Friday, March 21, 2014

Cheddar Gnocchi With Brown Butter and Spicy Spring Greens

Here’s a recipe for gnocchi with Irish cheddar. Cloaked in brown butter, they work charmingly well with the first greens of the season, especially spicy ones like watercress and arugula. Yes, you can substitute Parmesan, but cheddar gives the gnocchi an earthy sharpness that lends itself well to the brown butter and the greens. We had them at Jim’s first Chef’s Dinners, series. Next Chef Dinner is coming up on April 18.

Irish Cheddar Gnocchi
2 large russet potatoes, washed
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup aged Irish cheddar cheese, such as Dubliner
1 egg yolk
¼ cup melted butter (preferably Irish such as Kerrygold)

Roast the potatoes in a 350 degree oven until tender enough to fork and set aside to cool. When the potatoes are cool cut in half, remove the inside with a spoon and discard the skins. Run the potatoes through a ricer or mash thoroughly with a potato masher.

Combine with flour and cheese. Mix until incorporated. Fold in the butter and egg yolk and knead the dough by hand. Be careful not to over-knead-stop when just smooth. Let the dough rest wrapped in plastic for at least thirty minutes in a cool area or the refrigerator.

To cook the gnocchi: unwrap the dough and put it on a large cutting board or clean counter. Cut off pieces and roll them into long ropes about the width of a cigar. Cut each roll into small bite-size pieces and dust them with a little flour to keep them from sticking together. (Traditionally the pieces are rolled off the back of a fork, giving them an authentic shape, but they do not need to be.)

Arrange the gnocchi in one layer about ¼-inch apart on a lightly floured pan. Let stand one hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. (At this point they can be frozen for up to one week. If you choose to freeze them, put them in the freezer on the pan in one layer until they are frozen solid. Then move them into a ziplock bag until ready to cook. Cook them frozen.)

To cook: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Working in small batches, cook gnocchi in  boiling water until gnocchi rise to top and are tender, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to large baking pan.

To serve:
Spicy greens, washed and cut to bite-size if needed
Salt and pepper
A drizzle of red wine vinegar

Before serving, heat up a few tablespoon of  brown butter in a pan. Add the cooked gnocchi and shake the pan until the gnocchi are coated in butter. Divide into four individual plates. Take the pan off of the heat, add the greens, and toss with the remaining butter. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and mound next to the gnocchi. If you wish, drizzle a little red wine vinegar on the greens.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Irish-Italian Fusion Corned Beef Recipe

Whole beef shanks are rarely used in the US, but they are popular in Italy. That’s why I decided to use them in my corned beef. They fuse together my two culinary legacies:  the Irish one the one I was born into, and the Italian one I’ve adopted.
I’d never brined shanks before, but it made sense to me because they’re very flavorful and take well to braising.
I got the shanks whole, deboned them (see note) and brined them over four weeks.
A couple of days before I serve my shanks I will cook them with more spices, garlic, onion and water and wait for the drum roll!!

Beef Shanks Being Cured at Tre Piani
4 lbs. kosher salt
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
12 cups coriander seeds
12 juniper berries
24 black peppercorns
12 red peppercorns
18 allspice berries
8 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
About 5 lbs. beef shanks

Brine the beef:
In a large, lidded pot, bring 4-1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and sugar and bring back to a boil.
Tie the spices in a piece of cheesecloth and add to the boiling water. Boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then remove from the heat, pour in 6 cups of ice-cold water, and let cool to room temperature.
Add the meat and bay leaves to the brine, making sure the meat is completely immersed, and cover tightly. Refrigerate 4 days for brisket or up to 2 weeks for a whole top round roast and 4 weeks for shanks. Turn every so often.

To cook:
3 Tbs. pickling spice
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves  
2 onions, halved
5 large cloves garlic, smashed

Tie pickling spice and peppercorn in a cheesecloth.
Place a large stockpot on the stove and put in the corned beef. Add cheesecloth, onion, garlic, bay leaves and several quarts of water (at least enough to comfortably cover the meat). Bring the water to a boil. Then, turn down the temperature and allow the corned beef to simmer for about 4 hours or until it is nearly fork-tender.

  • Whole deboned shanks are hard to come by. Order them at local farms such Beechtree Farm or Brick Farm Market. Be sure to order the shanks well in advance.
  • Beef shanks are best the day after they are cooked. Braise them and then let them cool in the braising liquid. Reheat them before serving.
  • You can also make this recipe with top roast or brisket.
  • To preserve the beef’s color you can use a little bit of curing salt.