Let me just start by saying how disappointed I am to not posses the technology for smell-o-vision, or wireless taste buds. No picture I can take will be able to do this dish justice. We had our neighbors over for dinner and I decided to go a little over the top with this dish. I originally started with the concept of using homemade potato gnocchi for a baked “mac & cheese” style dish. It took a turn towards ridiculiciousness when I stumbled upon some black summer truffles at the market.
I wouldn’t recommend making this dish with store-bought gnocchi, which tends to be overly dense and heavy. The trick is in light and airy homemade gnocchi that doesn’t leave you feeling like you ate a bowl of cement. To make things easier on yourself, you can make the gnocchi ahead of time and freeze it.
The main elements of this dish are potato gnocchi, a mushroom cream sauce (with sautéed mushrooms and shaved black truffle), shredded cheese (I used a sharp farmhouse cheddar and parmesan) and Japanese panko breadcrumbs. I’ll go through some quick instructions on how to make both the cream sauce and the gnocchi, and then run through putting together the complete dish.
Homemade Potato Gnocchi
I have made gnocchi both with and without egg. I used an egg in this instance to get a little extra flavor from the yolk. A necessary piece of equipment for a proper gnocchi is a potato ricer (pictured below), which will keep the potatoes light and fluffy. I prefer this triangular version which puts less pressure on the potatoes and keeps them lighter.
- 4 Starchy Potatoes ( about 1 medium-sized per person)
- About 2 cups flour (This amount will vary widely, but just make sure you have enough to add more as needed)
- 1 Egg
- 1 tsp. Salt
- Shaved black truffle (optional)
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into evenly sized pieces. Place in a pot with salted water as if making mashed potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until they are soft throughout.
- Strain the potatoes in a colander and allow to sit for 3-5 minutes, which will allow them to cool enough to handle and let most of the water evaporate.
- Pass the potatoes through the ricer into a wide bowl and taste for salt.
- Form a well in the center of the potatoes and crack the egg inside. If using truffles, add thinly shaved truffle to the mix and about 1 cup of flour.
- Use a fork to whip the egg in the center, gradually incorporating the potato and flour into a light dough. The trick here is to add just enough flour so that the dough isn’t sticky, but only whipping lightly with the fork so it doesn’t turn to glue.
- Use a large spoon to scoop a portion of the dough onto a floured surface and form the dough into a fat cylinder.
- Begin at the center of the dough and use your palms to lightly roll the dough into a long cylinder. One way to keep it uniform if you are having trouble rolling the dough, is to alternate between lightly pressing the dough down, and then pinching it until you the dough is roughly the size of your thumb.
- Use a bench-scraper or a knife to cut the gnocchi into evenly sized pieces and use the tines of a fork to press ‘dimples’ into each gnocchi.
- Use the fork to gently lift the gnocchi onto a tray with parchment that has been lightly dusted with flour or semolina.
- Place the tray in the freezer for a few minutes to help them firm up. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, drop them into a pot of water and cook at a rolling boil. Removing the gnocchi as they rise to the surface. Be careful to add the gnocchi in batches, as adding them all at once will drop the temperature of the water sharply and cause the gnocchi to fall apart.
Mushroom Cream Sauce
This part of the dish requires you to do two things at once: sauteing the mushrooms and simmering the cream. It’s not too difficult, but has a few moving parts to keep track of.
- Mixed Mushrooms (save stems for cream sauce)
- Black truffle (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- Fresh Thyme
- 2-3 Bay Leaves
- Black Peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. Butter
- 1 qt. Heavy or Double Cream
- Begin by combining the cream, mushroom stems, fresh thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves in a small pot over low heat. Bring to a simmer and maintain a simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
- Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sliced garlic and truffle, sautéing for 2-3 minutes or until the edges of the garlic start to brown.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss with the garlic and truffle. Cook the mushrooms for several minutes until they start to brown. Once the mushrooms are cooked (about 3-5 minutes), you can shut or lower the heat and drain any excess butter from the pan.
- Strain the cream sauce through a mesh sieve and add to the pan with the mushrooms.
- Heat the cream to a simmer and reduce until it reaches a consistency that will coat the back of a spoon.
Assembling the Dish
This part is easy. Make sure you have some oven-safe baking dishes, and that your oven is preheated to about 375° F (190° C).
- Japanese Breadcrumbs (Panko)
- Shredded Cheddar and Parmesan (mixed)
- Chives (for garnish)
- Use a spoon or ladle to coat the bottom of your baking dish with some of the cream sauce. Then add the gnocchi and cover with the rest of the sauce.
- Cover with with a thick coating of the mixed cheeses and then the breadcrumb.
- Bake in the oven until the breadcrumbs are golden and the sauce is bubbling.