2018 Monaco GP: Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu & French Country Salad

Monaco always gives me a feeling of flighty, effervescent, indescribable excitement. The race is set amongst a weekend filled with sparkling locations, yachts in one of the most famous and beautiful harbors in the world, celebrity faces, smiling drivers, and excitable teams. This is a race weekend when qualifications are almost more important than the Sunday race. The drivers put it all on the line, just them against the clock, against the world. Coming so close to barriers you can barely watch sometimes as they fly around the track. Ricciardo showed the world just what he was made of this weekend. Fastest lap - ever - at Monaco in qualifications and he managed the race handily.  And as the consummate racer he is, he showed his humor and grit throughout. From "I got this buddy" in response to his Engineer near the end of a tough race, to a quick bow to the Prince and Princess before doing his now requisite shoey, he made the day for more than just his fans. He showed the world who he is. 

I always know what I am watching over this weekend, but what to eat is a whole other story. Searching for Monagasque Cuisine has not been the easiest venture. Even the Wikipedia page is sad and practically empty save for two dishes I see time and again: Barbajuan and Socca. In fact the only people apparently searching for specifically Monaco inspired food are other people cooking for F1 races! I found this blog in my search: Race Day Recipes ! I knew I couldn't be the only one with this hobby... Over time, I have also found some fellow enthusiasts on Instagram who I am always inspired by. 

I suppose the challenge may come from the fact that "Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, nestled on the east coast of France near Italy on the Mediterranean. Given its location, the cuisine of Monaco is heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. " Vagabond Journeys

Instead of fighting against the influences, I looked to French and Italian cuisines and Monagasque chefs and restaurants to build a menu for the Monaco GP. Inspired by recipes of Chef Alain Ducasse (of Restaurants Paris, and  Le Louis XV - à l'Hôtel de Paris in Monaco, fame) I decided to make Gnocchi with a Mushroom Ragu. Served with a French Country Salad and simple French Vinaigrette. For starters we decided to just go for it and have caviar and champagne cocktails. Alongside I found some delectable cheeses from France and Italy. All in all, it turned out positively lovely. 

Monaco Dinner

 

Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu

Adapted from Food & Wine, Serious Eats and Smitten Kitchen

Gnocchi
3 pounds russet potatoes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Mushroom Ragu
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds mixed mushrooms, such as porcini, oyster and hen-of-the-woods, quartered if large (cremini work equally well and are more widely available)
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup vegetable or chicken broth, plus more if making sauce ahead of time

To make the Gnocchi

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork. Set on a wire rack over a baking tray. Bake for 45 minutes – one hour until tender throughout. Rotate halfway through for even cooking. In the meantime, prepare the mushroom ragu.

2. Remove the potatoes from the oven once tender, let cool slightly. Using tongs or a kitchen towel to hold potatoes, peel them, being cautious of the steam they will release.

3. If you have a potato ricer, that is the right tool for the job. If you don’t… try Smitten Kitchen’s solution and use a box grater. Or my solution and use a food processor with the grater attachment. (Honestly, it is not perfect, but it’s also not a mono-tasker!) Rice or grate potatoes onto a clean work surface, let cool for a few more minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl using a bench scraper.

4. Gently stir in egg, egg yolk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and ½ cup cheese.

5. Add flour a little at a time to the potato mixture, mixing with your hands. Use only as much as you need so that dough does not stick to your hands.  Bring dough together with your fingertips and transfer dough, and bits in the bowl, to a cleaned and well floured work surface. Using a fold and press motion, gently knead until smooth. (Serious Eats cautions against using the smearing motion commonly used when kneading bread.) Once the dough is a uniform texture separate it into four balls.

6. Clean work surface well, and dust with fresh flour. Roll out one of the four pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces using a bench scraper. Transfer to a floured baking tray.

If you want the traditional gnocchi shape, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the dough over the back of the fork creating indents.

7. To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. Stir once very gently with a spider or slotted spoon to prevent sticking. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove with a spider or slotted spoon, shaking gently to drain before placing in serving bowl.

8. Serve topped with mushroom ragu and a healthy sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

To make the Mushroom Ragu

1. In a very large skillet, cook mushrooms in batches by melting 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add half of the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until tender and just browned, about 7 minutes. Add half each of the shallots, garlic, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. In the skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and repeat with the remaining mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme.

2. Return all of the mushrooms to the skillet. Stir in the wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the broth and season the ragù with salt and pepper; keep warm over low heat.

4. When ready to serve stir in extra broth to get to desired consistency and warm through.

Notes on the Ragu:

Ragu can be made ahead and set on low on a back burner or even refrigerated for up to a day, before serving add just enough chicken broth to rewet ingredients and create a sauce to your preferred consistency.

It may seem finicky to cook the mushrooms in batches, but this is important to promote browning and prevent them from just getting mushy from steaming them in their own juices when they are crowded in a pan. Take the time to cook the mushrooms in batches, and you will be rewarded with delicious browned rich flavor.

 

French Country Salad

French Country Salad

Adapted from Mon Petit Four and Recipe Tin Eats

5 oz arugula, approximately 5 cups
1/2 pound asparagus tough ends trimmed
1/2 cup sliced cooked beets canned
1/4 cup walnuts halves, toasted
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

French Vinaigrette

1 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2-4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until emulsified. Set aside.

2. Steam asparagus until just tender, rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Set aside.

3. Combine arugula and cooled asparagus in a bowl, top with desired amount of vinaigrette, mix until well coated. Transfer to serving bowl. Top with sliced beets, walnuts, and goat cheese. Drizzle on a little more vinaigrette as desired.