Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gnocchi with Veal and Mushroom Ragu

There is something cosmic about a freshly cleaned kitchen that spawns a multi step, complicated cooking session.  I don't make it a conscious decision, but that is how it always happens.  The only reason I've made this connection is that as I begin to prep our meal, I realize and lament over how clean the kitchen was and how messy it is about to become.  Grease splatters will penetrate and never be properly cleaned unless I dismantle my cooktop.  Multiple pans, cutting boards, appliances and utensils will be dirtied.  But for the awesome power of my hood vent, my house would be filled with the smell of food that has long since passed our bellies.  And here, let me digress for a moment.  If you cook a lot, go big on the hood vent.  Do not be talked down to what someone thinks might be good enough.  I got the biggest, most powerful one I could.  Our contractor joked that the air pull would be so great, Chris would not be able to open the door to enter the house when he came home.  It may be my most thankful item in the kitchen.  Now on with the meal at hand.
Veal Ragu
2 lb Veal Shoulder Steak
1 Small Sweet onion, finely diced
1 Celery rib, finely diced
1 Carrot, finely diced
1 Bouquet Garni, containing a few thyme and parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig and 1 bay leaf
3 Small tomatoes, diced
6 oz White Wine
1 1/2 Cups chicken stock
1 Cup Crimini mushrooms, diced


Cut the veal steak into manageable sizes.  I cut mine into 3 pieces.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a large cast iron pot, melt 3 tbsp butter over medium heat and brown all sides of the veal.  Do this in batches if needed.  Remove from pot, set aside.  Add to the pot the onions, celery, carrot and saute until softened.  Deglaze pan with white wine and bring to a simmer.  Add in chicken stock, bouquet garni and tomatoes.  Return to a simmer, then add the veal back in.  Cover and simmer over low heat until veal is pull apart tender, but not turned to mush, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.


When cool enough to handle, remove veal from pot and pull apart into small pieces.  Discard bones and any gristle.  While you're shredding the veal, turn heat up to medium high and let sauce boil and reduce for about 10 minutes.  Return veal to pan, and add the mushrooms.  Turn heat back down to low and simmer for another 15-20 minutes.  


Potato Gnocchi
2 lbs Boiling potatoes (I used red skinned potatoes from my garden)
2 Cups, approximately, unbleached flour
1/2 Cup grated parmesan and pecorino romano (half of each)


You can skin the potatoes or leave the skin on and remove the skin after you've boiled them.  I skinned mine.  Boil potatoes until soft.  Mine were the size of my kids' fist, about 3 inches across and I boiled them for about 23 minutes.  Let cool, and mash them using a food mill or potato ricer.  Add in about 1 3/4 cups of flour and the grated cheese.  Knead the mixture until it is smooth, adding more flour as needed.  It should be sticky, but smooth. 


I decided to experiment and add the grated cheese.  Divide the dough into several workable pieces.  Work each piece and roll out like a sausage until it is about 1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter.  Cut the dough into 3/4" pieces.  Using the inner curve of a fork, and your index finger, press and flip each piece to form the shape of gnocchi.  This is a process difficult to describe and one which takes practice to get it right.


The above combination made enough for the four of us for dinner tonight and enough to freeze for another meal.


Cook the gnocchi in a large wide pot of boiling water.  A wider pot is helpful as part of the cooking method is waiting for the gnocchi to float to the top.  Boil the gnocchi until they float and then let them continue boiling for just a few seconds longer.  You can do a test run with a few.  If the gnocchi is too dry, boil a few seconds less, if still falling apart, boil a few seconds more.  


Ladle some ragu on top of the gnocchi and garnish with a couple of sage leaves fried in butter.  Drizzle the butter over top of the gnocchi.  The gnocchi was pillowy.  Next time I will add more cheese.  That worked out great!  Ragu was rich but not heavy.  Delish!

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