When I was little girl, one of my favorite things to play with was modeling clay. I loved mixing up all the colors and combining them into one messy tie-dyed looking blob. I would create what I thought were fruit-and-vegetable-shaped items (but I’m sure they looked nothing like how I pictured them in my head). There was something soothing about molding this messy non-edible clay. Anything was possible. I could create whatever I wanted in any color I wanted.
Through the years, my love of molding things didn’t transform to my becoming any kind of clay potter or anything. I am far from being any kind of artist. I can’t even handle going to an arts and crafts store. It terrifies me. The only creative art form I know is through food, which is really the best of both worlds! I can play, create and eat it!
I remember the very first time I had gnocchi. I was in college, and it was my 21st birthday. I never really thought of gnocchi before then. Whenever I saw it on a menu, it just never sounded good to me, but this one was in vodka sauce, and I thought, why not? I just turned 21 and I thought vodka sauce was just apropos. I was so glad I did! I didn’t know that this pillow of goodness existed until then, and when I found out how easy it was to make at home, I was even more ecstatic! This past week, I went to dinner to a local restaurant, The Mill, and had this appetizer of crunchy goat cheese gnocchi with mustard and whisky sauce. It was fantastic! The combination of flavors and texture was as good as it sounds. Needless to say, it inspired me!
Making gnocchi takes me back to my modeling clay years, and is probably the reason why I choose different kinds of potatoes whenever I make it. These purple potatoes are by far my favorite ones. I mean, the colors just speak for themselves! So if you ever feel like being a kid again and would like to play with your food, try this recipe!
CRUNCHY PURPLE POTATO GNOCCHI +STILTON BLUE CHEESE CREAM SAUCE W/ TARRAGON AND WALNUTS
(click here for a full grocery list)
1 pound purple potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups all-purpose flour (and some extra for dusting)
- In medium size pot, boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until they are tender. Once they are tender, remove from heat and drain the water. Let it cool just enough to be able to peel the skins off and return to the same pot. If you have a potato ricer, rice the potatoes then mash and add the butter. Note: if you don’t have a ricer, that’s okay too. You can just mash it and run a fork through it then add the butter and mix well.
- Add the eggs and 1 cup of the flour and about a teaspoon of salt. Knead the mixture until it forms a soft dough. Add ½ cup flour and keep kneading, and if the dough is still soft and sticky, add the other ½ cup of flour.
- Place the dough in a lightly floured surface and divide them into small portions. Roll out each portion into a long rope then cut into 1 inch pieces. Press each gnocchi with a fork to make an indentation.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add plenty of salt. Add the gnocchi and let it boil until they surface. Remove from the water and place on a sheet pan and spread out.
- In a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add some tarragon leaves and chopped walnuts, and then add some of the gnocchi (depending on how much you wish to serve). Let the gnocchi crisp up for at least 2 minutes on each side.
STILTON BLUE CHEESE CREAM SAUCE
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons water
1 ounce Stilton blue cheese
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons white wine
- Bring the heavy cream and water to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as it is boiling, turn down the heat to a slow simmer.
- Add the cheese and lemon juice, then the pepper and nutmeg. Mix well until the cheese is melted and the consistency is smooth.
- Add the tarragon and remove from the heat.
I like putting the sauce on the plate first then the gnocchi topped with the toasted walnuts and tarragon. This recipe was inspired by Food52 and The Mill.
All photos taken by Maria Kennedy