Unless you are being paid for it, you should not have to make more than one meal for dinner per night. Life is hard, serious, and stressful, but cooking should be just the opposite. It should be a way to get creative, have fun, and relax. In the form of your next dinner, I give to you the elusive little black dress; often written about in fashion magazines, it has the power to go from office-appropriate to date night chic. Personally, I was never able to find this ensemble, but I have worked my own magic and created a dish to accomplish a similar feat; transforming kid- friendly to gourmet with just a few added accessories.
What’s better? The active cooking time here is relatively short, there are no knives involved, and if your little one likes Play-Doh then they are the perfect sous-chef for the job!
Potato Dumplings, Cheese Sauce, Gnocchi, Truffle Parmesan, and Crab
Serves: 2 adults, 2 children
2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 medium sized)
1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (skim, 2%, whole, whatever you like)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, paprika to taste
1 tsp black truffle oil
8 oz blue crab, drained (Aspen has cans on ice at the seafood counter)
Chives/basil (whichever you prefer)
Let’s get started!
You can focus on the gnocchi, since the sauce takes less than 5 minutes. Scrub the potatoes and toss them into a pot of boiling water. No peeling, no cutting, let them cook for about 40 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool. When they are at a temperature in which you can handle them, peel off the skins. Mash them using a ricer, electric hand mixer, or even a fork until there are no clumps. Beat the egg and add it to the potatoes along with the salt. Next, mix in the flour ½ cup at a time. When all of the flour is incorporated, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Call over the little one and start to play. Take clumps of dough and roll it into logs about the width of your thumb. Using a fork, or spoon (I promised no knives), cut off ½ inch pieces of the dough and keep on a floured surface.
Once you have as many dumplings as your family wants (there will be extra dough if you want to freeze it), plop a bunch into a pot of boiling water. Let them float to the top and remove with a slotted spoon. It only takes about 1 minute for them to cook! Keep the cooked gnocchi on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper while you continue the process.
Now it’s time for the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Whisk on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. This is your roux and what it ultimately going to thicken the sauce. Once the roux is golden and bubbling, whisk in the milk. Continue to stir as the sauce starts to thicken and add your cheese, salt, pepper, and a pinch of paprika. When it reaches desired consistency, take it off of the heat. Fill bowls with the cooked gnocchi and spoon some sauce over the top for the kids.
To amp it up for the adults, add the black truffle oil and crabmeat to the sauce. The crab is already cooked, so you just want to warm it up. Spoon this over your bowl of gnocchi and garnish with some chives, or basil. Light a candle and uncork a bottle of wine.
Coming from Sparrow Wine and Liquor on Washington Street:
2012 Donkey and Goat, Untended, Anderson Valley, California $39.99
A husband wife team, Tracey and Jared Brandt met in the hi-tech industry. The couple took a year off to travel and learn how to make wine. In 2003 they were back in California setting up shop in a garage, producing their first 5 barrels.
The grapes for the Untended Chardonnay come from 34-year-old vines that were essentially abandoned and found in 2009. Brought back into production, Tracey and Jared use sustainable agricultural practices, no plastic in the fermentation process to eliminate the threat of chemicals leaching into the wine, double/triple sorting of the grapes, foot stomping for crushing, minimal use of sulfer, and bottle without fining or filtration. The duo is on a mission to make wine as naturally as possible.
Coming from a cooler climate area of California, this wine is a testament to their less is more philosophy. Less alcohol, less oak (only neutral French oak used), and less manipulation allow the fruit to shine. The sharp mineral focus and notes of citrus pith are rounded out by a prominence of orchard fruit and waxy texture. Herbaceous and musky tones of the wine will marry beautifully with the earthiness of the black truffle. The ripe quality of the fruit will compliment the sweetness of the crab, while the brightness will lift the rich Parmesan sauce.
Deanna moved to Hoboken in 2013 to pursue a career in food and wine. She has worked at 5 star and Michelin starred properties in New York City as a sommelier. Moonlighting as a private chef in town, she is excited to bring her passion for wine to the Mile Square City.