Gnocchi

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My relationship with food has always involved a mildly unhealthy dose of obsession.

For example, from first grade to fourth grade, I had to eat three spoonfuls of tuna fish salad every day for lunch. I absolutely hated tuna fish salad by the end of lower school, and yet I continued to force myself to do it out of perverse reverence for the routine. (Seriously, why are kids so weird?) I could not eat tuna fish salad – or egg salad and chicken salad for that matter – for another four years afterward without feeling ill, and even the smell of mayonnaise-based salads repulsed me. To this day, I still have an aversion to plain mayonnaise.

Thankfully, I grew out of that strange childhood habit and grew to love egg salad and chicken salad (and tolerate tuna salad) again.

The obsession with one dish has continued in less disgusting forms – whenever I try a new Thai restaurant, I must order their pad thai, for a new Indian restaurant, it’s malai kofta. And for a new Italian restaurant, my first dish that I must try is gnocchi.

I tell myself that it’s because I want to have a common point by which I can compare different restaurants against each other. But let’s be honest, I can’t really remember every pad thai or gnocchi that I’ve ever had. And really, what self-respecting Thai restaurant doesn’t make a decent pad thai?

The day may come when I can’t stand to look at another plate of gnocchi or malai kofta (I can already sense that the end is near for pad thai), but for now, I content myself with knowing at least I’m not obsessed with pickles or Wonderbread or something carcinogenic.

This gnocchi recipe is an oldie but a goodie. I posted about it before, but what can I say, I’m still a sucker for good gnocchi.

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Bragging Rights

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The other night, I went to Will, a self-described “modern French inspired BYOB” located in a hot Philly restaurant area. The dishes were small and pricey, but the flavors were spot on. If you have the chance to go, I’d totally recommend the Rhode Island Skate, which was moist yet flaky, served with an assortment of light green sauces that all complimented the fish wonderfully.

The restaurant also has its culinary influences proudly on display. Alinea, Bouchon, and The Fat Duck cookbooks are all present, and since I just got a copy of the Bouchon cookbook last week (thank you Ebay for making my guilty pleasures so affordable), I could instantly spot Thomas Keller’s presence on Will’s menu. For one, the chocolate bouchons served for dessert. Also, the Parisian gnocchi, which Keller outlines in Bouchon. 

(By the way, the chocolate bouchons are also totally worth trying. They’re like mini chocolate cakes, but denser and chewier and all-around more decadent.)

But back to the gnocchi. I actually made Parisian gnocchi, the same Parisian gnocchi that appeared on a menu at a high-end restaurant. (I’m still in shock.) And surprisingly, it was not that difficult to make.

Before you chalk it up to my amazing cooking talents, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I actually used to be a terrible cook. No lie, my family used to dread what weird dish I would concoct. There were some fantastic failures, like the time I tried to make pan-fried plantains, but instead I used bananas, and I ended up with some spicy, mushy bananas that were all but inedible. Or that time I tried to make carbonara and ended up with burned scrambled egg pasta instead. Oh god, the list goes on and on.

When I started this blog, I was enrolling in self-taught Cooking 101. And now, eight months later, I can actually pull off a reasonably edible version of Keller’s gnocchi à la parisienne. My family can enjoy my meals, instead of forcing down cringe-worthy (and probably barf-worthy) weird culinary experiments.

And cooking for myself hasn’t taken the fun out of eating good food. I may understand more of the “secrets,” but that makes me respect all these chefs so much more. I mean, just check out the Wikipedia page for molecular gastronomy. These people might actually be insane. They’re using syringes and liquid nitrogen and transglutaminase and all these other chemical compounds I can’t even pronounce. They’re turning fat into powder, using an ice cream machine in ways never before imagined.

I’m clearly just an amateur, and I’m definitely nowhere near as good as Will’s talented cook staff, but I have to admit, it still felt pretttty cool to see that they admired the same cooking masters that I admired.

(And let’s be real, it felt pretty awesome to brag that I could actually pull off a fancy restaurant-worthy recipe.)

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