Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Springtime gnocchi

Every Saturday at the market, there's an unassuming little trailer that pulls up with Pâtes Fraîches et Farcies, or "fresh and filled pasta" on the side in some pretty plain lettering. As you can see, the trailer is not much to look at, especially compared to the fancy (but corporate-looking) pasta tent a couple aisles over with ten kinds of ravioli and a silvery-tongued hawker, but its fabrication artisanal, or "hand made" pasta, and especially its gnocchi will delight.

Seeing the trailer on Saturday mornings makes my mouth water a little because the gnocchi is just that good. Actually, I should say the gnocchi are just that good because the cart's owner (inside the trailer in the picture) makes both potato and semolina.

So, I know that gnocchi aren't hard to make. I've made them quite a few times, and with the exception of one disasterous batch of potato gnocchi that pretty much dissolved when they hit the water, they've been quite good if I do say so myself. But the gnocchi lady's gnocchi are special, especially the potato ones. They are always little pillows of tender goodness. They taste great with every kind of sauce we've ever put on them, but they're so good right out of the bag -- yes, before you've cooked them, but not that you'd want to eat more than one or two! -- that we had the idea of frying them. Mmmm...

Looking around online, I found this recipe. Our version:

Fried gnocchi with lardons and spring vegetables

750 g. unshelled favas
cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 pints?)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
150 g. smoked lardons (or bacon)
2 large shallots (in France they look like smallish, oblong onions), chopped
500 g. potato gnocchi
salt + pepper

In case you didn't read the link to the recipe above (and you don't already know -- I didn't until I read it), after you shuck the favas you need to remove their pale green inner shell. Boil the shucked beans for a couple of minutes, drain and rinse in cold water. The beautiful bright green favas can easily be popped out of the inner shell. Put the favas in a large bowl and set aside.

Sauté the cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil and garlic for a few minutes, remove from pan and put in the bowl with the favas. Wipe out the pan and heat some olive oil until it's good an hot. Add the lardons and cook until they're nicely browned on their edges. Remove the lardons to a paper towel, but leave any remaining oil/fat in the pan. Once they've drained a bit, throw them in with the favas and tomatoes. Sauté the shallots until a few are just starting to brown on the edges. Remove shallots to fava-tomato-lardon bowl and give it a quick stir to mix things.

Wipe out the pan and heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the gnocchi until golden brown on one side, then flip and fry until golden on other side. Depending on the shape of your gnocchi, you may just be able to cook two sides, if they're less flattened, maybe you can brown them all over.

When gnocchi are ready, add the "sauce", toss and serve with chopped mint sprinkled on top.

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