Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Food: Meyer Lemon Gnocchi with Chicken and Asparagus

What could be better than soft potato pillows with a hint of citrus? What am I talking about, you ask? Warm potato gnocchi spiked with a hint of Meyer lemon.

If you've only ever had gnocchi out of the box (i.e. dried) or at restaurants who don't make it from scratch, you really, really, really must try the homemade version. Believe me...it's a completely different flavor and texture. There really is no comparison. Also, if you've never cooked with Meyer lemons and wonder what's so special about them...Meyer's are sweeter than regular lemons and have a thinner peel. Also, instead of being yellow they come dressed in a warm, almost egg-yolk hue. They're believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange (so they get their sweetness and orange coloring from the mandarins).

I've made gnocchi before (For example, here's a sweet potato gnocchi recipe I posted on here last year). But this recipe is slightly different due to Steve Corry's technique for making the dough, which keeps the gnocchi super tender and pillowy. I also love his one-pan technique since it helps cut down on the mess you make on the counter top :)

Besides boiling the dough, this recipe toasts the gnocchi in a pan afterwards. The results are wonderful - crisp, lovely, browned sides reminiscent of a heavenly potato-cake...a light as air dumpling with a slight pan-seared crunch on the outside and soft goodness on the inside.

I did make a few modifications to the original recipe. I cut down the amount of butter and added chicken and asparagus to make a more complete meal. If you're worried about not being delicate enough in your efforts to combine the chicken and asparagus with the tender gnocchi, feel free to grill the chicken breasts whole, cook the asparagus as spears, and serve as three separate items on the plate.

This recipe does have a lot of steps and it is time consuming...but it's well worth it in the end. You do dirty a lot of pans, and I apologize for that. So if you're going to make anything, at least make the gnocchi...chicken and asparagus can be any time :) And, if it helps, you should be able to make the gnocchi dough in advance. Maybe you'll want to make it in the morning and have it ready to go in the refrigerator when you get home from work. That would reduce the workload significantly.


Meyer Lemon Gnocchi with Chicken & Asparagus
Adapted from Food & Wine

SPECIAL TOOLS: Potato Ricer

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 T plus 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, chilled
  • Juice from 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
DIRECTIONS
  • In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes (MM Tip: Super tender potatoes is key for potato ricer ease of use). Drain the potatoes, return to the pan and shake over medium heat until dry.
  • Working over a large rimmed baking sheet, rice the hot potatoes in an even layer. Whisk the egg yolks, lemon zest, olive oil and 1 t salt in a small bowl and pour over potatoes. Sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and stir gently until a soft dough forms.
  • Gently roll the dough into 4, 1-inch long ropes. Using a sharp knife, cut each rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece against the tines of a fork to make ridges. Transfer the gnocchi to another baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  • In a large stockpot or French oven, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, until the sauce is creamy. Stir in the lemon juice. Pour into a glass measuring cup and set aside. (Keep this saucepan out for future use).
  • On a plate, season the chicken breast pieces with salt, pepper, and 1 t coriander. Add 1 T vegetable oil to a large, non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning 1-2 times during cooking process until cooked through. Remove from skillet and add to pot used for chicken broth. Set aside. (You may want to wash/dry the skillet to re-use for toasting the gnocchi).
  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook gnocchi until they rise to the surface. Drain and toss with olive oil, and transfer to a baking sheet until cool.
  • In a small skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of water and heat to medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In the large, non-stick skillet, add half of the gnocchi and cook in a single layer over high heat until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the pan containing the chicken and repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
  • Reheat the sauce, pour it over the gnocchi and chicken, heating the pan over low heat. Gently toss in the asparagus and parsley right before serving (I like using a French oven for this since it keeps the dish nicely heated when on low heat...in case anyone wants a second helping).

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