Gnocchi à la Parisienne {FFwD}

I wasn’t looking forward to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It wasn’t one I suggested, and I certainly didn’t vote for it. In fact, I was for the first time thinking of skipping a recipe. You see, I don’t like gnocchi. As many times as I’ve tried it, I’ve always found it to be heavy and gummy, like pasta that has been overcooked to the point of sticking together in a big glob.

So, I wasn’t sure I would make this dish. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the recipe. A few weeks ago, though, I was looking through Around My French Table when I came across the recipe for gnocchi à la parisienne. I was surprised to find out that, unlike Italian gnocchi, which is made from a potato dough, the French version is made with pâte à choux dough. This is the same basic dough used to make Dorie’s delicious Gougères. It’s also the same dough used for cream puffs.

My passion for choux dough matches — perhaps exceeds — my disdain for gnocchi, so I thought about giving this recipe a try. What finally tipped the scale was the fact that this dish also calls for béchamel, or white sauce. This is one of the mother sauces of French cooking, so I was looking forward to trying Dorie’s version.

After making the choux dough, I put a pot of water on to boil. The dough is much stickier than Italian gnocchi dough, and rather than rolling out the dough (which would be impossible) the gnocchi are formed by dropping the dough by teaspoonfuls into boiling, salted water.

After boiling the gnocchi, I let it cool while I made the béchamel.

To make the béchamel, I began by heating milk in one pan while I made a butter and flour roux in another. When the flour was cooked, I combined the roux with the scalded milk, added salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then cooked it all for a few minutes. I let the béchamel cool while I grated Gruyère cheese.

I assembled the gnocchi à la parisienne by layering parmesan cheese, gnocchi, béchamel, and Gruyère cheese in a buttered baking dish. I dotted the cheese with butter, then slid the whole thing into a 350°F oven.

I baked the gnocchi for 10 minutes, then increased the oven temperature to 400° and baked it for an additional 15 minutes, until the dish was bubbly and the cheese just beginning to brown.

I was surprised by how much this dish puffed up in the oven. Choux dough tends to do that, but since it hadn’t risen much when I boiled it, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it baked. It looked good and smelled great, so I was ready to set aside my feelings about gnocchi and give this dish a try.

Dorie compares this dish to macaroni and cheese in that it is best brought to the table and eaten immediately. It reminded me of mac and cheese in flavor, too, which may be why the kids liked it so well. It wasn’t as gummy as other gnocchi that I’ve eaten. It was still heavy, but the choux dough puffed up nicely and didn’t remind me of overcooked pasta.

My wife and I liked it — and I certainly enjoyed it much more than Italian gnocchi — but it wasn’t my favorite dish that I’ve made from this book. It was worth making, both to try the French version of gnocchi and to practice making béchamel. And I might even make it again as a side dish. But unlike most of the recipes we’ve made from Dorie’s book so far, this isn’t one that will become a regular on my table.

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41 Comments

  1. betsy said,

    January 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Sure looks mouthwatering! I skipped this recipe because I was alone this week and Dorie said the leftovers wouldn’t keep. I’ll have to try soon though.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      I didn’t save the leftovers, since Dorie said they wouldn’t reheat well. But I read in several people’s blogs that it reheated fine the next day.

  2. napangel said,

    January 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Beautiful job, gaaarp! (As usual!)

  3. jayne said,

    January 16, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I love gnocchi, and I was very curious about making this version. Very surprised and pleased with how it turned out – the texture was so different from the usual potato gnocchi. Your pictures look great – and good for you for making it, despite your aversion to gnocchi!

    • gaaarp said,

      January 16, 2011 at 10:17 am

      Glad to hear you liked it. It was better than I expected.

  4. Kathy said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Looks wonderful…I found the béchamel sauce to be a bit of a problem. I was able to rescue it but it was much to thick.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 15, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      My bechamel was thick, too. But it worked fine for this dish.

  5. Lana said,

    January 15, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I love gnochhi in every incarnation, but didn’t have the time to make this dish (I look like Marty Feldman right now, one eye red and swollen, hurting really bad – cooking was not No.1 on my list of priorities). But, your pictures made me crave the dough:)
    I applaud you for trying out the recipe knowing your dislike of gnocchi. I can see why the kids would enjoy it. I am not giving up on the recipe, just moving it to a later date:)

    • gaaarp said,

      January 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Sorry to hear you’re in pain. Even sorrier to hear that you look like Marty Feldman. 😉

      If you like gnocchi, you’ll probably love this dish.

  6. Cakelaw said,

    January 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Great step by step photos – and your gnocchi looks superb.

  7. January 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Glad that you gave it a shot! The final product looks so deliscious

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks. It wasn’t a complete loss. We got a nice dinner out of it.

  8. January 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    How weird… mine didn’t puff up at all. Oh well, it was still delicious. And yours looks wonderful!

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

      Thanks, Jessica. I certainly didn’t expect it to puff up so much.

  9. Renee said,

    January 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

    It was great to read your description. I don’t think I’ll get this one made this month. It sounds interesting but there are lots of other recipes in the world. Glad is was a pleasant surprise overall for you.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      Thanks. It was OK, but I wouldn’t have been broken-hearted if I had skipped it.

  10. jmk said,

    January 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Beautiful pictures! I may have to make gougeres again, since you said choux!

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      I thought the same thing as I was writing this post!

  11. Anne-Marie said,

    January 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Great photos. I’m really enjoying everyone’s honest reviews, both pro and con.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks, Anne Marie!

  12. Cher said,

    January 14, 2011 at 7:43 am

    This was a tough one for me – I had chalked it up to the fact that I haven’t made a bechamel or choux in a long time… I did re-attack bechamel (for a pasta dish) a week later, using a few tricks I remembered and it came out much better.
    I loved the oven spring on yours! This dish did rise quite a bit in the oven…

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      My bechamel came out OK, although it was really thick.

  13. Elaine said,

    January 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I love all your process photos. Mine puffed up beautifully, but quickly deflated once I took it out of the oven.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Mine stayed pretty puffy.

  14. Liz said,

    January 14, 2011 at 5:58 am

    Wow, I love the look of your puffed gnocchi! I used a teaspoon cookie disher to make mine round…and I think the extra handling prevented them from being so fluffy! Nice job!

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      I couldn’t figure out how to get mine well-shaped. They were globby, but once covered with bechamel, it didn’t seem to matter.

  15. January 14, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Wow That turned out fantastic. Especially considering you almost didn’t make it. Enjoy the post!B:)

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm

      Thanks, Beth! I like your post, too.

  16. ComeUndone said,

    January 14, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I’m surprised by the poufing! I thought that boiling them in water would eliminate much of the rising in the oven. A rich dish for sure.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      I wondered about that, too. But bagels still puff up when baked, even after boiling.

  17. stephirey said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    I agree that next time I make it I’ll add a bit of cheese to the bechamel and leave the butter off the top (totally not needed). I was also amazed at how much they puffed in the oven…at one point they were 4-5 inches taller than the pan (when it had started out flush with the pan top)…almost like a souffle. They settled down when I took it out of the oven. Glad you gave it a try!

    • gaaarp said,

      January 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      She had me at choux. I love making and cooking with pate a choux dough ever since I discovered gougeres.

  18. January 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I also loved the puff-age in the oven! Just realized I forgot to add the dots of butter before cooking 😉

    • gaaarp said,

      January 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm

      I’m not sure it needed the butter — there was so much cheese and butter in it to begin with.

  19. Monica said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I added a bit of dijon mustard to the bechamel sauce and cheese to the dough, to make them a bit more flavorful, I also thought it needed “something”. And it totally worked. But, like everyone mention, if you are not a fan of gnocchi, then this is not the dish for you.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Mustard bechamel sounds good. I may have to try that on something else.

  20. Kayte said,

    January 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Oh that photo of it out of the oven looks so delicious! We are cheese lovers over here, so this one seemed to be something that we would all enjoy. Seeing yours makes me think we will…will be interesting to compare your take on it all when I make it. Nice process photos, especially since there aren’t any in the book, very helpful.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      If I were to make it again, I would sully the bechamel with some of the cheese. The sauce was good, and the cheese melted on top delicious, but I think a cheesy sauce would have made it much better.

  21. Margaret said,

    January 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Glad to see how this one turns out since no pic in book. Bechemel is in fridge. Gnocchi in the freezer. Need Parm cheese to finish. I was also expecting the Italian gnocchi and this was quite a different recipe than I was expecting. Make a partial for me for lunch 2mrw and save the rest.

    Sorry you didn’t care for it. We’ll see.

    • gaaarp said,

      January 13, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      I think if you like gnocchi, you’ll like this. I’m just not a gnocchi fan.


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