Follow the culinary adventures and misadventures of the Cooking Agents (Ray and Katie). Watch as we eat/cook our way into adulthood.
25 is a big year, right? You’re at the midway point of your twenties when society suddenly views you as a grown up and as a reward, you no longer have to pay some exorbitant fee to drive a rental car. What better way to start such a year than to attend an exceptional chef’s tasting menu by the lovely, never disappointing Barbara Lynch (love to love you, baby).
Why yes we will.
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Challenging and expensive. That is what this dish was. It started with the gnocchi making process. On Thursday night, I ran to Central Bottle for my vin santo at 8:30 p.m. FYI, $57 a pop and I had to buy two bottles. Eeeesh. I went on a wild goose chase trying to find this stuff. It was only when I opened the bottle that I realized this was the very same wine used in Catholic mass. The aroma immediately transported me back to my humble alter server roots in good old Our Lady of Lourdes in Malverne, NY. Of course Barbara Lynch would use “holy wine” in her recipe.
When I got home, it was probably 9ish and with the combination of cooking and taking pictures, the whole thing took me probably 3 hours. Gnocchi, for anyone who doesn’t know, is like a potato “dumpling”. It’s generally a small potato pasta in an oval shape with grooves. They are the culmination of two worlds of good, pasta and potatoes. In the words of Ina, “how bad could that be?” Mmmm. It was only logical that the place to start was with the good old spud… four russets to be exact. I boiled the potatoes in heavily salted water until they were fork tender.
At the same time, I had 20 prunes and 1 cup of vin santo on medium heat until the wine had mostly disappeared. Be warned, the sugary prunes may start giving off some serious smoke if not watched carefully. I would know. I set off my smoke alarm and panicked that the Waltham Fire Department would be at my door only moments later. Fortunately, I both avoided that situation and saved my prune filling. Once it cooled down slightly, I threw that in a food processor until smooth and set aside.
The potatoes at this point were cool enough to handle and I peeled the skin. Then I whipped out the greatest invention, the potato ricer. This thing is like a garlic press for Andre the Giant. It is impressive. I got light, fluffy potatoes and felt hopeful that I would get equally light and fluffy gnocchi. After throwing some flour, eggs, nutmeg, and ground black pepper, I was on my way to making pasta from scratch. Before I knew it, I had a beautiful mound of dough. What followed was rolling, cutting, stuffing, and freezing.
Riced potatoes // Pasta making!
DOUGH!!!!!!!!!! // Stuffed Gnocchi
On Friday, I received my foie gras from D’Artagnan. They were slightly more bruised than I would have expected and on Saturday, when I opened the package and started handling them, they had more veins than I would have liked. Fortunately, for the sauce, I was able to shove the foie gras through a fine mesh, which made vein removal very easy.
I mixed the foie with room temperature butter until both were very well incorporated. Then I threw the mix on wax paper, rolled it up, and threw it in the fridge to harden.
While the foie butter was hardening, I started the rest of the sauce with thyme, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, shallots, and more vin santo. I reduced the liquid down to a glaze on high heat. Then, I turned the heat down to medium low and slowly started adding the foie butter, taking care to melt it completely before adding more.
Foie gras is basically 100% fat. I felt that the sauce started looking a little oily, but a good whisking did the trick. I did have a hard time keeping it together though.
The next step was to sear foie gras. This is where the veins were a slight pain in the rear. I had to go through each piece to make sure no veins made their way onto the pan. With my not too gentle foie gras handling skills, that took a little longer than I would have liked. Eventually I got there and the foie gras went into a small skillet until brown on both sides. Like I said before, foie gras is all fat and is like a resilient butter. It keeps its shape, but before long, you’ll be left with a skillet full of oil and no more foie gras!
Once that was done, I boiled the gnocchi in salted water until they started floating. That only took 2-3 minutes.
To serve, I sauced the plate and placed three gnocchi on each. The seared foie and some extra sauce topped the gnocchi. Then I garnished the plate with some chopped toasted almonds and Italian parsley. I immediately snapped a picture and dug in.
The finished product
The verdict? The taste was spot on, but the dish was much heavier than the No. 9 Park version. I think I messed up somewhere while making the gnocchi and the sauce. It was still delicious, but I think I may need to go back for the real stuff soon.
Finally, FINALLY!!!!! This past Friday, I made it to No. 9 Park, the first baby of celebrated Boston chef Barbara Lynch. I’d selected this restaurant as my birthday dinner venue for my 19th birthday, but alas my tardiness in making the dinner reservations prevented me from celebrating my 19th year of existence there. Since then, my borderline unhealthy obsession with Barbara Lynch began. I’m not making any excuses. I basically want to be Barbara Lynch because she is a bad ass.
I should refine my wording above to say I am obsessed with Barbara Lynch and have projected my obsession on one dish in particular… the prune stuffed gnocchi with foie gras, marcona almonds, and a vin santo glaze. To me, this dish is like a movie that all of your friends have hyped up to epic proportions. You, the typical procrastinator, wait and wait to see it and when you finally get around to it, the movie is no longer in theaters. All of your friends continue to throw out one liners from the movie and they all laugh together. Of course, you’d like to laugh too, but realize that if you do, they’d all think you’re some kind of farce because you haven’t seen the movie. After what seems like years, the movie is released on dvd and you run to the nearest store to buy a copy. On the drive back home, you worry that the movie won’t live up to your expectations and are ready to curse your friends until the fat lady sings. But alas, the movie is actually everything you hoped for and the tears running down your cheeks are tears of joy and laughter, not of disappointment! SUCCESS!
… and those were the crazy thoughts running through my head as I placed my order.
Finally made it after nearly 5 years of wanting to!
Prune Stuffed Gnocchi // Assiette of Beef
Glace du jour (pecan, honey, and coffee)
The 5 years of waiting were torture, but the gnocchi dish was tremendous. It was more than I could have ever imagined it to be. In a word, it was ambrosial. It was as if I’d never tasted food before, cliche I know. The gnocchi was soft and the filling was delicate but packed a very flavorful punch. The foie gras and the foie gras vin santo glaze was rich without being heavy. The whole dish was so silky smooth with just the right amount of crunch, thanks to the almonds. As Gael Greene so delicately put it, “Great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want.” Girl, you are preaching to the choir. I now want to book myself to all of Lynch’s restaurants before the year is over.
I am also now taking my obsession to the next level. Thanks to the Waltham Public Library and Allen’s handy dandy library card, Stir is in my possession. I’ve committed the recipe to memory and have all the necessary ingredients with the exception of my foie, marcona almonds, and vin santo. The foie gras from D’ARTAGNAN is scheduled for delivery this Friday and I’m planning on making a visit to Central Bottle to pick up a bottle of vin santo and Whole Foods to grab a bag of almonds. Saturday will be a day of many firsts including fresh pasta, cooking with prunes and vin santo, and deveining foie gras lobes. I’ve never been happier.