I have not been looking forward to writing this entry. Jody Adams may have broken our losing streak by becoming the first featured Master Meals chef to make it to the Champions round, but Nathan and I were less successful back in his kitchen. This was easily the worst thing we've cooked all year, including our blue cheese sauce disaster.
The recipe was for homemade gnocchi with mushroom fricassee, and it looked straightforward enough. Sure, I'd heard that making gnocchi can be pretty tricky, but I had done my research and I thought I had a pretty solid grasp of the process.
Unfortunately, a theoretical understanding of making gnocchi will only take you so far, and we fell more than a little short in the execution. Instead of light, fluffy potato-y pillows, our gnocchi were dense, doughy bricks. It was quite a disappointment. I think that making good gnocchi is probably one of those things that you have to just develop over time, because I couldn't tell you what went wrong. My only thoughts are that I may have over kneaded the dough, and that it would have been lighter had I added more flour. The Jody Adams recipe used about twice as much potato as compared to flour than the other two recipes I was using as a reference.
Anyway, I won't pretend to give you any gnocchi tips, as I could use some good ones myself. I will, however, tell you a bit more about the mushroom fricassee, which was quite delicious and was the only reason I was able to stomach as much of the gnocchi as I did. We sliced and browned a whole pound of button and portabello mushrooms in some butter. We had to do this in two batches so as to not crowd the mushrooms, (a Julia Child tip). Then we removed them from the pan and sauteed up a shallot and a clove of garlic with more butter until soft. Then we tossed the mushrooms back in with a half a cup of marsala wine and let that reduce to a nice glaze. The recipe also called for fresh thyme, but we did without.
On its own, this mushroom fricassee would have been great. Adams poured reduced heavy cream over her gnocchi and spread the mushrooms, chopped tomatoes and parmesan cheese on top to bake. We used canned chopped tomatoes, which actually worked fine-- it was the gnocchi that were the real problem. They were just a leaden mess, and soaking in all the cream probably didn't help any either. Sprinkled with parsley, though, they actually looked pretty good. As we sadly learned, however, appearances can be deceiving.
not bad looking gnocchi