(Found this lost in the archives of my drafts from a few months ago…seeing as the weather’s getting colder anyway, this is the perfect time to make this warm, comforting dish!)
It was Sunday morning and I was in a bit of a dilemma: cook a cost-efficient meal of pasta but risk overloading on carbs…or make yet another stew. Ever since I’ve restricted my carb intake to a quarter of my total daily values, everything from ramen to *gasp* white rice looks like a gigantic carb bomb. If you’re curious as to just how carb-loaded a half cup of rice is…actually…forget I mentioned it. After all, ignorance is bliss as they say (you totally Googl-ed it didn’t you?)!
But I digress…faced with the impossible decision between comfort or breaking my diet…I said “Screw it! I’ll have both!”. Rather than the usual boxed fettucine, I opted to hand-make gnocchi with sweet potato (the de facto – and what seems like the solo – carb option to the health conscious) and pair with with a kale and beef ragout.
Making gnocchi is far easier than I thought it would be (though you most certainly can use the store-bought variety if you’re not as carb-conscious as I am this week). The trick is getting just the right amount of flour so that the dough is moldable without the end result having an overly mealy taste and texture. Pair that with a hearty ragout and you’ve got comfort…without overdosing on those carbs. Get cookin’!
For the gnocchi:
2 large sweet potatoes, rinsed, scrubbed, halved with skin on
~3 c. all-purpose flour + some for dusting your work surface
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar (more if you prefer)
3 oz. grated parmesan
A pinch of cayenne
A bit of grated nutmeg
For the ragout:
2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into large (~2″) chunks
1 lg. carrot, roughly chopped (good hearty chunks!)
A head of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped (see the pattern here?)
1 red onion, sliced (…or roughly chopped)
5 cloves garlic, yep….you guessed it…roughly chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste (do NOT attempt to chop while still in the can or carton)
2 – 3 c. beef stock
A whole bottle of Dogfish Head Birra Etrusca Bronze ale (or a good hoppy beer)
1 c. heavy cream (opt.)
1/4 c. vinegar (opt.)
For the beef seasoning:
A good shake of salt and pepper
3 tsps. garlic powder/pepper
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Prepare the gnocchi:
1) Boil the sweet potatoes, skin-on, until tender (~30 mins.), dump hot water and rinse with cold until safe to handle.
2) Scoop the flesh out of the skin into a large mixing bowl and add all gnocchi spices. Mash with a fork until smooth and spices are incorporated.
3) Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix until it forms a dough that doesn’t stick to your fingers. I honestly lost track of how much flour I had added after pouring 2 cups so just keep sprinkling it in bit by bit until the dough can be scraped off the bowl and kneaded without it being too moist and sticky (insert justification of how they didn’t have measuring cups back in the day here).
4) Dust your work surface with flour, tear off a baseball-sized hunk of the dough and roll into a 1″ thick log. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut into 3/4″-thick sections, placing them neatly on a baking sheet. Put these aside for now and let’s work on…
…Cooking the ragout:
1) Season the beef with the beef seasoning and mix well. Meanwhile, heat a large (biggest you’ve got!), heavy pan with some oil on medium-high.
2) Cooking in batches, sear the meat until brown on all sides and set aside on a plate.
3) Saute the onions, garlic, and kale together for 3 – 4 minutes in the same pan until the kale has softened.
4) Return the beef and toss in the carrots, stock, and enough beer to cover everything about 3/4 of the way up. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
5) Add in the tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and cover, allowing to cook for a very…long…time. I cooked it for almost 2 hours but that’s just because I had other work to do. The longer you cook it, the more tender the meat (especially since chuck roast is a tougher cut).
6) If you’d like, add vinegar (or any other acid like lemon juice) to brighten up an otherwise rich dish. You can also add heavy cream if your sauce is too thin.
When you’re about 30 mins. from serving, return to…
…Cooking the gnocchi:
1) Bring a pot of water to boil, seasoning generously (I mean it…don’t be shy) with salt.
2) Cooking in batches, lower 10 – 15 pieces of gnocchi in the boiling water and cook till tender (~3 – 4 mins.). Make sure the pieces don’t stick to the bottom. Just like pasta – because gnocchi is said to be a precursor to our modern-day variants – you want it to be a bit al dente. You’ll know it’s close to being done when the gnocchi begins to float.
3) From here, you have two choices: fry the gnocchi in butter and sage for a crisp exterior…or place a few in your ragout for a softer, pasta-like consistency.
Enjoy with the rest of your Birra and a good helping of TV reruns.