Travellust.


Gnocchi A La Niçoise, what’s not to love? (..And a note on eating in the industry)
1 June, 2007, 2:03 am
Filed under: Savory

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I love a day off from work. While some people, more than others, have the time to cook dinner after work, permitting you have a 9-5, I am only able to do so when I have a day off. Being a server in a restaurant requires that I work as many as eight shifts a week, three days of which are typically doubles. This means that typical eating pattern such as three times a day doesn’t really work. My first shift starts at eleven, breakfast is usually at nine, with lunch following at a very late 3 p.m. The dinner shift is only an hour later, so lunch is a shared two-parter with dinner, typically the other half of sandwich or salad. This is why I am so fond of European “time”, and the concrete fact that shops close and lunch is at least an hour affair. It allows not only for downtime, but also for relaxation and the ability to sit and enjoy your food (insert very nice park scene and book here). But, this is the way of American “time” and certainly that of the food and beverage industry. Perhaps the one perk of it all is that on my days off, cooking is not only an event, but also sheer luxury, and today was one of those days.

While it seems odd to want to labor over a hot stove in the hot city-center heat, it is exactly what I wanted to do. It also served a dual purpose: relaxation for me, and dinner for J, who was working at the restaurant.

There are several reasons why I love this dish. One, it’s from Thomas Keller, who has a dear appreciation for all food, bistro. Second, because it is simple and clean. But, the reason that I find myself taking the time, and yes it requires at least a couple of hours, to make this dish is that it is so versatile. The ingredients are easily found, inexpensive, and interchangeable with what is in season or readily available (please see the bottom vegetable and herb bins in your fridge).

This much loved pasta dates back to the 1300s, with much of its history rooted in Italy. While it is customarily made from potatoes, flour and eggs, it does vary depending on the country. This particular recipe is Parisienne, which leaves out the potatoes and utilizes rich and nutty hard cheese such as Gruyère, Emmentaler, or Comté.

Thomas Keller’s take on this pasta is expectedly simple, using fresh herbs and vegetables, butter, oil, and lemon. This recipe yields about 250 gnocchi, which means what you don’t prepare that day can be frozen for up to six weeks and used to prepare a simple meal when you don’t have want or time for the fuss and muss of something from scratch.

After making this once before I realized how I could make small changes to the recipe, depending on the vegetables in season and what herbs I had readily available. Any combination I have found still yields the same simple, clean and flavorful dish.

In Thomas Keller’s book, Bouchon there are two recipes, the first being Gnocchi A La Parisienne, or herb gnocchi. The second is the dish where the gnocchi makes its premier, Gnocchi A La Niçoise, or Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables. He also uses the base recipe for gnocchi in another dish in the book with sage and butternut squash.