Thursday, December 24, 2009

Things I learned while making gnocchi

First. Gnocchi making and hot sex do not necessarily go together.

I say this with some regret, since I fondly remember the scene in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather III where Andy Garcia and Coppola's real-life daughter Sofia do the deed over a batch of floury gnocchi. At the time, I thought Andy Garcia was the cat's pajamas (today's verdict: too hairy), and the whole of the scene - sex between cousins, marinara simmering on the stove, the rolling of the gnocchi - was almost too much to bear. Gnocchi took on a whole new meaning for me, an exalted pairing of food and eroticism.

(For the record, there was no hot sex, or any other kind of gnocchi sex, today.)

Second. Chefs lie.

I'd like to think there are some chefs I can trust. Like Mario Batali. He seems like a straight shooter. He doesn't try to look good for the cameras. Plus, he's an eater. Turn the cameras off, and he's still stuffing his face. This is the mark of a real cook, one you can trust.

Today, I used his recipe. Ricotta gnocchi with Italian sausage from his fabulous restaurant, Lupa, in Greenwich Village. I've had the gnocchi twice there, and both times, a revelation. I didn't know you could have the same revelation twice. But I did.

I've used the term "pleasure bomb" before, but nowhere is it more apt than here. Ricotta gnocchi are different from potato gnocchi because a) they're cheesy, and b) they're slightly chewy. Served with a fennel-laced Italian sausage marinara, they become arguably the perfect food. Salty, tangy, spicy, both chewy and tender, and just a little bit sweet from the carrots (Mario's secret ingredient in the sauce). My only complaint: too few on the plate. Come on, Mario, when you concoct something this great, give the people more of what they want.

But back to the lie. So, I'm about to form the gnocchi. Mario says to take about 2 Tbs. of dough and roll it into balls. So, like a good soldier, I do just that. I then drop the little balls into boiling water (as instructed), only to watch them inflate like balloons.

What were supposed to be little nuggets of cheesy pleasure are now swollen knobs of cheesy pleasure, grotesque in their elephantine size. Due to this development, I have decided to put on a second pot of water for tortellini because I know my kids will not eat something that is apparently made for Andre the Giant.

Did Mario lie? Did he not want me to have yet a third revelation? Sometimes I think chefs leave out the most important steps in their recipes because they can't bear to share the wealth. It's an ego thing. No one - not one person on this whole planet - can make this _______ as well as me.

As for the gnocchi, I'll post a picture of the finished dish and you can have a good chuckle over your holiday roast beast. As a friend of mine might say, it's gotta be 'roids.

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