Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gnocchi in Pepper Jack Cheese Sauce

Although I have not been blogging about my exploits in the kitchen recently, I have been pretty active in that area. Having spent most of the holiday season in Guangzhou by my lonesome I often turned my attention to some culinary experimentation. Some of my ventures went horribly wrong, like when I tried to make a chicken dish in Hunan spices. It tasted like crap and my apartment smelled like a side street chop bar for days. Others went well and I learned that I can use Chinese rice noodles to substitute for pasta when I need to and they are actually quite flavorful and soft in texture. Last night I remembered to take some pictures while I attempted to cook some Gnocchi.

It was my first time executing this dish so I had to call on my cousin for help; he is a learned chef who actually attended some school for cooking in Switzerland. He advised that I make a reduced white wine sauce with cream and garlic and gave me a few pointers on how to go about it. Using his counsel as frame work I armed myself with prepackaged gnocchi, some white wine, chopped garlic, cream, a red chilly (for my flavor), and some finely chopped onions. The cheese I selected is one I recently picked up in Hong Kong. It is a Pepper Jack Cheese that actually delivers quite a bite. I figured this would give the dish some zest. So the first thing I did was to pop a huge slab of butted into a hot pan and then throws in the garlic. Lots of garlic! After a few minutes I dropped a small amount of chopped onions into the mix and allowed them to brown. On the second fire I had my boiling water with loads of salt, into which I put my gnocchi.

The gnocchi is only supposed to boil until it comes to the surface of the water, but because there were so many bubbles in the water I could not see the surface and ended over cooking the little bastards. I actually wanted it a bit under cooked because they would end up cooking a bit more with the sauce. For future reference, if gnocchi is added to boiling water, 5 minutes is more than enough for them to cook through. I allowed the onions to brown just a little bit then I poured a fair amount of wine into the pan. I cooked that till it reduced a bit then added in stages some cream, my drained gnocchi, and the Pepper Jack Cheese. I kept folding the mix over itself till everything was well blended and the cheese melted. On the side I picked up some bread from the new shop that has opened up near my office. The big loaf was flavored with olives and herbs.

I served the dish up with the same white wine I used to cook it which is a local label called Great Wall. I actually found it to be very acidic. The sauce turned out to be fairly creamy but I think the pieces of onion were a bit too big. I am actually considering leaving them out completely the next time I try this. The gnocchi was a little over cooked as I suspected and ended up sticking to the roof of my mouth a bit. Also in retrospect I might not use a Pepper Jack cheese the next time I try this. The weather here is pretty cold so as the food cools, which it does quite quickly, the sauce looses a bit of its creamy texture. And in addition to all that I found the flavor of the wine in the sauce was too prominent. The olive bread however complimented this dish faultlessly. I do not know what herbs were on the top of that bread but when coupled with the sauce I had made, it tasted fantastic. I am definitely going to incorporate some herbs and chopped olives in the sauce the next time I try this.

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