Winter squash gnocchi with Sebastiani chardonnay
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
Our Wine of the Week, Sebastiani Vineyards 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($13), is a workhorse kind of wine, especially in the fall, when its full rich flavors mirror the flavors of the season.
This wine is a classic California chardonnay, with a buttery warmth suggestive of toasted bread. Depending on how active your imagination is, this quality can influence your perception of the wine's considerable fruit.
Apple flavors may suggest apple butter slathered on that toast. A fillip of lemon paired with that butter may make you think of toast topped with lemon curd and creme fraiche and a suggestion of burnt sugar, while the wine's creamy texture could evoke Smucker's Butterscotch Topping.
These elements, while bold on their own, are subtle and balanced.
When it comes to pairing the wine, now is an easy time. The last of the year's tomatoes, the first of the year's winter squashes, ripe figs, chanterelles and quince poached in honey are all good companions, as are wild salmon, pork tenderloin and chicken breast.
Today's recipe features gnocchi made with winter squash, which resonates beautifully with the wine. Browned butter mirrors its toasty quality, creme fraiche adds a plushness and toasted breadcrumbs tie it all together.
Winter Squash Gnocchi with Browned Butter, Creme Fraiche and Toasted Breadcrumbs
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 pound Delicata, acorn or similar winter squash, cut open and seeded
1 pound russet potatoes, washed
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
5 tablespoons best-quality butter (see Note below)
4 tablespoons creme fraiche, stirred to loosen
½ cup freshly made breadcrumbs, preferably from sourdough hearth bread
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
— Small parsley sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Set squash on a baking sheet and brush the exposed flesh with a little olive oil. Use a fork to pierce the potatoes in a several places, set them alongside the squash and bake until both are very tender when pierced with a bamboo skewer. Begin to check after 35 minutes and check every 10 minutes thereafter until done. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Break each potato in half and pass it through a potato ricer or food mill; discard the skins. Remove and discard the skin of the squash and pass it through a ricer or food mill, or mash it thoroughly with a fork. Put both purees into a medium mixing bowl, season with salt and season generously with black pepper.
Stir in half the flour and continue adding more until mixture is soft and smooth but still just a bit sticky. Let rest a few minutes.
While the dough rests, make the browned butter. To do so, put the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. When butter is fully melted, use a shallow spoon to remove any impurities that rise to the surface. Carefully pour butter into small skillet, leaving behind any milk solids
Pour all but about 1 tablespoon of the butter into a small container (the cleaned saucepan, for example) and set aside. Return skillet to medium heat, add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they are evening toasted. Do not let them burn. Season lightly with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
To finish the gnocchi, check the dough and if it seems to sticky, mix in a bit more flour. Sprinkle flour over your work surface and rub some on the palms of your hands.
Fill a large pot half-full with water, add a tablespoon or two of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a heat-proof platter in the oven.
Roll dough into ropes about as thick as your thumb. Cut each rope into ¾-inch pieces.
Next, mark the gnocchi: Hold a dinner fork sideways, with the tines parallel to the work surface below. With your other hand, pick up a piece of dough and use your thumb to quickly press it into the tines; let it fall to the work surface. Continue until all gnocchi have been marked. (Don't worry if this seems awkward at first; the goal is for each gnocchi to be marked on one side with the tines of the fork and on the other side with your thumb, so that there is a slight indentation.)
To cook the gnocchi, drop about 2 dozen into the boiling water and watch until they rise to the top. Cook for 15 seconds more and then lift out with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess water; transfer to the platter in the oven. Continue until all gnocchi are cooked.
Working quickly, reheat the butter, if needed, and pour it over the gnocchi; turn gently so each gnocchi is coated.
Divide the gnocchi among individual soup plates and top each portion with a generous dollop of creme fraiche. Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs and Italian parsley on top, season each with salt and pepper, garnish with a parsley sprig and serve immediately.
Note: For best results, use a high-fat butter, preferably local and organic, or French. Clover organic butter is excellent, as is Spring Hill, McClelland and Strauss butter. The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg has an extraordinary butter from France, Beurre de Baratte by Rodolfe Le Meunier, one of the finest I have ever tasted.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com
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