A little belated, but here is Kitchen Culture blog #2. My dinner-cook this week was on Tuesday, so yes, I am running 6 days behind. But that’s ok, because I think I’m still recovering from this dinner-cook.
I am actually not exaggerating when I say that this night’s dinner was actually the hardest, most intense dinner cook in my personal CoOp experience.
Why was this week’s cooking so hard, you ask?
2 words: Homemade. Pasta.
It’s always labor/time-intensive. But it’s even more so when you’re making pasta for 28 people.
Here’s the menu for the night.
Are you ready for this? Do you have your apron on? Hands are washed?
Ok. First things first: boil the water. Because on this day, I found out that it takes over half an hour to boil 4 gallons of water.
Next, wash the potatoes.
And then once the water’s boiling, plunk the potatoes in and cook them for 20~30 minutes, until they’re easily forkable.
While the potatoes are doin’ their thing, it’s best to work on other things.
Like peeling sweet potatoes. When you peel these (and you care about how they look after they’re cooked), make sure to peel to the 2nd layer of darker orange flesh. If you only peel to the pale orange layer, the sweet potatoes will get black spots when you cook them. But if you don’t care, then just go right on ahead and dice them up.
And the onions too.
And since you’re in the chopping mood, you might want to slice and toast some almonds.
Mix the 2 vegetables together in a roasting pan, and toss them olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and orange juice (the recipe says amaretto, but we didn’t have any of that, so I just added a little OJ to bring out the sweetness).
The almonds are going to get added after everything is done roasting. Cover the pans up with foil, bake at 400F for 30 minutes, then take of the foil and bake them for another 20 minutes.
While those are cooking, check on the potatoes to see if they’re fully cooked. If they are, drain them and let them cool – just enough so that you can handle them. You have to peel them, but the skins should come right off.
Once the taters are peeled, you have to rice them. A ricer is a huge funnel-looking thing with a grating at the bottom and a crank; it grates the potatoes really finely, while simultaneously aerating them. Unfortunately, the CoOp doesn’t have one of these, so I just grated them and then fluffed them with a fork.
Then I added the flour, eggs, and salt, and kneaded until the dough came together. The potatoes have a lot of water in them, so you might have to keep sprinkling flour in until the dough gets nice and elastic.
(This picture is of the dough when it’s still a little wet).
Once the dough is together, you’ll want to clear a counterspace, dust it and your hands with flour, and get started on making the gnocchi. Tear off a fist-sized chunk, and roll it lengthwise until it’s about a half-inch in diameter.
Remember doing this in kindergarten with Play-Dough? Yeah, you do. Little did you know that you’re modeling clay skills would be so useful one day.
Get a bench scraper and cut off inch-long pillows of fluffy potato pasta.
Once you have a line of gnocchi cut up, you want to create the gnocchi lines. Although there are gnocchi line-making tools out there, we did this by holding a fork backwards and rolling the gnocchi off the tongs, creating little ridges that’ll hold the sauce.
When there’s a good-sized batch of gnocchi made, dump them into a pot of water and cook them until they start floating to the surface.
Shock them in cold water to stop the gnocchi from cooking any further, and put them in a pan with a little olive oil (to prevent stickage) until you’re ready to add them to the sauce.
But of course, the sauce isn’t ready yet. While the whole gnocchi assembly line was in progress, the sage butter sauce is just getting started.
For the sauce, chop up a full bunch of sage..
And add it to a pan of melted butter with some finely minced garlic.
When the butter is almost done browning, the solids will turn brown, and there will be a mouth-watering, nutty aroma smell wafting from the pan. When that starts happening, throw in the cooked gnocchi and let it brown, adding some of the Parm and s&p.
(P.S. Do you guys like the red arrows and white labels?)
Mm.. Toss the little potato pillows around so they get evenly browned and well-coated with sage butteriness.
Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? But imagine doing this 3 times. While making the gnocchi. And the side dish. And the salad. Even with 3 people, it’s not easy.
But the result was delicious. So all the sweat, blood, and tears were worth it.
Kudos to my fellow dinner-cooks Katrina and Jessie.
Because while this was the hardest dinner-cook yet, I also think it’s one of the most delicious.
Who wants to come over for dinner?