I find that February is an ideal time to hold a dinner party in Chicago. The busyness of the holidays has past, the snow and cold have a firm hold on the city and people are eager to share a warm meal. In that spirit, I had the delight of sharing a meal with some friends on Friday. The menu included some new and old favorites, including my favorite homemade bread (which my friend Dan passed along last year), Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette (which I discovered in November), and a new recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Classic Tomato Sauce. The gnocchi comes from the Essentials of Italian cookbook. I made and froze the sauce a week in advance and merely assisted in rolling, cutting the gnocchi on Friday. I loved the way the gnocchi looked lined up on the baking sheets and wanted to photograph them, share the recipe, and wish you many a cozy winter dinner in 2011!
1 lb small baking potatoes, unpeeled
1 large egg
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
To make the gnocchi, in a saucepan, combine the potatoes with water to cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly. Peel the potatoes and then pass them through a ricer or a food mill fitted with the fine disk held over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the potatoes out on the sheet and let cool. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the salt. Drizzle over the potatoes, then sprinkle the 3/4 cup flour over the egg. Mix together gently by hand, being careful not to overwork the dough, until the flour is incorporated. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times until just smooth, adding a little more flour if needed to arrive at a dough that is not sticky yet is still moist. Set the dough aside, and scape the work surface clean, discarding any bits of dough.
Lightly dust 2 rimmed baking sheets and the work surface. Cut the dough into 4 pieces, cover 3 pieces with an overturned bowl, and put the remaining piece on the floured surface. Using your palms, rool the dough into a long rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the rope crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces. Pace the gnocchi onto the prepared pans, being careful they don't touch. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough pieces.
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and then drop in the gnocchi a few at a time so they do not lump together. Cook, stirring once or twice, until they rise to the surface, about 3 minutes.
Classic Tomato Sauce
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 lb fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 can plum (Roma tomatoes, drained and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are very tender, about 15 minutes. If necessary, reduce the heat slightly to prevent browning. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the tomato juices have evaporated, about an hour.
Taste and adjust seasoning. For a chunkier sauce, remove from the heat and use as is; for a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender or transfer the sauce to a food processor to puree the sauce to the desired consistency. Use immediately, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months.
What are you favorite cozy winter cuisine?