Welcome to the second in the series “Pate Choux”. That sounded important, didn’t it. Anyway, welcome back. This weeks recipe is a look at pate choux dough in a whole different way. I didn’t realize how versatile this dough was. I was perusing the cookbook Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan, when I came across another pate choux recipe. I tell you, this cookbook is so fantastic. I will definitely be making so many more recipes from this book.
Gnocchi a la Parisienne takes pate choux dough to a whole other level. It is a bit more complicated then the Gougeres, but with a little planning it can be made on a busy week night. There are two different recipes within the dish. The béchamel sauce holds the gnocchi together. It is used in other dishes such as lasagna and homemade macaroni and cheese. I did have a little trouble with it. The sauce was supposed to be rich and creamy. Mine turned out to have little teeny lumps in it. I suspect I didn’t cook the flour quickly enough with the butter. It tasted great! It just wasn’t on the pretty side. Oh well, life is about trial and error. I don’t want that to stop you from making this dish! The béchamel sauce can be made ahead of time, so it is all set to go when the gnocchi are ready.
The gnocchi are the heart of this dish. Traditionally in Italian cooking, gnocchi are made from a mixture of potato and flour and a lot of time is spent shaping the dough to form little pillows that are boiled. The gnocchi in this recipe is made from the simple pate choux dough and from a spoon formed into little globs, and dropped into boiling water. The gnocchi only take a few minutes to boil and then they are drained on a kitchen towel. This whole process, including making the pate choux took twenty minutes. That’s it.
Once you have both elements, they need to be combined in a baking dish, smothered with cheese and heated through. I made this as a side choice to go with some baked chicken. It is thick and rich and oh so comforting. Biting into the gnocchi is like biting into soft warm pillows of cheese. I can live with that.
Gnocchi a la Parisienne
For the Gnocchi dough
1 1/4 cup water
7 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
For the Béchamel
2 cups whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoon butter
6 tablespoon all-flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
About 3/4 grated cheese, (a mixture of Comte, Parmesan, Gruyere or Emmenthal are recommended, but you could use baby Swiss or provolone)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits.
To make the béchamel:
1. Put the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and heat until it is just about to boil. Don’t bring the milk to a full boil, but allow to form little tiny bubbles along the side of the pan.
2. In another heavy bottom skillet melt the butter over medium-low heat. Grab a wooden spoon and add the flour to the pan and cook for a few minutes while the flour absorbs the melted butter.
3. Stir in the hot milk, while continuously whisking. I know this is a little tricky to do, but I trust you can handle it. Continuously whisking will prevent lumps from forming in the sauce.
4. Stir without stopping and bring the milk up to a boil. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
5. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir 3 more minutes. The sauce should be thick now.
6. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure you press the plastic wrap onto the sauce so a skin doesn’t form. Set aside.
To make the gnocchi:
1. Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
2. Quickly add the flour and stir rapidly to incorporate the flour into the water, butter and salt mixture. Continue to stir for three minutes to cook the flour taste out of it.
3. Put the flour mixture in a bowl of a stand-mixer, or a heavy bottom bowl with a wooden spoon and start adding the eggs in one at a time. Make sure each egg is incorporated completely before adding the next one.
4. At this step you can make the the gnocchi immediately or you can put a warm towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for a few hours until you are ready to put the dish together.
5. Boiling the the gnocchi is simple and easy. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure it is salted properly.
6. Station yourself next to the stove with the bowl of dough and two tablespoons. Scoop the dough with one spoon and scrape of the dough into the water with the other spoon. The dough balls do not have to be perfect, just sort of uniformly shaped.
7. Allow the gnocchi to boil until they float to the top. Once the float continue to cook them three to four more minutes. Do this step in batches, adding to much gnocchi dough to the water will bring down the temperature.
8 Scoop out the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on a clean, dry kitchen towel. They should be soft and fluffy. At this point you could put the gnocchi on a cookie sheet and cool them until you are ready to assemble the final dish.
Putting it all together:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. In a buttered 8 quart casserole dish, place a scoop of the béchamel sauce. Then add the gnocchi. Cover with the remaining béchamel sauce. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the casserole and dot with remaining two tablespoons of butter.
3. Place in oven and bake until all the elements are heated through. The cheese should be browned and gooey. If the cheese isn’t browning fast enough use the broiler.