be a more proud mom. Honest! :)

Mark this day on your calendars, kids! For every 14th of each month, lil Daring Cooks' will be showin' off her gorgeousness! That's just 2 weeks after her big sis, Daring Bakers' strides down her own red carpet on the 27th of each month!

So what's all of this about not having a good time at your own party? Well.. here's the deal. For our lil Daring Cooks' inaugural bash, Ivonne thought it would be a good thing if she and I hosted. She's the hostess between the two of us, you know? I'm more of the "fill up your drink?" and "let me take your coat" kinda gal, while Ivonne knows exactly what to do to make even a drab venue sparkle and shine with excitement. So I agreed to the hosting thing, but yanno... wasn't exactly all jazz-hands about it.

And the she told me I could pick the recipe!

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I never get to pick the recipe! I mean, it's always an option for me, Ivonne never says "we're making this and that's that" but I just am more comfortable setting the table and making sure we've got enough toilet paper, than I am with you know.. choosing the color scheme. yanno? But since I've wanted the Daring Cooks to join with the Daring Bakers for many, many months - ya'll know me by now.. I'm a cook. Not so much a baker. :P Well being able to pick the recipe was just the nicest gift ever. :D

So I headed over to my sagging bookshelves and immediately grabbed The Zuni Café by Judy Rodgers. This book was given to me by my sweet and very talented "sister", Veronica. She said she just knew that I'd like it because we share the same brain. hahaaa! She was right. I LOVE IT! But! I'm kinda scared of it. Go figger. I've wanted to make so many recipes from this book but I'm always afraid I'd mess it up. So I just knew the recipe for the first Daring Cooks' challenge had to be something from The Zuni Café because of all the help and support our members are capable of, surely I'd be able to get through my first Zuni recipe in victory! :)

I chose Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi from pages 221-226. The way Judy describes them, so fluffy and light and bursting with flavor.. and my being a big gnocchi fan, well it was the perfect match!

I asked Ivonne what she thought about the book and she said she owned it as well and loved it very much and as soon as I said "Zuni Ricotta" she chimed in with "GNOCCHI!!" So yes, I believe this was the recipe she wanted to go with as well. hahahaa!

I don't know if a trip to a local Italian chain restaurant clouded my judgement before I had even made my ricotta gnocchi or not. I want to say no, but it really might have.. to my surprise that evening, this restaurant had spinach ricotta gnocchi on the menu. Well you know damn well I had to order it. My first bite was far from spectacular.. my second bite was leaning towards being offensive.. the third bite (and quick spit into my napkin) turned the corner and went full balls to the wall disgust. I couldn't believe these were gnocchi! The texture of sponge. The flavor of well.. mustiness. Does mustiness have a flavor?? It was just a fowl, malodorous taste. One, obviously, descibed better in a smell than a flavor.. if that makes sense? Ugh.

So to say I was a bit apprehensive the day I was going to make my own ricotta gnocchi isn't an exaggeration.

But, surprisingly, everything went really well. I had hung my fresh ricotta cheese in cheesecloth well over 24 hours prior to cooking, so it was nice and dry. My "dough" was as soft as a baby's bottom, yet had some firmness where I could actually handle the lil gnocchi pretty easily. I even made sure to have time to set them in the fridge, as Judy recommended, to gain a little more firmness before boiling my test batch. I had decided beforehand that I wasn't going to get fancy-pants with what I was going to serve them with / in. I wanted them to be the star of that evening's dinner, so they were only getting a small spoonful of my marinara with some grated Locatelli on top. And that was it.

My two lil gnocchi went into the salted boiling water and dove all the way to the bottom.. and then they headed back up to the surface and practically sunned themselves on the gentle waves of the boiling water (ha! didn't know I was poetic, did you?). I had a tiny lil bowl with just a schmear of marinara in it, waiting on the side.. 1 minute.. 2 minutes.. 3 minutes.. DONE! I scooped them out gently and allowed the excess water to drip off, then gently slid them in the tomato sauce.. OHMYGOD they smelled SO GOOD. I was SO FAKKING HAPPY that word "malodorous" didn't even pop to mind!

And then I used my fork to cut one in half.. a lil resistance was met, but that's okay - I'm a lover of the more hearty "toothsome" (God I hate that word) traditional potato dough gnocchi with a lil chew to them. My hopes were high! I took my first bite..

and..

well..

Oh for fucksake. They were horrible. Spongy texture all over again. You see, I don't correlate "light and fluffy" with "spongy and fowl" you know? But apparently, I'm one of the very few that didn't love these gnocchi. From what I've read in our private DC forums, most everyone has enjoyed their gnocchi.. some so much that they've made several batches AND turned them into dessert as well! God bless 'em! :)


This is the only photo taken that day.. after they were formed, before I knew they were spongy and ka-ka. :(

I would love to say I'm going to try these again and this time add a lil flour to the dough.. but nope, oh hells no, I am not going near this recipe again. I am defeated. Okay that's not the right word. The recipe worked fine for me.. they actually did turn out perfect. I just don't like a "light and fluffy" gnocchi. Who knew?

I am happy though that I finally got to make a recipe from The Zuni Cafe cookbook because now I'm rarin' for more. Especially that roasted chicken salad I keep hearing about. *slurp*

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you thought of it.. :)

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi
Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook
Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)
Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take 1 hour.

Equipment required:
• Sieve
• Cheesecloth or paper towels
• Large mixing bowl
• Rubber spatula
• Tablespoon
• Baking dish or baking sheet
• Wax or parchment paper
• Small pot
• Large skillet
• Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

For the gnocchi:
1 pound fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:
8 tablespoons butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneat to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy better with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the ban gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If you’re gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If you’re gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

*If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.


Here is a photo of the ingredients I used to make Chicken Cacciatore the following weekend.. see the plate? That's the batch of DELICIOUS potato dough gnocchi I made to go with the chicken. *slurp* :P

xoxo

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Comments on "Ever Thrown a Party and..."

 

Blogger Snooky doodle said ... (5/14/2009 2:15 AM) : 

oh i d like to try making gnocchi i really love them.

 

Blogger Esther said ... (5/14/2009 5:23 AM) : 

Hugs, sorry you didn't like them. I did so thanks for picking it.

 

Anonymous Wolf said ... (5/14/2009 7:14 AM) : 

Note to self- Do Daring Cooks Challenge post when I get back from the DMV with a new title for the Demon Truck.}:P

 

Blogger Andrea said ... (5/14/2009 8:13 AM) : 

They weren't a favorite for us either. My Italian/Polish husband ate a few and said we could have the rest. LOL

Thanks for hosting our first DC challenge! *hugs*

 

Blogger Mary said ... (5/14/2009 9:07 AM) : 

I was stressing hard about when I was going to make them and my sister called to tell me not to bother. But I will definitely be participating next month and I'm doing the DB challenge on Sunday. Wooot! I'm getting my ass in gear again!

 

Anonymous veron said ... (5/14/2009 10:16 AM) : 

Sorry, you did not like them! :(. I like the toothsome potato gnocchi too...so since we share the same brain, I prolly won't like it too. You gotta try the zuni roast chicken...you will never go back to anything else...slurp!

 

Blogger Margie said ... (5/14/2009 10:17 AM) : 

Very funny post! "Malodorous" was definitely not a good sign for the ricotta gnocchi. I agree totally about the toothsome quality of potato gnocchi. Count me in for the Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad.

 

Blogger Rose said ... (5/14/2009 10:44 AM) : 

oh dear!!!! The important thing is that you tried :) I was pretty sure mine were going to end in tears, a mess and probably a bottle of wine missing... Thank you for being "daring" enough to pick these! It's all about the challenge =)

 

Blogger Sara said ... (5/14/2009 10:45 AM) : 

I am not a gnocchi fan either.

 

Blogger Deeba @Passionate About Baking said ... (5/14/2009 11:17 AM) : 

My little pillows of delight gave me a sheer fright...coz they floated AWAY into oblivion! I still enjoyed it a lot, so thanks for the first DC challenge. My hub loved the flavours & I learnt how to make ricotta! Bonus was a vodka sauce with Vitamin V!!! Note to self (sorry took Wolf's line) have to check whetehr I signed up for Dcs or not!! Waiting for Dc challenge nbr 2!! Thank you Lis

 

Blogger Audax said ... (5/14/2009 12:07 PM) : 

Well you always have such interesting and entertaining postings - the cafe's gnocchi was rubbish and the one's you did you hated but still you made this the challenge I'm so impressed with your attitude and intellectual honesty you are amazing!!!! I thought these were wonderful clouds of yummmmmmminess that just melted in my mouth releasing flavour blasts into my tummy. I don't like potato gnocchi too heavy. Thank you for forming DCooks' and thank you for hosting the first challenge. Bravo bravo bravo.

 

OpenID shellyfish said ... (5/14/2009 12:51 PM) : 

As usual you've got me in stitches...but I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you - you can totally see the difference, right? I'm sorry they were poopy - ours kicked butt-o-roo. I'm sure it'll be better for you in June!

 

Anonymous emily said ... (5/14/2009 1:14 PM) : 

I'm one of the sous chefs at Zuni Cafe and have made these gnocchi about a million times...they are super fragile to handle. But I notice that some customers have different expectations when ordering them. Most people have a very specific experience of "gnocchi" as being a fairly dense potato gnocchi, and these ricotta gnocchi will never be that way. But you kind of have to change your expectations when making them, as they are a totally different beast than their cousin, the potato gnocchi. I went through the same thing, to be sure! Expectations can really complicate food items, because it always has to do with what you "call" it, and what people expect from that specific name. And if you don't like 'em, well then that's okay because all people don't love all things!...but in case you do make them again, I happen to love them served with fines herbs tossed into the beurre blanc! P.S...next time you're in, stop into the kitchen and say hi!- I work most nights.

 

Blogger Coco Bean said ... (5/14/2009 1:21 PM) : 

Oh you are too funny! Well atleast you got to try out the book, along with all of us! Thanks for picking it!

 

Blogger Jenny said ... (5/14/2009 2:07 PM) : 

Well speaking as one of your three readers (hehe) I'm glad you posted today cause I nearly forgot and am going to go do it now!

And don't feel bad, we didn't either.

 

Blogger Basht said ... (5/14/2009 2:21 PM) : 

that's why we try these things, not everything we make (and want to make) can be spectacular. I think it's great that you still pressed on and got it done. Next month is sure to be better

 

Blogger Jennywenny said ... (5/14/2009 3:20 PM) : 

Thanks so much for hosting. I forgive you that the gnocchi werent my favourite because its got me thinking I must try the regular potato ones ;)

 

Anonymous Cheri said ... (5/14/2009 4:31 PM) : 

I was a little wary of the texture when they first came out of the water but somehow they seemed to firm up a bit for me after they sat for a bit in the sauce. Thanks for choosing the recipe anyways! At least now you can say you hate them because you tried them. :)

 

Blogger BC said ... (5/14/2009 4:48 PM) : 

Argh, I forgot the date and didn't even take pictures of my albino gnocchi plops! My family did like them - but they generally detest the gluey dense potato gnocchi.

 

Blogger Heather B said ... (5/14/2009 5:47 PM) : 

Sorry you didn't like them! I wasn't a huge fan but I thought the ricotta mixture would be awesome in a lasagna. Thanks for the new group and first pick!

 

Blogger Elle said ... (5/14/2009 5:51 PM) : 

There were light and fluffy...didn't know that it was a bad thing, just different from potato gnocchi. Your writing is as hilarious as usual and SO glad you are beating the drum for our favorite website..the Daring Kitchen! Your potato gnocchi at the end look fab...bet they were even better than the Zuni ones. Thanks for choosing the recipe, otherwise I might never have tried gnocchi from scratch.

 

Blogger Kristine said ... (5/14/2009 6:04 PM) : 

Yeah, that's how I felt about flourless chocolate cake. I didn't get it back in the 1980s, and I don't get it now. But I loved the gnocchis. I'm wondering if you mind if I ask what kind of cheese you used? When you think about it, ricotta gnocchis are boiled cheese. How good is it going to taste if it wasn't made really recently? Even most "fresh" ricotta at the supermarket is pretty aged by the time you buy it. I don't blame you if you if you never try it again, but I think this might be a cheese quality issue. Thanks for the wonderful challenge! Kristine

 

Blogger Esi said ... (5/14/2009 6:31 PM) : 

You are hilarious. Yep, I didn't like them much either. Oh well, next time! :)

 

Blogger Connie Weiss said ... (5/14/2009 6:54 PM) : 

My husband didn't like them at all and I thought they were pretty good...but I have nothing to compare them to.

I would like to try them again making my own Ricotta.

 

Blogger A_and_N said ... (5/14/2009 7:29 PM) : 

I loved ours :) I am going to make it again and again!

 

Blogger Lauren said ... (5/14/2009 8:36 PM) : 

I'm sorry that they didn't work out for you, but thanks so much for the recipe, and for hosting =D.

 

OpenID lisamichele said ... (5/14/2009 9:43 PM) : 

As usual, your post made me smile and believe it or not, laugh a little, and I have not been able to laugh in almost 2 weeks. A friend popped over and tasted some of my leftover gnocchi..she described it as gnocchi paste, but then again, mine were undercooked.

*HUGS XXX*

 

Blogger Lori said ... (5/14/2009 10:18 PM) : 

I didnt really like them either. I guess I am so use to the potato variety. Or maybe I just suck at making ricotta gnocchi but I wasnt overly impressed. Now sit my butt in the Zuni Cafe and order me a batch and I probably would love them.

 

Anonymous brosia said ... (5/15/2009 12:17 AM) : 

I'm so with you on this one.....good in theory...not so good on the tongue. :)

 

Anonymous Susan/Wild Yeast said ... (5/15/2009 12:21 AM) : 

As always, I laughed out loud when reading. I did like the gnocchi, so thanks for picking it event though you hated it! And thanks to both you and Ivonne for all you do to keep us Daring!

 

Anonymous abby said ... (5/15/2009 1:13 AM) : 

i'm sorry you didn't like them. i found them a bit rich and claggy (technical term!) - they really reminded me of a cheese souffle which is fine but not that thrilling.

 

Blogger alana said ... (5/15/2009 2:18 PM) : 

Oddly enough, a bad recipe makes a better post, right? I appreciate you picking this recipe, even though I lost mind mind making it. And thanks for the new group- it's fabulous!

 

Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said ... (5/15/2009 8:18 PM) : 

Well, shoot 'em! We can't all like everything.

And I made ricotta but didn't get into the gnocchi.

 

Blogger MaryMary said ... (5/18/2009 1:04 AM) : 

You make me laugh! They look fabulous nonetheless. Thanks for hosting a fabulous first DC challenge!

 

Blogger Holly said ... (5/18/2009 7:06 AM) : 

Ricotta gnocchi have been on my "must make" list for a while and now I'm scared! I made sweet potato gnocchi a while back and they were TERRIBLE! So I thought I might prefer the ricotta variety ... but now I wonder if that's true. = ( I guess I'll have to make them and see!

 

Blogger Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said ... (5/18/2009 8:41 PM) : 

LOL! Your post made me laugh!

I LOVED the gnocchi but I've had experience making ricotta gnocchi for years as my husband loves them.
He was so happy to eat them again and we had them a few days as I made a double batch. I added sweet potatoes to mine --maube it gave them more "tooth"?

 

Blogger pixie said ... (5/19/2009 2:39 AM) : 

i love potato gnocchi myself but I am wiling to give these ricotta ones another go. I added flour to mine because my ricotta was too wet and perhaps that altered the eggy/soggy taste. I'll give it another go and then I'll decide. Good challenge though! Thank you!

 

Anonymous ccna said ... (5/21/2009 1:25 AM) : 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 

Anonymous kellypea said ... (5/27/2009 7:38 PM) : 

What kind of a loser-buddy friend am I that I've not been here since the cows came and left? How do you spell "slacker?" That would be me. But I do have to say after recovering from reading your post which brings back some of the best blogging memories I have, I did make the gnocchi and liked it. Yes I did. Okay, so I didn't post it, though. Yes, I've been a slacker there, too. Ah, life, huh? Love you dear. Love you much.

 

Anonymous kellypea said ... (5/27/2009 7:39 PM) : 

What kind of a loser-buddy friend am I that I've not been here since the cows came and left? How do you spell "slacker?" That would be me. But I do have to say after recovering from reading your post which brings back some of the best blogging memories I have, I did make the gnocchi and liked it. Yes I did. Okay, so I didn't post it, though. Yes, I've been a slacker there, too. Ah, life, huh? Love you dear. Love you much.

 

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