When the publication of an intriguing New York Times Cooking recipe for crisp gnocchi coincided serendipitously with my finding a forgotten shelf-stable package of those dumplings in the back of my cupboard, I had to make the dish.
My first encounter with these store-bought gnocchi occurred last December after reading about them on John Fodera’s wine blog Tuscan Vines. With some skepticism, I prepared his recipe for Gnocchi San Marzano and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of these potato gnocchi from the famed pasta producer De Cecco. Given my success, I subsequently purchased quite a few packages of them, the last of which provided the opportunity to take a stab at the Times recipe. The only ingredient I needed to purchase was a pound of Brussels sprouts.
What intrigued me about the recipe was its method of cooking the gnocchi. Rather than boiling, it called for pan-searing them. . .until crisp. Crisp gnocchi? If I had been skeptical the first time I made them even in a more conventional way, you can imagine how doubtful I felt this time around. In fact, I was so unsure about the end result that I chose to halve the recipe, which, in the event of a failure, would leave me enough pasta for a more traditional boiled-version backup.
Well, I’m happy to report that the final dish did not disappoint; the seared gnocchi, mixed with pan-roasted Brussels sprouts and enveloped in a browned-butter sauce, were superb. Rich with autumnal, nutty flavor from the sprouts and the butter, the gnocchi were perfectly crisp on the outside yet delightfully tender and light. In fact, they were so good that my husband suggested serving them as a side dish for Thanksgiving.
Aside from the halving, my only variations from the recipe were (1) substituting some aged balsamic for honey and (2) adjusting the cooking temperature. I figured that the vinegar would provide both sweetness and acidity and that using a lower flame to crisp the gnocchi would avoid burning them. Future changes to the original might include grating the lemon-zest rather than roughly chopping it and adding some lemon juice to finish the browned-butter sauce.
Crisp Gnocchi With Brussels Sprouts and Brown Butter (adapted from a recipe by Ali Slagle, New York Times Cooking)
Ingredients for 2 servings
8 ounces Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes (I did not halve the amount of red-pepper flakes.)
8 ounces shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 3 pieces
1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
1. Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thick strips of lemon zest, then coarsely chop. (You should have about 2 teaspoons chopped zest.)
3. In a large (preferably 12-inch) skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high.
4. Add the brussels sprouts, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, then arrange the brussels sprouts in an even layer, cut-side down.
5. Scatter the lemon zest over the top and cook, undisturbed, until the Brussels sprouts are well browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Add the red-pepper flakes, stir and cook until the brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Transfer to a medium bowl.
8. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high.
9. Break up any gnocchi that are stuck together, add them to the pan and cook, over medium flame, covered and undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes.
10. Add the butter and balsamic, season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden, nutty smelling and foaming, 1 to 2 minutes.
11. Stir in the Brussels sprouts until warmed through. Serve with grated Parmesan.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc