Doesn't this look like a dish that would please any mother?
For this month's Paper Chef contest, the ingredients were floury potatoes, thyme, and prosciutto, with the theme being Mother's Day. As soon as I saw this list, I had visions of fluffy gnocchi floating around in a buttery springtime sauce. After all, there's no better way to say thank you to your mother than the labor of love that is homemade gnocchi.
I baked russet potatoes, passed them through a ricer, and slowly added the sifted flour and egg yolks to produce light pillows instead of gummy lumps. You can mash the potatoes with a fork, but the texture turns out much smoother when you use a ricer. I found one for a dollar at a garage sale.
For the sauce, with a mortar and pestle I mashed a pesto of fava beans, walnuts, meyer lemon zest, parmigiana reggiano and lemon juice. Then, I made thyme butter which I slowly browned before throwing in the gnocchi, fava beans, pesto and thin slices of prosciutto d'parma.
If there were ever a recipe that reminded me of my Mother's Day, this is it. The citrus and the fava beans brought in the flavors of May, while the thyme and prosciutto added a unique character that made this dish worthy of the occasion. The love that went into this dish started with the organic, farm fresh ingredients that I picked up at the Old Oakland farmers' market, and ended with the meticulous pressing of each little piece of gnocchi. It's truly the meal that will prove to your mother how much you care.
Ingredients for Thyme-buttered gnocchi with fava beans, walnuts and prosciutto
1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes
1 1/2 pounds of fava beans
1 Meyer lemon
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup parmigiana reggiano
1 cup of sifted flour
2 egg yolks
1/4 pound of prosciutto d'parma
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1/2 stick of butter
Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the potatoes for about one hour, or until tender. Let cool only slightly (enough so you don't burn yourself), and remove the skins. Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large glass bowl. Add the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sifted flour to the potatoes. Mash together with your hands. Slowly add more flour, one tablespoon at a time. Continue to work the dough with your hands until you feel it come together. When the dough is still a touch sticky, stop adding the flour and knead until smooth. I had about 2 tablespoons of the flour leftover.
Cut the dough into four pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece into a rope using a back-and-forth motion with your hands, until the rope is 1 inch thick. Using a pastry scraper, cut the gnocchi into one inch pieces. Set aside on parchment paper and repeat with the remaining dough. To make the ridges, press each gnocchi into the top of a whisk (or fork), with your thumb on the other side. This will create a star-like shape on one side, while the other side is concave from your thumb.
Next the fava beans:
While the potatoes are baking in the oven, start preparing the favas. Put on a large pot of water to boil. Shell the beans and blanch for 30 seconds. Scoop the beans out with a slotted spoon and shock them in ice water. Drain and remove the second shell, exposing the vibrant green of the favas.
And the butter:
Remove the leaves from the thyme branches and chop them. Leave the butter out until it is very soft. Then, in a small bowl, add the butter and the thyme leaves and stir until combined. Roll the butter back into a log and put in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Add the walnuts to a large mortar and mash them up. Zest the lemon (try not to include any of the white pith), and chop it finely. Add the minced lemon zest, the shredded parmigiana reggiano, half of the fava beans and the juice of one lemon. Continue mashing until the beans are broken up. Add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add the gnocchi to a pot of boiling water. Cook just until all the gnocchi float to the top. Drain, but reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
Melt the thyme butter in a large saute pan. After it foams and turns light brown, throw in the gnocchi and shake the pan around. Next add the fava beans. After about 30 seconds, add the pesto and half of the reserved cooking water. One minute later add the sliced prosciutto, and shake the pan around for another minute, making sure everything is coated in the sauce. If it's too thick, add a touch more the cooking water. Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with sprigs of thyme.
Where I shopped:
Potatoes, thyme, Meyer lemons, fava beans, chandler walnuts: Old Oakland Farmers' Market
Prosciutto: Star Grocery, Oakland
Wish me luck in the Paper Chet contest, and be sure to check out all the great mother's day recipes for yourself.