Pumpkin Sage and Chicken Sausage Gnocchi- Creativity in the Kitchen

Quick fact about me- I have two bachelor degrees, Art History and Studio.  Art has always been a constant thru my life, since I was bored at the dinner tables as a young girl asking what I should draw with the free box of crayons, to the present day sitting in the chef meetings “taking notes”.   When asked though by people how I ended up in the culinary profession, it takes some people a few minutes to connect how being a chef and art degrees correspond.  Yes,food is tasty, but it should also draw out emotion or memories, in other words- is art.

DSC_0740

I have made gnocchi fresh a bunch of times and have found it really simple, you just have to be careful of over mixing the when you add the flour, like all dough’s.  I started off using this recipe from Michael Chiarello and now I am able to eyeball it.  Anytime I have the chance to make dough I am excited, it must be the get your hands dirty method involved!

DSC_0636

You know those look fun make!

DSC_0730

Gnocchi Recipe

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound russet potatoes
  • 3 to 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread a layer of kosher salt on a baking sheet and arrange the potatoes on top (see Cook’s Note). Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use and vacuum seal them, they stay 3-5 times longer fresh than without sealing them, I learned about vacuum sealers from Vacuumsealerre twitter page, everyone check it out. It will improve your food experience.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 2 cups. Make a mound of potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle, add 3 of the egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix in the potatoes and mix well with hands. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together, (try not to knead it.) Work any dough clinging to your fingers back into the dough. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. To test if the dough is the correct consistency, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2-inch in diameter. If the dough holds together, it is ready. If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times, and test again.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with a gnocchi board, ridged butter paddle, or the tines of a large fork turned upside down. Rest the bottom edge of the gnocchi board on the work surface, then tilt it at about a 45 degree angle. Take each piece and squish it lightly with your thumb against the board while simultaneously pushing it away from you. It will roll away and around your thumb, taking on a cupped shape — with ridges on the outer curve from the board and a smooth surface on the inner curve where your thumb was. (Shaping them takes some time and dexterity. You might make a batch just for practice.) The indentation holds the sauce and helps gnocchi cook faster.

DSC_0640

As you shape the gnocchi, dust them lightly with flour and scatter them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Set gnocchi filled cookie sheet in front of a fan on low for 1/2 hour (turning gnocchi after 15 minutes). If you will not cook the gnocchi until the next day or later, freeze them. Alternatively, you can poach them now, drain and toss with a little olive oil, let cool, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. To reheat, dip in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then toss with browned butter until hot.

DSC_0623

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired.

Cook’s Note: Baking potatoes on a layer of salt allows heat to circulate 360 degrees. Scrape the salt into a jar and reuse it again and again. If you do not have time to shape the gnocchi, you can freeze the dough, defrost it in the refrigerator, and then shape it. To freeze shaped gnocchi, line baking sheets with waxed paper and dust with flour. Spread the gnocchi on the prepared sheets and freeze until hard. Remove to individual-portion-size freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month. To cook, drop the frozen gnocchi into boiling salted water. Cook for about 2 minutes after they rise to the surface.

To finish the meal off I looked in the fridge to see what I had to make a sauce- a half a can of pumpkin, some chicken sausage and a green pepper; perfect for a Pumpkin Sage and Chicken Sausage Gnocchi Dish.

DSC_0741

Pumpkin Sage Sauce

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the quick sauce:

In a heavy bottom medium saucepan, add the olive oil and allow to heat.  Add in the onions, followed a minute later by the garlic and sauté until fragrant and transparent.  Pour in the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan.  Allow the wine to come to a simmer and cook for a minute.  Stir in the heavy cream and the pumpkin and mix well.  Spinkle in the sage, black pepper, sea salt and nutmeg.  Allow the sauce to come to a slow simmer and reduce naturally.  You can always add a roux or cornstarch slurry if you prefer.

To bring it all together:

  • 12 ounces chicken sausage, sliced on bias
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, large diced
  • 3 tablespoon sliced green onions
  • Gnocchi
  • Pumpkin Sage Sauce

Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat.* Add in the chicken sausage and sauté.   Follow with the diced peppers and boiled gnocchi, if needed add a splash of olive oil, depending on the fat content of the sausage.  When the sausage is cooked and nice color on the gnocchi is achieved ladle in the pumpkin sauce and give a quick stir.  Serve in pasta bowls and garnish with green onions.

*You may need to work in batches if your sauté pan is not large enough.

Serves 4-6 guests

DSC_0736

Gnocchi is a great way to show your kids how fun cooking can be, and also how rewarding making food from scratch can be.  I think any chance to get the kiddos into the kitchen do something more than lick the spoon is important.  More importantly it will give them a memory of a moment when they created something wonderful.

Go ahead- get your hands dirty!!!

Advertisements

Chinese Boiled Peanuts- The Gateway to Becoming a True Southener

I was born just outside of Philadelphia, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I spent a wonderful 12 years playing in the creek in the backyard, going to the pool every summer day and growing into a young girl fond of the King of Prussia Mall before moving south to Virginia Beach. More fun filled years followed in the southern beach town thru high school before I moved and got swept away and truly “southernized” by the charm of Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the South, the tradition and grace, from the willowing giant oaks filled with Spanish moss to the hospitality of strangers on the uneven cobblestone streets. There were only a few southern ways that I could not adapt- one being those giant mushy goober peas, a southern delicacy – Boiled Peanuts.

DSC_0944

I just could not get passed the soft, gross texture, or that a perfectly good peanut was wasted- how can you possibly beat the innate peanut flavor? However, my husband, who came from even deeper south, Fairhope, Alabama, loves the little boogers and convinced me to make some. I bought a one pound bag and made two different flavors- Cajun and Chinese. The raw green peanuts are harvested late summer but you can still get raw dried peanuts thru the year in most groceries. I immediately had a change of heart when I tasted one of the Chinese boiled boogers.

DSC_0865

Ingredients
1/2 pound raw unshelled peanuts
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches in length
1 star anise
1 clove
1 dried chili, optional

Directions
Place the peanuts into a large pot and fill with water, stirring to remove the excess dirt. Drain into a colander, rinse and repeat 3 times. In a heavy bottom pot add the peanuts and pour just enough water to cover. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and dried chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then lower temperature to a slow moving boil. Cook for 4-5 hours, checking occasionally that liquid is still covering the peanuts. Add water as needed and cook until desired tenderness. Another method is to use a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Serve the peanuts warm; reserving the liquid to store the peanuts in, if you have any leftover. Reheat on a stove with the braising liquid to serve later.

DSC_0873

Like any good southerner, I can accept fault with grace- I was wrong about the celebrated boiled peanut. I fell in love with these suckers. The Chinese flavor profile enhanced the traditional peanut flavor that I could not part with, absolutely addictive.

DSC_0934

With a pile in front of us, Sir Wes and I did not stop eating them until they were gone; barely even a face wipe or a sip of beer. I knew at this point of indulgence that although I have a birth certificate from Pennsylvania, I was truly a Southern girl.

Broadway Brownie Bars AKA Praline Cream Brownies

Broadways Bars- the star of every dessert buffet; that’s what one baker called them, but after baking them I would rename them as Praline Cream Brownies. The frosting you pour over top of the baked layer brownies is reminiscent of the drippings I used to peel off the parchment paper when I scooped pralines at the Charleston Popcorn Shop.

DSC_1333

These are extra sweet- cut them in one inch squares so you don’t overdo it. Taste of Home supplied the recipe.

DSC_1326

Ingredients
FILLING:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

BROWNIE:
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

TOPPING:
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows

FROSTING:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
2 ounces cream cheese
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
In small bowl, combine the first six ingredients until smooth; set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat and cool. Stir in the eggs, and vanilla. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and nuts, stirring until blended.

Spread batter in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread filling over batter. For topping, in small bowl, combine chocolate chips and nuts; sprinkle over filling. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until almost set. Sprinkle with marshmallows; bake for 2 minutes longer.

For frosting, in a large saucepan, heat butter, milk, cream cheese and chocolate until melted; stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Immediately drizzle over marshmallows. Chill well; cut into 1 inch bars.

DSC_1313

Happy Baking!!!

Beer and Pretzel Caramels- Stuff his stocking!

It was impossible to pass over this recipe when I saw it, baking with beer and pretzels was right up my alley . I haven’t had a lot of luck with caramels, but wanted to take a chance on these “Mans Man” caramels. Salty, Sweet and Beer- put them on the coffee table for all the bowl games coming up!

DSC_1333
These unique treats came from Taste of Home– It might seem like a lot of beer to let go, but the outcome is so worth it!

DSC_1376

Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature pretzels
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

CARAMELS:
4 cups dark beer
1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter, divided
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt

DSC_1327

Directions

In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, oil and vanilla. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. foil-lined baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Coarsely chop pretzels; set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring beer to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, combine the sugar, corn syrup, 2/3 cup cream, water, salt and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°, about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine reduced beer and remaining cream; slowly stir into sugar mixture.

Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 245° (firm-ball stage), about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan); sprinkle with candied pretzels and kosher salt. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight. Using foil, lift candy out of pan. Discard foil; cut candy into 1-in. squares using a buttered knife. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends.

Yield: about 3 pounds/81 Servings

DSC_1358

The guys will love these artisanal treats for sure!!

Marscapone Filled Brownie Sandwiches

I wanted to tag everyone in this post, to get your attention and suggest you stop what you’re doing today and make these instead. By far these are absolutely my favorite cookie made to date. Rich, creamy, and decadent, the kind you would travel across town for. This is the cookie in which one is enough, at least for one seating.

aDSC_1250
If you have to share with more than 5 friends I highly suggest doubling the recipe as it doesn’t make too many. Or hide the last one, not that I did that!

aDSC_1294
From Better Homes and Garden Holidays– They got this one right on the money!

Ingredients
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a small heavy saucepan heat and stir chopped semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter over low heat until melted and smooth; set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs, granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed for 4 minutes or until thick and light yellow in color. Fold in melted chocolate mixture. Fold in flour mixture until combined. Fold in semisweet chocolate pieces. Let batter stand for 10 minutes (batter will thicken as it stands).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop batter by slightly rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 8 minutes or until set and tops are crackled. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

For filling, in a small bowl stir together the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, whipping cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Spread about 1 tablespoon filling each on the flat sides (bottoms) of half of the cookies. Press the flat sides of the remaining cookies against the filling.

From the Test Kitchen
To Store:  Layer filled cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store the cookies in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

aDSC_1274

Enjoy the first day of Winter- 85 and sunny here in Florida! Looking forward to waking up in the 40s on Christmas morning!!

No Bake Lemon Drop Cookies

The kiddos are about done with school before the holiday and will soon be looking for something to do!  Put them to work with these fun candy cookies- no ovens required and plenty of hands on time!  Hard to beat the classic flavor of a lemon drop candy!!

DSC_0827

These kid friendly treats came from Better Homes and Gardens.  They offer a ray of sunlight on a cold winter day (unless you are in Florida with me where we pray for temperatures under 65).

DSC_0860

Ingredients

2 cups finely crushed shortbread cookies
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped
½ cup finely crushed lemon drop candies
2 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon finely crushed lemon drop candies

Directions
In a large bowl, stir together the crushed cookies, the 1 cup powdered sugar, the almonds, and the 1/2 cup crushed candies. In a small bowl, stir together corn syrup, milk, and melted butter. Stir the corn syrup mixture into the cookie mixture until well combined.

Shape cookie mixture into 1-inch balls. In a small bowl, combine the 1/3 cup powdered sugar and the 1 tablespoon crushed candies. Roll balls in powdered sugar mixture. Place on a large baking sheet or tray.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Roll balls again in powdered sugar mixture just before serving.

Makes about 36 cookies.

DSC_0850

And of course the best part is…your little helpers are the ones able to make them!!

Wild Flower Honey- Hazelnut Lace Cookies

Lace cookies should be a part of every cookie buffet, they add the perfect option for the “I’ll have a small one” line of thinking.  These are crisp, rich and light all at the same time, the perfect answer to that sweet tooth.

DSC_1003

These scrumptious cookies came from Southern Living.  Truly cannot go wrong!

DSC_0955

Ingredients

¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon wild flower honey
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

Parchment paper

Direction

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer 4 to 5 minutes or until creamy. Add hazelnuts and next 2 ingredients; beat just until blended. Drop by level teaspoonfuls 3 inches apart onto 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

2. Bake at 325° for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire racks, and cool.

Makes about 2 dozen.

DSC_0963

These are a perfect hostess gift, and last up to a week.  Unless the elves in the house get to them first!!