Monday, March 28, 2011

"it's ok, i'm ready to be fat"

Recently, possibly after plentiful wine, Allie decided she wanted to try making gnocchi from scratch.  When we studied in Venice, I pretty much lived on gnocchi alla bolognese from one of the neighborhood restaurants, so my immediate reaction was "OOOH, I'LL MAKE BOLOGNESE" (yes, that obnoxiously.  see: wine reference).  

There are not many dishes with a high degree of preparation, attention, and involvement that I had even attempted prior to this Lent.  Bolognese is one major exception.  Shortly after returning from Venice the second time, our family friend Sonya made bolognese, and I promptly could not shut up about how authentic it was.  I demanded the recipe, and actually tried it a few times for my "I'll eat pretty much anything" family down at the lake.  

Despite their accommodating attitudes, I think they were all a little surprised by authentic Italian bolognese.  In a lot of American-Italian restaurants, it's served as tomato sauce with ground beef.  In Italy (or very authentic restaurants stateside), it is ground meat (usually pork, beef, and/or veal) with carrots, celery, onions, chicken stock, wine, tomato paste, and milk.  It is heaven.  It is something stratospherically beyond heaven when you put in on top of fresh made gnocchi.  

So what I'm trying to say, really, is that I was pretty stinking excited about this Italian feast we were plotting.  We got a few girlfriends in on the action, and they seemed happy to be our food critics.  

Everything I contributed to Sunday sauce night was time and labor intensive, but once and a while, I need that.  I started by making tiramisu, which, in case you don't read cooking magazines (like I now do, crazy, right?), involves whisking several different ingredients into "stiff peak form," and let me tell you, when you have teeny muscles, that's some slow going.  But tiramisu is to dessert what bolognese is to sauce for me--they are really in their own league of deliciousness.  

(the final tiramisu product)

Once the tiramisu was in the fridge to set, I moved on to rosemary olive oil bread.  If you're double checking to make sure you're reading the proper blog, yeah, I hear you.  Homemade bread?  So not my thing. I routinely live off of easy mac and cereal.  I do not knead dough for 10 minutes straight.  In more typical Jenny fashion though, I epically mis-read the recipe, and didn't realize the dough needed to rise for FOUR hours, not two.  Luckily I caught my error at 2pm.  Still felt like one heck of a dumb blond though.  

As the tiramisu set and the dough for the bread rose, I cranked up Allie's stove for the bolognese.  I practically burned out my mini-food processor mincing onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, because I decided to double the recipe.  Four or so hours, 3 cups of wine, 3 cups of chicken stock, 2 pounds of ground meat, and probably a pound of minced vegetables later, we were almost there. 

(early in the bolognese process)

While I was worried that the rosemary olive oil bread might be a flop, it emerged from the oven golden on the outside and just a touch doughy on the inside.  Either my friends are excellent actresses, or it was delicious, because all four loaves flew out of the basket.  (Which is fortunate, because there was enough red wine flowing to pickle your liver, we desperately needed some carbs at this point). 

(the second round of olive oil bread)

The gnocchi alla bolognese turned out beautifully as well, and I was pleased with the tiramisu.  By the time I brought out the dessert, there was little space to spare in our stomachs, so Allie and I will be eating leftovers for a few days. (the title of the post, by the way, came from my friend Alicia when we were dishing up hearty portions of gnocchi--now that's my kind of dinner guest)  

(the spread)

Aside from stepping on some unfortunate ingredients (mascarpone, pork) and an egg separation mishap, I really had a good time just hanging out with Allie cooking all day.  Obviously spending all day in the kitchen isn't something I plan on making a habit out of, but it actually served as surprisingly effective frustration relief.  

Best of all, the Sunday night dinner thing already seems to be evolving into a bit of a tradition for the four of us who got together last night, and I'm sure the circle will only expand.  


  1. My boyfriend and I have tried gnocchi three times and it's been an epic fail every time. He's quite the foodie and pretty good in the kitchen so normally everything he makes turns out perfectly. But gnocchi.... it's depressing. Do you have a trick? Or at least a recipe? I'd love some advice for dummies that will make Italian-style gnocchi (yummy).

  2. Here's the recipe that my friend Allie used (she was in charge of the gnocchi):

    She posted pictures all through the process on her blog:

    She used the most minimal amount of flour possible, and that left the dough just a little too sticky to the touch, so we'd recommend bumping up the flour content just a bit so it's not as sticky to the touch! Let me know how it goes!