Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Gnocchi with Spring Lamb Ragu
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Spring Lamb Ragu
• 1 pound ground lamb or hand-cut in cubes
• 1 medium-sized onion, diced
• A 4-inch sticks celery, diced
• 3-inch piece carrot, diced
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 ounce pancetta, diced
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
• 4 leaves sage, minced
• The leaves from a 3-inch sprig of rosemary (about 1 teaspoon, minced)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 pound canned plum tomatoes, put through a food mill
• 1/2 cup red wine (Cabernet, Red Zinfandel etc.)
• 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup cold water
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound potato gnocchi
• 3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
• In a medium-size sauce pan heat butter and olive oil for 2 minutes, and add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, rosemary and pancetta. This particular method is called “soffritto”, the base for a very good ragu’.
Gently sauté the mixture for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally; do not let it brown.
• Add the ground lamb and increase the flame; brown it for about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and continue cooking over a lively flame; when it is almost completely evaporated sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of flour, stirring to keep lumps from forming, and then stir in the tomatoes and water. Season lightly with black pepper, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for at least an hour and a half, adding more hot water if necessary to keep the sauce from drying out.
• When the sauce is almost done, boil water for the gnocchi. Stir the sauce into the pasta and serve it with the grated Pecorino.
Potato gnocchi are easy, fun, and delicious dumplings. This recipe uses no egg—a method that results in a lighter, more delicate product.
• 1 1/2 lbs. boiling potatoes (Yukon gold suggested)
• 1 -1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
• Salt to taste
• Scrub potato clean and put in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Add enough salt to make the water taste salty. Cook the potatoes uncovered, until tender all the way through, about 20 minutes after the water has come to a boil. (Insert a fork through the potato to check doneness).
• Drain potatoes and let cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle but still warm, use a paring knife to scrape off and discard the skins. Push potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl or mash with a large fork or potato masher thoroughly.
• Stir in flour - it will seem like it won't combine at first, but keep working it - eventually it will become a smooth, play dough-like dough.
• Divide dough into four parts and work with one section at a time. Roll a section of dough into a long, inch-thick snake on a well floured surface. Cut this thin log into bite-size (1/2- to 3/4- inches) pieces.
• Take each dumpling and push it down the tines of a fork with your thumb, letting it drop onto a floured surface at the end. It should have tine marks on one side and a thumbprint on the other. This motion will take a few gnocchi to practice to get down, but then is quite easy. Arrange gnocchi on a very well floured baking sheet or tray. Repeat with remaining dough.
• Gnocchi can sit, covered loosely, at room temperature for several hours. Or, loosely cover and refrigerate overnight. (For longer storage, place the gnocchi on a baking tray and freeze them. Once they are frozen, transfer gnocchi to a resalable plastic bag and keep frozen until ready to boil for up to six months.)
• When ready to cook dumplings, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add only as many gnocchi as can comfortably cover the surface of the water. They will sink immediately. Give them a quick but thorough stir. Within about a minute they will float to the surface. Let them cook 10 to 20 seconds on the surface and then remove them with a slotted spoon. Place gnocchi on a warm serving platter and repeat with remaining gnocchi. Toss with lamb ragu’ and serve immediately topped with a generous dusting of Pecorino cheese.
Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." www.chefwalter.com / http://www.chefwalter.blog.com/
Related Slideshow: 5 New Food Trends to Try in 2014
Upscale Chefs go "Downscale"
It's an incredible expense of time and money to be among the best chefs around. All of those high-end ingredients cost an arm and leg and the pressure to stay on top is enormous. Most cooks began learning at the feet of their older relatives--moms and dads; grandmas and grandpas. It's this food that calls them back. We see local Chef Jake Rojas rejoice in dropping the tweezers and cooking those SoCal family recipes he grew up eating. Local faves Thames Street Kitchen embarked on a burger concept this year and Providence icon Chez Pascal has its "Wurst Window" serving homemade sausage and comfort food. They're upscale food is wonderful, but this might be their best!
More Gluten Free Options
As we continue to pay the "processed food" price, our nation's food allergies continue to soar. Restaurants have been on the forefront of the movement towards options that take these allergies into account. The gluten allergy has taken the fore as bread and pasta and coated French fries became the first food victims of this allergy. Local establishments such as the Grange have taken gluten free to new heights with terrific vegetarian offerings. On the Hill, Pane e Vino has got an almost 40-item menu of gluten free options. It features everything an Italian meal could need without the worry.
Vietnamese as the "Go-To" Asian Cuisine
Every year it seems as though America "discovers" a new Asian country's food and gets hooked. This year it's the foods of Vietnam. Vietnamese food and ingredients have been a part of local Asian food for years now, but this time it stands on its own. Vietnam's food is highlighted by fresh, simple ingredients treated respectfully and flavorfully. Broths and noodles; lightly cooked meats and fresh vegetables all combine in a balanced meal. Locally we love Pho Horn in Pawtucket and Minh Hai in Cranston. Both are very good local versions of this wonderful cuisine.
Look...here's the problem with us Americans: we only eat the mild stuff. The muscle meat. It's chicken breast and tenderloin and striped bass filets. The problem with this style of eating is what it does to our ecosystem. Local fishermen used to be able to catch a bounty of swordfish BETWEEN the mainland and Block Island, now it's a day's trip to find them. Local chefs and fishermen are working diligently to bring back the mackerel and the sardine and the scup. Fish we have long since forgotten, but helped our forefathers thrive. Check out any of our top-notch "farm to table" spots--Persimmon in Bristol or Farmstead in Providence for example--to try a forgotten yet delicious fish.
As with most things food and beverage, the last 10 years have seen a move towards "smaller is better". Big box stores are gone and chain restaurants are suffering locally. It was only a matter of time until these ideas began making their way into our cocktails and boy are we psyched to see what the future holds. Locally we have Sons of Liberty in South Kingstown, producing small-batch whiskey, single malts and, even vodka. Our state features Coastal Extreme Brewery which makes Thomas Tew rum along with their Newport Storm beer. We've only gotten back into the distilling business here in Rhode Island in 2006 but we think tasty things are coming soon!
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Aquacotta Toscana
- Chef Walter Potenza, Cooking School Win Grana Padano Award
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Coconut Macaroons
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Asparagus alla Milanese
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Polenta Crusted Atlantic Cod
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Barbajada Chocolate Drink
- NEW: RI Chef Walter Potenza to Cook for Pope Francis
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Concia of Vegetables
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Melanzane alla Parmigiana
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Scrippelle M’Busse
- Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Spinaci all’Ebraica