Gnocchi Parisienne with roasted pumpkin and sage butter
There’s no denying that I love the versatility of choux pastry. Once the technique is mastered it is the key to so many dishes.
First, there is the baked version, well known as the basis for cream puffs, eclairs, Paris-Brests and profiteroles. Add a little cheese to a basic choux pastry recipe and you can bake beautiful gougère.
Once you’ve had enough of baking choux pastry, you can heat up the deep fryer and start deep-frying it for a completely different result. What you have now is a beignet. As in all tangled webs of derivative techniques, you have at least one delightfully named specialty. My favourite in this group is a light, sugary, deep-fried puff of pastry poetically named pets de nonnes, or “nun’s farts”.
Then there is the third way of cooking choux pastry – poaching it. From this we get the lovely gnocchi Parisienne. It is the only version of choux pastry that’s cooked thrice, not twice. Once the choux base is made, it gets poached and cooled. It then can be reheated in several ways. This gives the dish the capacity to suit different seasons.
In this recipe I bake it with roasted pumpkin, moisten it with a brown sage butter and garnish it with parmesan curls. It is equally delicious if it is baked smothered in napoli and béchamel sauces.
Once the grey pall of winter has lifted and there are spring greens aplenty, it is gorgeous just tossed in a pan with peas, broad beans, asparagus tips, chervil, chives and a tiny hint of cream. And as spring gives way to summer, toss with cherry tomatoes, basil and tomatoes for a delicious warm-weather supper.
I think the basic technique of choux pastry is a prime example of why cooking never loses its shine for me. It reminds me of the continuous mirror images that fascinated me as a child, a constantly repeating effect. But with choux it is always tumbling and turning and becoming something slightly different but equally delicious.
- 135ml water
- 90g butter
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1kg firm pumpkin – butternut or Queensland blue – peeled and cut into 1.5cm dice
- 60ml olive oil
- 200g unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup sage leaves
- shaved parmesan, to serve
- Bring the water, butter and salt to the boil, making sure the butter is melted before the water boils. Stir in the flour as you would for choux pastry. Cook and stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and put in the bowl of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl. Cool for five minutes.
- With the paddle attachment fitted to the machine, or using a wooden spoon, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the cheese and mustard.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Turn to a simmer.
- Place the gnocchi dough in a piping bag with a plain 0.75-centimetre nozzle. Working quickly, squeeze the dough out of the bag and into the hot water, cutting it off with a small knife every two centimetres. Continue until you have done a quarter of the mix.
- As it cooks, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Simmer for about three minutes and then lift the gnocchi out into an iced-water bath. Continue in this manner until all the dough is used.
- The gnocchi should then be drained and tossed in a little oil. It can be kept like this in the refrigerator for three to four days.
- Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
- Toss the diced pumpkin in olive oil, place in baking dish in a single layer and bake until soft and slightly caramelised (about 20 minutes).
- Place gnocchi in an ovenproof serving dish, scatter with the pumpkin and return to the oven until puffy and golden (about 15 minutes).
- When nearly done, place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat for four to five minutes until the butter starts to turn brown. Add the sage leaves and cook for about one minute or until crisp. Make sure the butter is a lovely nutty brown.
- Remove the gnocchi from the oven, then pour over the butter and sage leaves. Garnish with curls of parmesan.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 14, 2018 as "Choux shines".
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