The G is Silent

Gnocchi, pronounced n-yo-key. This dish reminds me of one of my favorite places on earth - Castelletto di Montebenchi, the heart of this small medieval city in the Tuscany Region. One of my chef friends, Antonio from Northern Italy makes the best gnocchi ever! When I can't connect with Antonio, I just make my own.

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Gnocchi are excellent accompaniments for meat and poultry dishes. When prepared right they are light as pillows. The secret is not to over mix the dough and to use just the right amount of flour. There are so many ways to make gnocchi, I prefer to bake the potatoes instead of steaming to make a softer dough.

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Potato Gnocchi

chefgeorgehirsch.comGeorge Hirsch Lifestyle 

2 pounds russets (baking potatoes)

Approximately 2 cups flour (variable) 

1 large egg

A pinch of sea salt

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake potatoes until easily pierced with a fork or a paring knife will easy slip through potatoes. Cool slightly, then peel the potatoes. 

Mash them while they’re still warm (a potato ricer or food mill works best). Season the potatoes with a pinch of salt and slowly knead in enough flour to obtain a fairly firm, smooth, non-sticky dough; exactly how much flour depends on the moisture from the potatoes. Add the egg, and enough flour so the dough does not stick to your hands. 

Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, as it will resemble regular pasta dough. Divide the dough into four pieces.

Roll the dough out into a rope shape about 2/3 of an inch thick, cut the rope into one-inch pieces, and gently score the pieces crosswise with a fork to obtain slight ridges. With your finger, gently roll the pressed doughback off the fork. This may take a little practice. If the dough sticks to the fork, dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it. Making this shape will help the gnocchi grab on to the tasty sauce it’s served with. 

Cook the gnocchi in abundant salted boiling water, removing them with a slotted spoon a minute or two after they rise to the surface. Drain them well and serve them with a few leaves of sage, melted unsalted butter and Parmesan, or meat sauce, or pesto sauce. 

Serve immediately while they are full of steam. The gnocchi are wonderfully light when hot. Once they cool off they become dense like a tire without air.

Make ahead Tip: Place any remaining uncooked Gnocchi in a container, dust with corn meal and freeze until you are ready to boil.

George's Spicy Tomato Sauce

Makes 4 cups |chefgeorgehirsch.com

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped pancetta

10 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1/2 chopped onion, chopped fine

1/4 cup prosciutto, chopped fine

2 cups canned plum San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

1/4 cup dry white wine

2-4 teaspoons hot pepper flakes

10-12 fresh basil leaves, lightly torn

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a saucepan and heat the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and cook until it becomes light brown.  Add the garlic, onion and prosciutto and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, white wine, hot pepper flakes, basil and black pepper, stir well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  You can regulate the spiciness of the dish by adding more or less hot pepper flakes.

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Beer Batter Cod

Buying food and reading labels can be a dizzying task. One can't help but be overrun with questions like - Is this good for me and my family? Is it safe to eat? Where did this come from? Is this sustainable? Reading labels can work most of the time, but what if there’s no label, as with fish? You would think if a fish has been around since the beginning of time and spawned billions of eggs - there wouldn’t be any problem, right? But not so fast, too much of anything can be harmful, even cod. 

 Fishing off Montauk Point, East End LI,  GHL

Fishing off Montauk Point, East End LI, GHL

With it’s mild flavor, low fat content and a dense, flaky white flesh, it's no wonder cod is one of the most common fish used for fish & chips along with haddock and plaice. But, did you know it is currently at risk from over fishing in UK, Canada and other Atlantic waters? So be in the know with Seafood Watch. Use this guide to find ocean-friendly alternatives to seafood on the Seafood Watch “Avoid” list. It’s a good thing to use discretion and follow their lead so in the future when we are calling all cods, there are still some around.

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The carbonation in the beer makes the batter exceptionally airy and produces a crispy coating. Malt vinegar is a British favorite on fish and chips.

George's Beer Batter Cod

makes 4 - 6 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 eggs

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 cup beer, a strong full flavored Stout or India Pale Ale

vegetable oil for frying

2 pounds cod fillet, cut into serving pieces

Malt vinegar for serving

Combine 1 cup of the flour, sugar, baking powder and black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and hot sauce. Slowly pour in the beer, stirring constantly, until the foam subsides and the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 370 degrees F. in a deep sauce pan or deep-fat fryer.

Dredge the the cod in the remaining 1/4 cup flour, shaking off any excess, and dip into the batter.

Carefully slip the pieces into the hot fat and cook until brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Serve with french fries and malt vinegar.