Michael Chiarello's Potato Gnocchi With Salsa della Nonna
The Best Italian Comfort Food
I remember the day my grandmother Vicencina proved to me that an ornery chicken made the best-tasting brodo. While my grandmother gathered eggs, one bird made the fatal mistake of pecking her ankle, poking a hole in her thick brown support hose. I was small, but even I knew that the bird's hours were numbered. I don't know if the sauce my grandmother made that day was so good because revenge added its own seasoning or just because it wasn't the hens' time, but the flavor of that rich chicken has stayed in my memory all these years.
My mom made this sauce often for gnocchi, and whenever she did, she would pull the hen out of the sauce at the last minute, keep it warm, and then serve it as the secondi, or second course, with fresh-chopped parsley and a little basil. I suggest you try this, too.
Michael Chiarello is the chef of Bottega in the Napa Valley.
For the gnocchi:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake potatoes until very soft on a bed of coarse salt in a baking dish. (The salt keeps the potatoes from touching the dish and developing a hard spot.) Cool potatoes until warm, then halve lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Pass the flesh through a food mill or ricer, or push it through a coarse sieve, or grate it. You should have about 4 cups.
In a bowl, combine potato, egg yolks, Parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Work the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the 1 cup flour and knead very gently, patting and pressing the dough with your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Add some or all of the additional 1/4 cup flour if the dough feels too moist. Transfer dough to a work surface and roll into a log about 3 inches in diameter. Cut the log into eight equal pieces.
Give each piece a quarter-turn so that you are rolling the dough in a different direction, then roll into ropes a generous 1/2-inch in diameter, as if making breadsticks. Flour the ropes generously, then cut crosswise at 1/2-inch intervals. You can shape the gnocchi on a ridged butter paddle (see The Tra Vigne Cookbook for detailed directions), or you can cook them as is. Let them dry at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add half the gnocchi. They are usually done about 2 minutes after they float to the surface, but test one to be sure. Lift them out with a skimmer and transfer to the sauce. Cook briefly in the sauce to coat them well, then divide among four warm bowls. Grate Parmesan over each serving.
For the salsa della nonna:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pot and lightly brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.
Place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and sauté the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, and red wine. Stir to scrape up the browned bits, then return the chicken to the pot. Cook to reduce the wine until the pot is almost dry. Pour in the milled tomatoes and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Make a sweating lid to fit the pot (see Chef's Note, at right). When the sweating lid is in place resting on top the chicken, slide the pot into the oven and cook for about 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through. (You can use a regular pan lid if you don't want to cut a sweating lid from parchment, but allow a little more cooking time.)
Using tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate. You can keep the chicken warm and serve it as a second course, or let cool, wrap, and refrigerate for another use. Add the torn basil leaves to the sauce and use this in place of any marinara sauce.
CHEF' S NOTES: Tomatoes put through a food mill have the right consistency for the sauces I make. If you don't have a food mill, you could pulse tomatoes just 3 or 4 times in a food processor (don't overprocess them), but to get the same velvety consistency of the sauces we serve at Bottega, a food mill works much better, and is an inexpensive addition to your kitchen tool set.
Cooking under a sweating lid reduces the circulation of the air in the pot and, by holding in the steam, keeps the food moister. There are two ways to cut a sweating lid: Trace the lid for the pot you'll be using on parchment paper and then cut the paper a little smaller, so the parchment fits inside the pot. The other way to make a sweating lid—the chef's way—is to tear off a piece of parchment larger than the pot. Holding one point of the parchment sheet toward you, fold the parchment into a fan, starting at the left side and folding back and forth to create accordion pleats. Hold the parchment fan over the pot with the tip of it dead center, then use kitchen shears to snip off the fat end in a curve. The sweating lid will fit down inside the pot and sit right on top the bird as it cooks, keeping it moist and flavorful.
Recipe Courtesy of Michael Chiarello.
More Info: Kids Friendly