Daring Cooks' Challenge: Ricotta Gnocchi

It seems the Daring Bakers have decided look beyond their ovens and hit the stovetop. Yes, we now have Daring Cooks out there, each ready and willing to tackle a monthly challenge. For the inaugural challenge, Lis and Ivonne, the founders of Daring Bakers, and now Daring Cooks (which have joined forces in the Daring Kitchen) have decided on Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.

I am a huge fan of gnocchi, whether potato, semolina (double yum) or ricotta. So this challenge was a great pleasure to take to. On top of it all, I saw this as an opportunity to revive my currently defunct (but never forgotten) tribute to cheese, Serious Cheese. While I can't say that was successful (you haven't seen any new posts lately, have you?), it did get me thinking about how much I've missed making cheese.

Making ricotta is quite simple. It is the first cheese I ever made, way back when before I really even seriously dabbled in cheesemaking. It doesn't require any fancy equipment or ingredients, just milk, acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) and heat. Oh, you will need some cheesecloth; but there are so many more uses for cheesecloth than cheese alone, and it's reusable, so a little goes a long way.

As for the ricotta gnocchi, they too are quite easy; here the trick is starting with a well-drained ricotta (Ms. Rodgers suggests testing the ricotta by placing a teaspoon or so on a paper towel; if after a few minutes you notice a large ring of dampness around the ricotta, it will need to be drained further). Beyond that, it could be that the most complicated part of this recipe is shaping the dumplings themselves.

While the recipe called for hands as the tool for the job, I chose to go with spoons. Okay, I'm gonna get all French on you now: quenelles. While many of you, I'm sure, know what a quenelle is, allow me to educate those who don't. Traditionally, a quenelle is a poached dumpling based on a forcemeat (finely ground mixture, typically of fish or meat), shaped into a three-sided oval using two spoons. More often than not, in the present, a quenelle refers to the oval shape itself, not the ingredients being manipulated.

Rooted in classical French cuisine, I'm sure you could imagine making a quenelle is no easy task. And I don't recommend you go into this quenelle thing thinking they'll look like they should, either. After some practice I'm still, well, practicing. But I can tell you it's worth the try; broaden your horizons and at the very least, you'll get beautiful dumplings, with or without sides.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese recipe via Serious Cheese

Please check out Lis or Ivonne's blogs to get the full recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

No comments: