Friday, July 26, 2013

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken Toasted Walnuts and Crispy Sage



The sauce for this recipe was swiped from kevinandamanda.com and she uses store bought ravioli as the pasta element and it was so good the first time I tried it that I thought I'd try it with gnocchi, and the sweet potato version goes really well with the sage and walnuts. It's a really great sauce that echos the French Laundry ravioli I made a while back, also with sweet potatoes.

This is also the first time I've made sweet potato gnocchi with ricotta. I usually just use sweet potatoes and flour but I wanted to experiment.

Let's get started!

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Grilled Chicken, Toasted Walnuts, and Crispy Sage

(adapted from here and here)

Gnocchi:
2 lbs sweet potatoes
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta, drained well
1-1 ½ cups all purpose flour
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice

Chicken:
Brine: (optional, but I do it)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
water to cover
1 large chicken breast (preferably on the bone, skin on)
1 tablespoon of your favorite rub (I like Montreal Chicken when I grill chicken)

Brown Butter Sage Sauce: 
2 oz (1/2 cup) walnuts
6 tbsp butter
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves, to taste

1 pound uncooked sweet potato gnocchi

==

Ok, so confession time. When I was reading this recipe, I got it in my head that I needed 2 pounds of mashed sweet potatoes, versus just 2 pounds of potatoes in which I would need to mash.

Consequently I ended up using a TON more flour than the original recipe called for. So, in interest of keeping this closer to what I assume is a tested recipe, I'm going to just go with the above measurements. I ended up making much more than the recipe intended. They still ended up tasting good, so I'm going to leave it up to you.

Regardless -

Start by cooking your potatoes.

I actually do this in the microwave usually, but I wanted to try it in the oven to see if any of the "caramelization" flavors come through. I couldn't tell, honestly. It's way faster to nuke them but this is what I did.

About an hour at 400F on parchment, turning halfway through. They will weep very sticky sap so put something under them.


Meanwhile, measure out 2/3 cup ricotta and let it drain in the fridge. I didn't get much whey from my cheese but I think if I put it in a tea towel and wrung it out it would have had much less water content than it did.

I suggest doing that.

We want as little moisture as possible in the sweet potato/ricotta mixture prior to adding the flour.

Learn from my mistakes.


==

When your taters are done they should be really mushy to the touch. I'd go "over-cooked" versus "under-cooked" here. I've made these before when the flesh isn't 100% mushy and there are lumps in the gnocchi.


Split them in twain when you can handle them.


Scoop out the flesh and let it cool a little bit.


Husks
Like I said above, I used 2 pounds of cooked flesh. Much more than the recipe calls for. 


I ended up puréeing the flesh instead of just mashing or ricing. I like them totally smooth.

I also laid it out on a parchment and baked it for 30 more minutes at 250F to get more moisture out. I can't say it had any effect whatsoever. 

I try these things so you don't have to.


==

Meanwhile, separate an egg. I cooked the white with a little tarragon and ate it while I was waiting. Yum.


Scramble it lightly. Stand by.


When you're ready to mix, take off your ring(s) and get ready for a mess.


Drizzle the yolk over top.


Crumble the cheese.

Again, mine was much more moist than it should have been.

Please wring it out a bit.


Grate on your nutmeg and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon allspice.

(I actually used 1/4 teaspoon because I was making a lot more than the original recipe)



Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of flour.


Combine with a bench scraper or something.

You will need it.


Combine until the flour has been absorbed.


Ok, here is where the magical pain in the butt that is gnocchi happens. No one knows how much flour to add to gnocchi. Ever. Moisture levels will always vary. Flour varies. Humidity varies, etc. You just never can tell until you start mixing it together.

Add 1/4 cup at a time until you can pinch off a bit and roll it into a 1" log without it sticking too badly or falling apart. It will be a bit sticky even when it's ready to go. Try your best to not add too much flour. I know it's vague, but that's the way it is. You can do it. They still taste good no matter what happens.

Just add a bit at a time and incorporate:


Way too sticky

Truth be told I think I added around 3.5 cups of flour total to get it into a log that didn't stick to the counter immediately.

I know. WAY more than 1.5 cups as stated in the recipe. But I think my cheese was too wet and I used way more sweet potato than called for. Just experiment and add the flour it needs and try not to obsess over it like I do.

Anyway, when you have a nice log let it sit for about 5 minutes.


After 5 minutes cut it into 8 chunks.


Work one at a time:


Roll into a rope about .5 to 1 inch in diameter.

Mine was hard to roll, but add a dash of flour to help.


Cut into small chunks:


Gnocchi

There are many more to come
The kids love to "help".

I just give them chunks of dough to play with.


Put the finished gnocchi onto sheet pans lined with parchment. This is important because they will stick like crazy.

Try to not let them touch and make sure you roll them a bit in flour.

Get them into the freezer ASAP. You will cook them from frozen, so even what you are planning on eating tonight will be fine frozen.

*A note on shaping gnocchi:

I don't do it. It's too much work with two kids helping. I don't do the gnocchi board, or the fork, or the thumb indentation thing. I just knock them out and freeze them as soon as possible. Feel free to shape them as you wish but they don't taste any better or different. WAY too much work for no reward IMO.



==

This is after freezing for at least 3 hours.

I dump them directly into a freezer bag.

As you can see, I got almost 3 pounds of gnocchi here.





==

Now we can brine the chicken. You can do this way ahead of time, easy.

Just defrost the breast (if frozen) and get it into a container that will hold it and some water.

I always brine with 2 tablespoons each of salt and sugar for about 30-45 minutes in the fridge.

I added some peppercorns but did not notice a difference.

Always experimenting.


Also while you are waiting, you can prep the final things for the meal:

Get your walnuts chopped up (I buy the walnut "pieces" from the store) and get them over medium heat.

Toast until you can smell them and they darken slightly. Don't over-do it.


Save until service.


Pick your sage leaves.



Chop roughly. I usually cut each leaf into 4 pieces.

This is way too much sage by the way. Just use 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.



==

When your chicken is done brining, pat it dry and give it a rub.

Under the skin and over the skin. I like the skin on to protect the meat from overcooking on the surface.


I made two since I was grilling anyway. You only need one breast for this recipe.


Set your grill up for high heat on one side and no heat on the other side for indirect heat.

Grill over high heat for 3 minutes. Watch for the fat flaring up from the skin.


Flip and cook for another 5 minutes.


I reflip and move to the cool part of the grill and bake for 40-50 minutes or until it's the temp you like.

I like 145-150F at the most because we'll be adding it to a sauce to cook a little further. I don't like chicken that's 165F and I've never been sick from it.


When your chicken is done pull it to rest.


I tent it with foil for about 10 minutes.


When the chicken has rested shred it and stand by or stash in the fridge until dinner.



==

When you're close to dinner get a big pot of water on the boil and salt LIBERALLY. Like 1/4 cup of salt.

We do this because we didn't season the gnocchi at all when we made it.


Get your walnuts, sage, chicken, and butter together.


Measure out a pound of gnocchi. This feeds two of us. I made extra for the kids.


Toss your butter into a pan or pot, depending on the amount you're making over medium heat.

Let it melt to the point where it's JUST starting to darken in color.


Go ahead and drop your gnocchi. They cook in about 5 minutes.


They will drop to the bottom, give them a quick stir to separate them.



This is what your butter should look like:

Dark enough for now
Add your sage (again, this is way too much so ignore the amount here)


Stir constantly. The moisture from the leaves will come out first.


Then the butter will start to bubble, like frying or cooking bacon.


A few of the gnocchi will start to float. Stand by.


Once the bubbles start to subside you will see the solids start to turn brown. This is the time when it will burn if you don't act fast.


Toss in the chicken and stir well a few times and pull it off the heat.


When your gnocchi all have risen to the top, let them cook for 60 seconds.


Pull your pan over to the gnocchi pot and spoon them directly into the sauce.


Once all the gnocchi are in the sauce, stir well to combine and put it back over medium flame.


Add the walnuts and if the sauce isn't creamy and "sauce-like" add a ladle of the gnocchi water.


Stir to combine and thicken and remove from the heat.

Serve immediately!


==

Overall, this is a fantastic meal.

The sweetness of the sweet potato gnocchi goes really well with the sage and walnuts. They give a great flavor to the sauce but also texture. The sage gets a bit crisp and the walnuts add a crunch that works nicely in the dish. The chicken adds a smoky/peppery note to the party and the nutty brown butter ties it all together.

This is easily one of my favorite meals right now and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

The best part about making a lot if that I have a bunch in the freezer right now. More than enough to make this again or maybe make it with a different sauce. Lots of options when you need a quick meal.

I know it's a bit labor intensive but the kids really like to help and it gets them involved in the kitchen and that's always a good thing in my opinion.

I hope you give this a try!


Enjoy!

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