I am having a serious love affair with chestnut flour. It is sweet and nutty and has a fine texture that makes it easy to work with. The one persnickity thing about chestnut flour is that it does not keep. It is produced in October and should be consumed in November or December. SO if you want to make this recipe, get yourself some chestnut flour and don’t delay!
I have never made gnocchi before. I was emboldened by reading the gnocchi recipe in Deb Perlman’s brand new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. She acknowledges that many recipes insist that making gnocchi is difficult and picky and then proves that myth wrong by presenting an easy to follow method for making gnocchi at home. Of course her recipe is not gluten-free so I tweaked the proportions and ingredients a lot, but the method was perfect. She is an inspiring recipe writer.
Chestnut lends itself to other autumn flavours. I made a hash from butternut squash and mushrooms with rosemary, pine nuts and bit of pancetta. The chestnut gnocchi and the hash tasted great together, but it still needed a sauce, so I made a chestnut sauce with a bit of pecorino cheese. I cannot even describe how delicious bechamel sauce is when made with chestnut flour. Altogether it is hearty and delicious.
This recipe makes enough for 8 very filling servings. You can freeze the gnocchi and boil them up for a quick meal later in the week and the hash and sauce both keep well in the fridge. So, although this recipe took a bit of effort to make, it provided many fast weeknight dinners for my husband and I. We added cooked swiss chard to the leftovers and it was a very good combination.
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1½ to 2 cups of chestnut flour
AUTUMN VEGETABLE HASH
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- olive oil
- minced rosemary (about 3 Tablespoons fresh. Use less if using dried)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 lb pancetta, cut into match sticks (optional, but you will need some more olive oil to fry the mushrooms if you skip it)
- 16 oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup chestnut flour
- 2 and 3/4 cups of milk (warm or at least at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino (or parmesan)
- salt and pepper
- parmesan or pecorino to sprinkle on top
- Bake the potatoes for about 45 minutes to one hour at 400 degrees. When the potatoes can be pierced easily with a knife take them out and let them cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toss the butternut squash cubes and minced rosemary with some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and put them into the oven along with the potatoes to bake. Give them a shake or a stir every 20 minutes or so until they are soft and starting to caramelize on the edges.
- While the potatoes and squash are baking you can toast the pine nuts in large, dry skillet over medium heat. When the pine nuts are nice, light golden color, scoop them out of the skillet and set them aside. Throw the pancetta into the same pan and fry until they are crisp. Scoop the pancetta out of the skillet and set them aside (they can share a bowl with the pine nuts). If you are skipping the pancetta, just warm up a bit of oil in place of the pork fat. Throw the mushrooms and garlic into the same skillet and cook them until they release their liquid, the liquid reduces and they are just starting to sizzle. Turn the heat off and leave the skillet covered on the stove so that it stays a bit warm.
- At this point the squash might be done. When the squash is done, scrape it into the skillet along with the mushrooms. Add in the pine nuts and pancetta as well and give a few stirs to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slip them out of their skins and grate them using a potato ricer or the large holes on a cheese grater. The inside of the potatoes will still be hot, so let them cool some more while you make the chestnut sauce.
- Heat the butter for the sauce in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the chestnut flour. It will turn into a ball or a bunch of little lumps and it will not loosen back up again with gentle warming the way that wheat flour does. After a minute or so, gradually add the warmed milk and whisk with all your might to get those lumps out. When the sauce is very thick and totally smooth, add a bit more milk to thin it out. Gently warm it and continue stirring until it has a silky texture and thickens up again, just a bit. Whisk in the pecorino cheese and remove the sauce from the heat. When the cheese has melted season the sauce to taste with a bit of pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Now back to the gnocchi. Add the eggs and salt to the potatoes and mix to combine. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, combining after each addition until you have a not too sticky dough. If you add lots of flour all at once you might add too much and make your gnocchi heavy.
- Divide the dough into quarters and roll each quarter into a rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4 inch lengths.
- This recipe makes 8 filling (really filling) servings. If you are not feeding 8 people, spread your extra gnocchi out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze them. Don’t forget to transfer them to a zip lock bag after an hour or so. To cook the ones that you are eating right away, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in a quarter batch (two servings) at a time. After 2 to 4 minutes, the gnocchi will float and that means that they are done! If you are using gnocchi that you have frozen it will take a couple of minutes longer. Scoop them out and serve them with some chestnut sauce, a generous amount of the autumn vegetable hash and a sprinkle of parmesan or pecorino.