I wasn’t planning on doing a two parter, but Lindz took a really cute picture of Ophelia and me.
Our friend, Narren, was up here in the Cities for a conference last week. Being the good friend he is, he called us wondering if we wanted to get together for supper one night. Our answer was “Well, duh.” After winding our way through the maze of one-ways in downtown Minneapolis, we found Narren waiting outside of his hotel for us. Once he hopped in the car, his first question was “Where are we going?” Yeah, this wasn’t helpful. Lindz and I rarely go to downtown, so it’s practically a foreign country to us. So we found a parking ramp a little farther down the road and figured that was a good starting point. After walking around for just a bit, we discovered that we were right by the hotel where Lindz and I had our “stay-cation” (a post that is coming soon, i.e. as soon as I remember to get some pics from Lindz’ computer). At this point Lindz suggested going to Kieran’s Pub, neither Narren or I could come up with any reason not to, so that is where we ended up.
I’ve never been to Kieran’s, but I’ve heard about it constantly from friends who work downtown, as well as ones who like to frequent pubs. I haven’t heard a bad review, and after visiting, I can see why. Since we went on a Tuesday, it wasn’t very busy at all, which is exactly the way I like it. We were seated immediately and promptly placed our drink order. Both Narren and I decided to go with the June beer special: Brooklyn Lager.
As far as food, I couldn’t resist going with the fish and chips. After all, we were in an Irish pub. Also, it is one of those dishes that I use to determine the quality of a place. I use dishes that are deceptively simple to prepare, but if it’s done right, it’s wonderful. If it’s not done right, well, you can tell immediately. In other words, there really isn’t a middle ground for taste. The result? Kieran’s passed with flying colors. Easily one of the top 3 places where I’ve had fish and chips here in the Cities. I took the walleye option over the cod. No particular reason, just the way my whim was pointing at that moment. As a added bonus, I didn’t even need to ask for malt vinegar. They just assumed that I wanted it because everyone should eat it this way. I love it!
. . . So I guess I’ll catch up a little on my posts that I’ve been neglecting. I’m going to do the less involved ones, so don’t pretend there is any actual chronological order here. It’s just what’s convenient for me, and that’s what’s important right?
We ate out a couple of times at places that are worthy of posting. The first one is Mac’s Fish and Chips located on the corner of Hamline and Larpenteur in St. Paul. I cannot speak with any authority about any dishes beyond the cod and chips basket, clam and chips basket, deep fried cheese curds, and salt-water taffy. I’ve never been able to convince myself to order anything else because this subset of their menu is just that good. This is a place that I cannot possible recommend enough. BTW, chips = french fries in the British parlance for those not in the know. Oh, I should note that Mac’s wraps the baskets in newspaper like they do back in England. It’s a nice touch.
The other place of note that we ate at was Muffuletta on Como Ave. I had never eaten there before so I was interested in going to an alumni dinner that Lindz’s school was throwing. Ok, I was interested in going for a reason beyond just free food. Maybe Narren was right, I am just a food whore. But I think that is a topic for another post. Anyway, Muffuletta is a bistro style place with a globally inspired menu. Since the school took over the whole restaurant, there was a limited menu. I got the salmon wellington and Lindz got the mushroom risotto. Hers was very tasty but nothing I haven’t eaten / made before. I have to admit that curiosity drove my decision to have the salmon. Ever since we honeymooned in Jamaica where I had the most amazing beef wellington, again a topic for another post, I’ve been fascinated with the dish. The salmon dish was over some roast veggies and some kind of cream sausce that I can’t remember the specifics on. On the whole, the dish was good and put together well. My only complaint about it was that the salmon was over cooked. I don’t know of a solution to the problem, so while it is a critique, it is not a judgmental one. It is just something I would have liked differently. If that makes any sense at all.
I know, I’ve been terrible at keeping up with the posting lately. Been having issues with connecting my phone to the computer (linux & android currently don’t like each other). But I’ve figured out a way around it and can transfer files. (Should just get the #$^*&^ digital camera we’ve been planing on. Besides, I’ll get better quality photos.) Anyway, I haven’t forgotten about this project. Here’s a couple of photos from posts that I’ve got in the works. I just have to sit down and commit to writing them.
Potato dumplings or kluski or gnocchi, depending on where you are, can be very airy or denser than lead. I’ve had both, unfortunately it’s been mostly the latter. Sorry Mom, they taste great, but they are little rocks. So when I found a recipe for “Light-as-Air Potato Gnocchi” in the Sept-Oct issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I was intrigued. The ones that my mom makes uses raw potatoes and the CI recipe that I found uses cooked potatoes which may be one of the reasons. They are actually many variables that can cause denseness in this whole process. Which is remarkable considering how few ingredients are present. Basically it all depends on technique and choosing the right version of an ingredient. The average moisture content of different potatoes will affect how it reacts with the flour. The type of flour will affect the final taste, as I found out. The amount of kneading will also affect the texture. Even how you cook and mash the potatoes is a factor. The ratio of potato and flour is the biggest, and most important, component. Like I said, a lot of variables. Just in the interest of full disclosure, I learned most of this by reading the article before the recipe and not through personal experimentation. Someday I’ll get to that point.
Like always, I’m typing the recipe as I did it. Which, as always, pretty closely follows the original recipe.
Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage
- 2 lbs russet potatoes
- 1 lg egg, lightly beaten
- 4 oz AP unbleached flour, plus some for the counter
- 1tsp plus 1 Tbs salt
- 4 Tbs butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tsp dried rubbed sage
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat to 450 degrees. Poke each potato several times with a paring knife. Microwave the potatoes on high until the ends are slightly soft. About 10 to 13 minutes. Flip the ‘taters about halfway through. Transfer the potatoes directly to the oven and bake until a knife glides easily through. Around 20 minutes. After the potatoes are done, hold it in a towel and peel the skins off with a paring knife. Mash the potatoes immediately (preferably through a ricer), and place them onto a baking sheet. Gently spread into an even layer and let cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer 16 oz of the potatoes to a mixing bowl and gently mix in the egg.
Sprinkle the flour and 1 teaspoon of salt onto the mixture and gently combine with a fork until no pockets of dry flour are left. Press the mixture into a rough ball and transfer to a lightly floured counter.
Gently knead until it is smooth, but slightly sticky, about 1 minute. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper and dust with flour. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and gently roll each one out into a 1/2″ rope on a floured counter. Cut each rope into 3/4″ pieces.
Roll each piece across the back of a fork to get the traditional grooves in the gnocchi. If the dough sticks at any point in this whole process add some flour to the various surfaces.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a 12″ skillet over med-hi heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter is browned and emits a nutty aroma. About 1 1/2 minutes. Off the heat, add the shallot and sage stirring until the shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and the salt. Cover to keep warm.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 1 Tbs of salt. Using the wax paper as a sling, gently lower the gnocchi from one pan into the water and cook until firm and just cooked through. About 90 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi to the the sauce. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi. Gently toss the dumplings with the sauce and serve.
For this supper, I was using the gnocchi as a side dish for the walleye that my family and I caught on Lake of the Woods this last August. I know. It’s okay to be jealous. I just did a cornmeal crust on the fish and fried it in a little olive oil. Nothing fancy, just tasty. Since we haven’t had brussel sprouts in quite a while, I figured that would be a nice veg to throw into the mix. These I just steamed and dressed with some butter, salt, and pepper.
There is only one minor thing I would change for this whole meal. I would use bleached AP flour instead of the unbleached because the unbleached masked the potato flavor a little by adding a distinct wheat taste. It wasn’t a bad combination, I just would prefer a stronger potato flavor in potato dumplings.