Barbara Lynch’s Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi with Foie Gras Sauce
FOR THE GNOCCHI
22 pitted prunes
1 cup Vin Santo or Madeira, plus more if needed
2–2¼ pounds medium to high-starch potatoes, such as Idaho (russet), whole and
1½–2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
FOR THE SAUCE
8 ounces foie gras (see note), half at room temperature
(reserve the other half, refrigerate, for serving)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
½ cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 large)
15 small fresh thyme sprigs
15 black peppercorns
15 coriander seeds
2 cups Vin Santo or Madeira
FOR THE GARNISH
2 tablespoons chopped salted Marcona almonds or regular almonds, lightly toasted
3 fresh chervil sprigs, whole leaves and small clusters of leaves picked off, or small
Fleur de sel
To make the gnocchi filling: Put all but 2 of the prunes in a small saucepan with the Vin Santo, adding a little more, if need be, to cover the prunes completely. Cook the prunes over medium heat, reducing the amount of liquid until the pan is almost dry, about 30 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, chop the prunes very finely or puree them in a food processor if you want to pipe the filling. Chop the 2 reserved (unsoaked) prunes as well but keep them separate; you will use them to garnish the gnocchi.
To make the gnocchi dough: Put the potatoes in a medium pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until very tender (a cake tester or toothpick inserted will pull out easily), about 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and allow them to cool just until you’re able to handle them. Peel the potatoes while still quite hot (the skin will come off easily) and rice them onto a baking sheet to cool.
Dump the cooled potatoes onto a lightly floured work surface. Spring 1¼ cups of the flour over the potatoes and fluff the flour into the potatoes, using your fingers and a light touch. Gently gather the potatoes into a mound. Create a well in the center of the mound. Whisk together the eggs and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and pour them into the well. Add a couple of grinds of pepper and the nutmeg. Using your fingers, combine all the ingredients. Knead the dough by pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand, folding it over, giving it a quarter turn, and pushing it away again. Continue kneading, sprinkling on a little more flour as needed, until it forms a ball and the dough feels delicate and just a little bit sticky. Set the dough aside and clean the work surface of any hard bits of dough.
Sprinkle the work surface lightly with flour. Roll out half of the dough to about ¼ inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, punch out rounds of dough. Re-roll the scraps and cut out as many circles as you can. Line up the circles in rows for easy, efficient, assembly-line stuffing. If you have room, roll out the second half of the dough; if not, do it after this batch of gnocchi has been stuffed and shaped. But work without interruption, as the potato dough will become less easy to work with as it sits.
To stuff the gnocchi: Have ready a parchment-lined, lightly floured baking sheet or platter that will fit in your freezer. Put about a teaspoon of the cooked chopped prunes in the center of each dough circle, leaving a ½-inch margin all around. (If you pureed the prunes, you can pipe the filling with a pastry bag.) Fold the dough in half to make a half-moon shape. You can seal the dough by pressing the edges together with your fingers, but for a better seal and a more uniform look, use a slightly smaller round cookie cutter to trim ¼ inch off the rounded side of the gnocchi. Next flip up the half-moon so that it’s standing on its rounded edge. Use a finger to put a little (1/4-inch-deep) indentation in the middle of the side that’s facing up. (This dent helps hold the sauce on the gnocchi.) As the gnocchi are stuffed and shaped, transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet (don’t let them touch each other or they will stick). Freeze the gnocchi on the sheet for at least 30 minutes. (They’re easier to handle when frozen and will keep their shape better this way, too.) Once they are rock-hard, you can put them into the airtight container of your choice or cook them right away. Repeat the entire process with the second half of the dough, if you have not already rolled it out.
To make the sauce: Pass the room-temperature foie gras through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. (This is easier than it sounds, and the strainer removes all small veins for a smooth sauce.) Use a wooden spoon to combine the foie gras and butter. Shape the mixture into a log on a piece of plastic wrap, parchment, or waxed paper. Wrap it well and refrigerate until firm.
Meanwhile, put the shallots, thyme, peppercorns, and coriander in a medium saucepan. Pour the Vin Santo into the pan and cook on high heat until the liquid has reduced practically to a glaze. Lower the heat to medium-low and whisk in about one sixth of the foie gras butter. As it melts, add a little more. When all of the foie gras butter has been whisked in, pass the sauce through a clean fine-mesh strainer. Keep the sauce warm (but not hot) as you finish the dish. (If the sauce gets too hot, the foie gras–butter emulsion can “break,” or separate; if that happens, whisk in a little warm water just before serving.)
To serve: Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Slice the remaining 4 ounces foie gras into 1-inch-thick slices; use the tip of a small knife or a skewer to remove any large, obvious veins. Season well with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the foie gras and cook until well browned on all side, up to 1 minute per side. (Don’t overcook it, or you will end with a puddle of pricey fat.) Remove from the heat and keep warm. Reheat the sauce if necessary over medium-low heat.
Cook the gnocchi in batches, gently lowering 5 to 6 of them at a time into the water with a large-holed slotted spoon or Chinese strainer. The gnocchi are done when they rise to the top, 2 to 3 minutes. Fish the gnocchi out with the strainer and keep warm until all the gnocchi are cooked.
To serve, cut the seared foie gras into smaller pieces to go on top of the gnocchi. Divide the gnocchi among six plates, lining them up so their dented sides face up to catch and hold the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the gnocchi, top the gnocchi with the foie gras, and sprinkle a little of the chopped almonds, reserved chopped prunes, and chervil over all. Finish with a pinch of fleur de sel.
• The stuffed gnocchi will keep for weeks in the freezer and can go right from the freezer to the pot to cook.
• The foie gras butter can be made 2 days ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated. It can also be frozen for up to 6 months; thaw before using.
• The foie gras sauce can be made ahead and either chilled or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let it thaw for a day in the refrigerator before reheating over low heat. Add ¼ cup cream to the pan to help the sauce stay emulsified
Thanks to Chef Barbara Lynch for sharing this recipe with us. For more information, visit www.mentorbkb.org/category/recipes.
This photo comes to us courtesy of Susie Cushner.