Time for the first ever Daring Cooks Challenge! The Daring Cooks are a sister to the Daring Bakers, now culinary enthusiasts around the world can do TWO daring challenges a month, one 'baked' and one 'cooked'! I am so happy to be a part of this very first challenge, picked by Lis and Ivonne, our Daring leaders, the creators of The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks. Thank you, Lis and Ivonne!
Our first challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook. Let's get started...
You start with 1 lb ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, a little bit of salt and a little bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano...
You can then add some seasoning, I chose to do an Italian seasoning blend, with marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil. Just about 1/2 teaspoon, didn't want to over power the delicate ricotta flavor of these little gnocchi.
Here is my super messy work station, I'm kind of embarassed, but I really don't worry about the mess when I'm 'creating' in the kitchen -- I know some people clean up as they go and put everything away, which sounds great in theory, but I usually end up leaving everything out until I'm all done -- then clean up. I ended up adding some flour to the actual ricotta mixture, even though we were just supposed to be rolling them in flour. I was a little nervous about that judgement call but have to say that in the end I'm glad that I did it.
From there you start on a complimentary sauce, this was our chance to play around and do our own thing. I love making up sauce recipes as I go, so this was really fun for me. I knew I wanted to do something mushroom, at first I was thinking mushroom roasted pepper sauce, then I couldn't help wanting to grate some more parmigiano-reggiano and do a cream sauce. I didn't want something too heavy for the gnocchi, but definitely creamy.
Creamy Mushroom Vodka Sauce
*this sauce was enough for about 1/2 batch of this gnocchi recipe
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons vodka (I used Belvedere)
3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
Saute the mushrooms in butter and until most of the moisture cooks off, add the salt while sauteing.
Add in the vodka and cook for about 5 more minutes over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are a touch browned and most of the liquid has cooked away. Turn off heat and let cool down for about 5 minutes.
Add in milk and cream, bring to a simmer, dust in the flour while whisking, you don't want it to clump up. Simmer for a few more minutes until thickened and add the cheese.
Stir until combined and the cheese has melted into a thick and creamy sauce with the mushrooms. If you sauce is too thick add a touch of milk and/or a touch of vodka. Before this final vodka edition (if desired) the vodka flavor is very slight since the alcohol cooked away, and might not even be noticeable. Add a little more if you'd like, to taste.
At that point with my dinner, I turned off the heat and set the sauce skillet to the side of the stove and started boiling my gnocchi.
Remove cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and set into sauce skillet. Don't worry about a little extra liquid dripping off the gnocchi into the sauce (which should be pretty thick). After all of your gnocchi are cooked and in the sauce skillet, turn on the heat gently and saute the gnocchi with the sauce for a minute.
I know this finished product might look a little bland, too heavy, or too rich, but it was amazing! Probably one of my favorite meals I've had lately, really! I love how the sauce coated the gnocchi and the mushroom were a delicious match. At first I wasn't sure what to do with my second half of this gnocchi batch but I will most likely be making this exact dish again, I loved it that much! The gnocchi were a little messy to make, but relatively easy. I will be making these again for sure, and probably adding the extra flour to the gnocchi dough on purpose just because I think these turned out so perfectly :)