Hitchcock’s Baked Gnocchi with Creamed Nettles
April 23, 2015, By Brendan McGill
- 3 pounds Russet potatoes
- 2 Camp 4 duck eggs or X-large chicken eggs
- 2 cups flour
- to taste
- nutmeg to taste
- white pepper to taste
- 1 pound wild nettles foraged on the island or Peninsula (or purchased at the Bainbridge Farmers' Market)
- 2 shallots fine dice
- 1 pat butter
- 1 pint heavy cream
- to taste
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- grated parmesan
- lemon zest
- Make the gnocchi dough - simmer potatoes in water gently for about 45 minutes. Remove from water, peel off skin, and while still warm, push through a ricer or food mill. Lay your milled potato out on a clean, flat surface.
- Make a small well in the middle of the potatoes, and crack your duck eggs into the middle. Using a microplane, grate a "suspicion" of nutmeg over the potatoes, season gently with a few pinches of salt and a couple turns of your white pepper grinder.
- Sprinkle the flour evenly over the top of the potatoes. Using gloves (this is still quite warm) gently break the eggs and bring the dough together, at first pushing the potato, flour & eggs together gently until a kneadable mass forms, then gently knead for a few turns so that you have a pliable, slightly tacky dough.
- Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut off a piece about the size of your fist. Roll this dough into a long "snake," about 3/4" across, then dock the snake into uniform pieces, equally wide as the snake.
- Using a fork or a gnocchi board, place the gnocchi cut side down on the tines, then "roll" it down the tines, pressing deep grooves into the dough and making a nice gnocchi. Toss these finished gnocchi onto a sheet pan that is dusted generously with flour.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then toss in the gnocchi to boil in small batches. They will float to the surface - take one out and bite it to make sure it is cooked through - then when they are ready, use a spider to pull them out of the water and lay them out on a roasting rack. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil across the cooked gnocchi and allow to cool by an open window.
- It is important to wear gloves when handling the stinging nettles - pick the leaves and tender shoots off of the stalky stems.
- Bring a pot of fresh water to a boil and blanch the nettles therein for about 30 seconds and remove. Refresh water and repeat. Pull fully cooked nettles from the second blanching, place in a strainer, and press gently to remove excess moisture. The blanching water can and should be reserved to be enjoyed as a healthful tea, which is also delicious iced.
- In a saucepan, melt a pat of butter and introduce your nicely diced shallots. Once translucent ("sweated") add the nettles. Using a wooden spoon, stir and incorporate with the butter and shallots. Finally, add cream, and turn to a low simmer. Add your thyme. Let the cream reduce by 1/4. Season with salt to taste.
- Start a warm pan with a little butter. Add cooked gnocchi to the gently browned butter, and quickly saute the gnocchi for a golden brown exterior.
- Toss in a few diced shallots and allow to caramelize slightly. Once you're there, add a ladle of your creamed nettles. If needed, adjust consistency with a little water, so that your gnocchi are swimming in a nice tight sauce.
- Plate directly in a bowl, on top of which you'll shave some parmesan or other hard, cured cheese, and sprinkle some breadcrumbs.
- Throw this under your broiler (or in our case into a hot wood-fired oven) and allow the top to gratin. Once everything is golden and browned, remove from the boiler, present on a charger, and garnish with freshly grated lemon zest and fresh cut chives.