Apparently, recipes have always been my thing. When I was little, I enjoyed reading cooking magazines more than Owl or Chickadee. In grade 3, I told my class I wanted to be the food editor of Canadian Living magazine when everyone else wanted to be nurses and firemen and princesses. When I was old enough to babysit, I’d spend those evenings flipping through people’s cookbook collections - it was a jackpot night when I stumbled upon an old recipe box to bring to the couch while I watched Fantasy Island. I’ve always been curious about what people eat.
So I still have 4 recipe boxes full of recipe cards I hand wrote or typed out on my electric typewriter when I was a kid-slash-teenager. Willem has recently discovered them, and thinks they are the funnest toys ever. (It used to be the stacks of business cards in my file cabinet that were the funnest, but these cards are bigger.) He likes to take them out one by one and then bring them to me. Wahoo! Who needs that big wooden train set or Mr. Potato Head?
I think the events that transpired yesterday could be classified as serendipitous. I noticed while rooting through the fridge that the two containers of ricotta I bought for some reason a month ago and never used were on the verge of expiring, and ricotta ain’t cheap. But what was I going to do with 4 cups of ricotta? I didn’t have enough other stuff to make lasagna, and while Nigella’s ricotta donuts would have been fabulous (I can’t find the link on my blog… it’s there somewhere, otherwise look in Feast), making them at home for just the three of us wouldn’t have been a good idea at all.
So yesterday afternoon W brought me a recipe card, and on it was a formula for ricotta gnocchi. This is one of few recipe cards that has stuck in my mind. I remember not knowing what gnocchi was when I typed it, but it sounded like something I needed to learn. This was gnocchi you roasted in the oven, drizzling with melted butter and Parmesan cheese as you rolled them around on the cookie sheet until they turned golden and crispy all over. To this day, every time the subject of gnocchi comes up, or I see it on a restaurant menu, I think of that recipe, which I never did actually make. Until today.
It was supposed to be last night’s dinner. I quickly stirred an egg, some flour and Parmesan into the ricotta, and then noticed the mixture needed to sit for 2 hours. So it sat in the fridge for 24, and this morning I floured my hands and rolled them into little balls while Willem ate his oatmeal. The mixture was very soft despite my addition of extra flour, but that’s OK; although it was impossible to roll the dough into a rope, cut it into pieces and then roll each piece on the tines of a fork to create the traditional gnocchi shape, they made perfect little round ricotta dumplings. I imagine they would be fantastic dropped onto the surface of a simmering chicken stew – perhaps tomato-based – to cook in the broth and flavorful steam trapped under the lid.
And since I had enough chicken drumsticks and thighs to feed an army (or a radio newsroom the Friday morning before Super Bowl Sunday) I threw a few extra into my cast iron skillet, drizzled with oil, salt and pepper, and stuck it on the oven shelf above the gnocchi. Putting away the groceries I discovered a few depressed brussels sprouts, so halved them and scattered them around the chicken as it roasted, which I was happy to discover produced a plethora of crispy bits.
1 lb. (2 cups) ricotta cheese (regular or light)
1-2 eggs (the original recipe called for 2, but I only had 1 left)
1/2 cup grated mozarella or 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup flour
Butter, oil and Parmesan cheese for roasting
Stir together all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
Lightly shake some flour over the countertop and onto your hands, and roll the mixture into 1″ balls; place them on a floured cookie sheet, cover and pop in the fridge for an hour or 8, if you don’t want to cook them right away. (I imagine they would also freeze very well.)
Preheat the oven to 400F and boil a large pot of water. Drop the gnocchi in about 8 at a time (depending on the size of your pot – you just don’t want to crowd it) and boil for 3-4 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, and put them on a rimmed cookie sheet.
Drizzle with melted butter and/or canola oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Roast in the oven, turning occasionally and sprinkling with more cheese (or drizzling with more butter or oil) if you like, until crunchy and golden.