Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bistro Dinner - Herb Gnocchi, Pan Seared Red Snapper, and Flngerling Potatoes with Brown Butter Sauce

 Hello Gourmaybe readers - it's been a "while" and there are no excuses - except for -  I got married, went on a honeymoon to Chile (best trip ever) but have been neglecting my kitchen and my blog!  So now, it's time to get back to business with a meal that is just amazing and with a little extra prep work, can be a snap for a weekend or even a weeknight. To get blogging again in top form - I was inspired by Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook - a favorite of mine, and a wedding gift. If I had my way - I'd eat french food on a daily basis - what's not to love? Butter? Cheese? Chives? Eggs? I love them all and all at once. I ended up with a great hearty salad  - we don't eat "chick" salads in my house. A delicious pan seared red snapper was our protein, with sides of homemade gnocchi and potatoes all in a brown butter and parsley sauce. I did the gnocchi ahead, and prepped the potatoes, and the cooktime was literally 30 minutes when dinner rolled around. Here's how to do it! I have shortcuts, and easy explanations to take the mysteries out of the advanced french techniques. This is kind of a Meuniere scenario - but I feel that brown butter sounds easier. Get in le kitchen, after le jump!

Pan Seared Red Snapper with Herb Gnocchi & Fingerling Potatoes in a Brown Butter and Parsley
Serves 4 or 2 Twice!
For the Herb Gnocchi (about 115 pieces)

  • 3/4 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter- I used Pflugra
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed shredded Emmentaler cheese                                                                    
  • 3 large eggs
For the Red Fingerling Potatoes
  • 16 red fingerling potatoes - about 2 inches in length, peeled and trimmed
  • 2 thyme springs
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 bay leaf
For the Red Snapper
  • 4 red snapper fillets - about 1.5 lbs total
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon Lawry's season salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • parsley and chives - for garnish
The key to this is advance prep! Set aside an hour earlier in the day or the day before. Set up your stand mixer (I use Kitchen Aid) with the paddle attachment. On a tray or plate - set up your water, herbs, butter, salt, flour, mustard, eggs and grated cheese. It will go fast, so you need to be ready.

In a small sauce pan, add the water, butter, and half the salt  and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add all of the flour, and stir rapidly with a stiff wooden spoon until the ingredients combine to form a dough, and the dough comes away from the bottom and sides of the pan, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist - almost a playdoh quality of thickness - strange reference, but true.  Mr. Keller teaches us that you have to release moisture, to add moisture - so get your arms ready. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes more, while monitoring the heat - you don't want the dough to brown or color (this isn't a roux). around that time, a thin glaze of dough will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. You are almost there. When the dough is almost ready, steam will rise noticeably and you will smell a nutty flour smell. Quickly transfer the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer and turn it on low. Add the mustard, herbs, and the remaining salt. Mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat, then add all of  the cheese. It might look dry at this point which is ok - with the mixer still on low speed, add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next. Increase the speed to medium and mix to combine the ingredients into a slightly sticky dough. Turn off the machine. Lift some of the dough on the spoon or paddle or rubber spatula, it should move down the spatula slowly. Here, I take a bit of a easy cut - I use a ziploc gallon bag with the corner cut off (so that there is about a 5/8 inch opening at the corner. It's easier than dealing with pastry bags and you can throw it out. Scoop all of the dough into the bag and let it rest for 30 minutes on the counter - it will firm up some. Bring a medium sauce pan of salted water to a simmer (not a rolling boil). Line a plate with paper towels and a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Twist the end of the ziploc to squeeze the dough into the tip. (you will continue to squeeze it toward the end - like toothpaste) As you squeeze the bag with one hand, hold a small paring knife in your other hand and cut off 1-inch sections of dough, over the pot so that they drop right in. Don't hold it too high or it will splash Pipe about 20 gnocchi per batch. The gnocchi will sink first. Keep the water simmering, but again - not a rolling boil Once the gnocchi have all risen to the top, poach them for another 2 minutes, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon  and drain on the paper towels. Move in batches. When the next batch is cooked, move the paper towel batch to the parchment paper and the new batch to the paper towels. When you are done cooking and draining them, arrange in a single layer on the parchment-lined sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day.You can also freeze the remaining gnocchi and thaw before cooking - super easy!

So now for the potatoes -  this is really the only other advance step. Peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler - I am told people can do this with a knife - but I think that's much more difficult. Peel from the ends to create football shaped potatoes with no peel left. Place them in a small pan of water so they are totally covered.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bring the water with the potatoes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain (keep the water) and place to the side - you will heat them again.  Place a oven-safe serving platter or baking sheet in the oven. Pat your fish dry, and salt and pepper both sides, then dredge through the flour and seasoning salt, patting off the excess so there's just enough flour to coat. In a large skillet - so there is just a coating of canola oil on the bottom, heat the oil to medium high/high heat. Place the fish, skin down in the oil cooking about halfway through - this takes about 5 minutes. Turn over once, and place in the oven on the sheet to finish cooking for another five minutes. Now, prepare the sauce.In the fish pan, drain the oil, and add the butter. In another shallow large pan heat the gnocchi and potatoes until warm over medium heat with the reserved cooking liquid from the potatoes. Let the butter melt and heat, until it begins to brown - not burn - just brown - you will notice the delicious aroma. Remove fish from oven - set aside. Carefully monitoring the heat, raising or lowering the pan, add the gnocchi, potatoes and toss to coat - or stir. Remove from the heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Spoon gnocchi and potatoes onto a plate, top with a fillet of fish and additional sauce and garnish with chives and parsley. Voila!

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