Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Food Traditions (Gnudi & Mushrooms)

Several years ago, Keith arrived at my doorstep, most recent issue of Bon Appetit in hand, with plans to make a most fabulous dish for dinner: Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushrooms. After many more hours than we'd expected of preparation, we sat down to what may be the world's most perfect late fall/winter meal. We've made it at least once each fall since then, and we realized this weekend, as I was suggesting that we make a nice meal in, that we hadn't yet made it this year. Dinner plans acquired.


If you take a look at the recipe, you'll see that this isn't a meal you make at the last minute. We'd taken some shortcuts in the past and decided this time we'd let the dish shine by following the instructions to a tee (spoiler: we still didn't follow the instructions to a tee). We gave the gnudi dough a chance to rest fully overnight, so we didn't get to eat this until last night, not so much a "weekend dinner" anymore (though both of us are still on winter break from school). If you make this, I can't recommend strongly enough that you give the gnudi a good rest - it makes a huge difference in texture, and in the amount of dough that gets shed in the simmering water. It would also be helpful to cook the broth the night before. With those two steps taken care of, this can easily be on the table in an hour - no 30 minute meal, but still, not bad.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe, and nothing you need to change to improve it. However, there are a few things you could change, if you see fit, with no harm done:

  • Low-fat ricotta works just as well as whole milk in the gnudi
  • Slice the shallots very thinly, and just leave them in the broth - why throw away shallots?
  • Feel free to skip the butter at the end. Don't get me wrong, the butter-enriched broth is lovely, but it's still a wonderful dish without, and four tablespoons of butter is a lot of calories, especially for those of us on an ohshucks diet.
  • If you save some of this for later, only cook as many gnudi as you need to serve at one time. And don't just toss the chard stems in with the broth in the fridge. The red pigment will drain out of them leaving them pale and pink and the broth oddly sanguine. Everything still tastes fine, but a dish like this deserves to be served at its prettiest, even on leftover day.

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