For French Fridays with Dorie this week, we made gnocchi. But not the gnocchi I usually make – you know, with potatoes. Or, sometimes, sweet potatoes.
This version has no potatoes at all. The gnocchi are made with pate a choux, the same dough used to make things like eclairs, cream puffs, and gougeres.
Those kooky French cooks!
Gnocchi, technically, are dumplings, as are the spaetzle I make. These gnocchi – this week’s recipe – are made with pate a choux, which sounded a bit strange to me at first, but made beautiful sense later.
As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I made this dish on Wednesday of this past week – the day of the BIG SNOW. The snowstorm was incidental – I’d planned to make the gnocchi that day because I didn’t have to work.
Anyway, Wednesday turned out to be the perfect day for something rich and cheesy and starchy – we woke up to a snowstorm (eagerly anticipated), no school or work for any of us, and enforced staying-at-home. My favorite kind of day. I made 4 loaves of bread, next week’s FFwD chocolate mousse cake, and…for dinner…gnocchi a la parisienne.
The dish basically breaks into two parts.
The pate a choux dumplings, which are made with water, butter, salt, eggs, and flour….
(Aren’t my Holstein eggs cute? I used chicken eggs in the actual cooking.)
And the béchamel, made with butter, flour, milk, salt and pepper. And there are also the cheeses – I used grated Romano and shredded Ementhal.
I made the béchamel first, as I wasn’t planning to let the dough rest for 2 hours.
And then the addition of hot milk, salt, and pepper, and no picture, for whatever reason.
OH – I remember why. It’s because I was a dolt and dumped all my hot milk in at once. I should have added some of it to the roux, whisked it until it was a smooth slurry, and THEN poured in the rest of the milk. Because I didn’t do that, I had lots of lumps that would NOT whisk out or mush or otherwise disappear. After cursing my foolishness thoroughly, I decided to press the béchamel through a fine mesh strainer.
Interestingly, it smelled exactly like cream of wheat while I was doing this.
Anyway, I put plastic wrap on the surface of the bechamel and set that aside.
Then I buttered my pyrex 9” pie pan and sprinkled the grated Romano on the bottom. Just trying to be ready to go when the gnocchi are done.
Okay, then it was time to make the pate a choux.
Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil, and then dump the flour in all at once.
Stir, stir, stir until it forms a ball and there’s a thin film of doughy residue on the bottom of the pan.
Into the bowl of my stand mixer it went, and I stirred it a bit first to cool it slightly before adding the eggs one at a time.
After the last egg went in, I scraped the bowl down, ran the mixer another minute just to make sure everything was completely incorporated, and the dough was ready to go. Isn’t it lovely?
Now, while I was making the pate a choux, I had another, larger pot on the stove 2/3 filled with water coming to a boil.
When the dough was ready, I used two regular old teaspoons to spoon some little blobs of dough into the boiling water. They looked like…well, like puffy crazy little blobs of dough.
I wanted them to look better (though now that I’ve seen the final dish, I realize that looks don’t really matter in this instance.), so I decided to shape my little dumplings a bit.
I used my two regular old teaspoons to shape the dough into quenelles.
Because I like the word “quenelle.”
They’re kind of an oval shape.
You do this by sort of scooping one spoon under the blob of dough on the other spoon. You do this a couple of times until you get the shape you want.
And then, because you are determined to have a picture of this, even though it requires three hands (two for the spoons and one for the camera), you do your best to work around that little complication, and this is the picture you end up with:
‘Nuff said about that little adventure.
I spooned the cooked gnocchi (and you can see that some have nice shapes and some are a little more blobby) onto a dish towel, per Dorie’s instructions…
And then I layered them in the pie plate.
They look…well…less than exciting, I suppose.
But I didn’t care.
I was hungry.
I scraped the béchamel over the gnocchi, sprinkled the shredded Ementhal over everything, dotted it with butter, and slid it all into the oven.
When I opened the oven at the end of the cooking, I was, frankly, amazed and delighted with what I saw.
It was gorgeous!
I’d already summoned everyone to the table, and the rest of dinner was on the table as well. I brought this in and dished it up to everyone but Alex, who I knew wouldn’t like it. (I gave him spaetzle instead.)
“Everyone” consisted of Bill, the kids and me, and our nephew, Joe, who had come over mid-day to try to fix our snow blower, and when that failed, to help Bill shovel the driveway, front walk, and our neighbor’s driveway and walkway across the street. I insisted he stay for dinner.
So, of the four of us that tired the gnocchi this way, 3 of us really liked it. Julia didn’t. I think the flavors might have been a bit too grown-up for her. Or something.
But Joe, Bill, and I loved it.
It was funny, though. The texture was so different from anything we were expecting.
“It’s almost disgusting, but it’s really good!” was Bill’s very honest pronouncement.
And I kind of see what he means. The gnocchi have a taste/texture/something that definitely says “dumpling” rather than, say, “pasta.” And they are SO soft…and in combination with the smooth (thank you strainer!) bechamel…and the fabulous melty browned cheese on top…if no one else was home, I might have eaten the whole six-serving dish myself.
But that would be gluttonous.
I try to avoid that these days.
Anyway, YUM YUM YUM. YUM!
And though Dorie doesn’t recommend reheating this as leftovers, we had a little bit remaining, and, though the texture was slightly firmer, they were still VERY yummy and I was happy to eat them again another day.
To find out what everyone else thought of these Gnocchi a la Parisienne, click HERE.
Oh, and P.S. YUM!