"Substitutionus Maximus", or, "Swapping Ingredients for Fun and Profit".
What’s a gnocchi? Potato dumpling, of course.
Well, to be exact, it’s just a dumpling of Italian origin. Potato gnocchi are a relatively recent invention, with potatoes (like tomatoes and corn) being introduced to Italy only after the advent of trans-Atlantic trade.
Gnocchi can be made with a huge variety of ingredients, from regular flour with egg to semolina or ricotta. Herbs, cheeses, spices – you name it, you can pop ‘em in the gnocchi. Most of the variety you’ll find is in the starch, but it brings us to our topic today – substitutions.
It’s quite easy to perform substitutions within recipes as long as you maintain a slight similarity in the type of ingredient you’re swapping and a nod to necessary adjustments for flavor preservation. Starches are really easy to swap, and the occurrence of such changes is becoming more commonplace as the number of gluten-avoidance diets rises each year.
With potato gnocchi, only a portion of the flour is removed in place of the potato, thereby maintaining a bit of gluten to help the dumpling hold its shape. Gluten-free diets face a bit of difficulty in this area, relying on other binders such as egg or xanthan gum to ensure a sturdy product. If you’re swapping out flour for flour, as in rye, buckwheat or whole wheat, follow the general principle of the potato gnocchi and keep a portion of all purpose flour in your recipe so as to provide the desired flavor without creating too dense of a final product.
There are countless books that cover all aspects of substitution within the culinary arts – most any cooking book you can find is composed of recipes that alter or swap ingredients for new flavors and textures. Try anything and everything, just don’t expect them all to go perfectly well – cooking is all about trying, with the successes and failures equal opportunities to learn more and hone your craft.
Basic Gnocchi Recipe
7 medium potatoes
1 whole egg
1 pound salt
Wash potatoes and cover with salt. Place potatoes in preheated 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Remove meat of potatoes and run through foodmill or ricer. In a large mixing bowl knead potatoes, egg, flour, and any dry ingredient you might want to add until medium stiff dough occurs. Place on cutting board, cut into sections and cover with a towel. Roll out sections into 3/4" logs and cut into 3/4" sections. Roll off of fork into the floured bowl that the dough was made in. For storage of extra gnocchi, place on sheet pan or a shallow pan and place in freezer over night. The next day you can place the gnocchi in Ziploc bags for storage of up to 6 months or so.
To cook gnocchis, place in pot of boiling water and cook until all gnocchis float. After about 2 minutes of floating place in a hot sauté pan with butter and oil until golden brown.
Okay, so this is a bit of a preemptive strike against any foodies who may start clamoring about the usage of the term ‘bisque.’
You see, bisque is one of those dishes whose definition, and thereby ingredients, has changed over time. Classically, a bisque is just seafood. Well, if you go farther back than that, like, before the 17th century, then classically-classically a bisque is a soup made with, and thickened by, game or seafood. They mostly used crayfish as the seafood, and as time passed, crayfish and lobster ended up becoming the main ingredients.
Even now, French culinary dictionaries are gonna say that a bisque is exclusively seafood. American ones will say that the term can include soups made with other meats or exclusively vegetables.
“So,” you may ask, “What’s the big deal?”
Well, nothing, really. What the stalwart defenders of culinary lexicon have probably forgotten is that food changes over time. The terms should shift as well. If a ‘bisque’ is seen more as a dish that’s thickened by pureeing the ingredients, then we can lump in the vegetable bisques and what-not.
So, cut the chefs of the world some slack if they use a term that, according to Culinary Dictionary X, is wrong. Unless, of course, they’re trying to call a pile of scrambled eggs on a plate an omelet. That’s just not cool.
- Chef Savage
1 ea Yellow Onions Rough Chopped
6cans Artichokes In Water (16oz)
1qt Heavy Cream
1/4lb Gruyere Cheese (shredded)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Sauté Onions in butter until soft.
Add Artichokes do not drain.
Add cream simmer 1 hour.
Blend with immersion blender till smooth.
Add cheese and blend again.
Pass through china cap.
Serve with warm crabmeat.
One of my biggest pet peeves with cooking – or at least, with other people's cooking – is a lack of flexibility. At work, that mostly comes about from inflexible diners and employees with no work availability, but that’s not what we’re talking about... I’m talking about flexibility with recipes. A lot of recipes are really strict and rigid, requiring items in strange amounts like “two cups plus a teaspoon of sugar” or “three and a half eggs.” Really? A half egg? From what, a half chicken?!? The great thing about most recipes is that you really can fudge the amounts; your sauce will be just the same without that extra teaspoon, and go ahead and use the whole egg. You’re not gonna kill anyone. But it’s not just amounts, it’s also in the procedure. So many recipes say “bake at 392 degrees for exactly 21.2 minutes” or such nonsense. Sure, a temperature range is great and all, but ovens vary, and my roast chicken in one oven may be done a lot faster than another. The recipe should focus more on the actual procedure, or what it is you’re looking for – golden brown crust, firm center, a certain internal temperature so that you don’t serve raw chicken. Then you might actually kill somebody!
Hollandaise is like that. There’s a half dozen ways of making it; I’ve seen it made in a bowl over a double boiler, over a fryer, in a blender… hell, I bet you could do it in front of a screaming hot oven, but you’d probably cook yourself as well.
But the reason the recipe is flexible, and that people can make it different ways and still come out with the same sauce – that’s because they understand what’s going on. Heat plus eggs equals coagulation, and when you add melted butter, you get the thick sauce you want.
So do the recipe however you want, and as long as you understand what’s happening, and more importantly, why, you can do anything!
- Chef Savage
2 ea Egg Yolks
1oz Lemon Juice
1oz White Wine
1oz Worcestershire Sauce
2 shakes Tabasco Sauce
½-3/4# Clarified Butter
Pinch Salt & Pepper
Melt butter in microwave in 20-second intervals till butter reaches 180 degrees. Be careful butter may boil over and could burn.
Place egg, lemon, wine, worcestershire and tabasco in blender. Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add butter till desired thickness. Finish with salt and pepper.
An incredibly versatile paste or stuffing (think: Beef Wellington)!
How does that saying go? "Good things come to those who wait"?
That could be applied to most everything in cooking. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff that’s really easy to do in no time at all, and you don’t really need to wait for them – fresh salads, a quick fired steak, seared scallops - all sorts of delectable items.
But a good stew or a hearty sauce, a slow baked meringue or a balsamic reduction – these are things that need time and patience to perfect.
Mushroom duxelle is one of those items that should be filed in the ‘Worth the Wait’ category of your recipe book. I’ve always liked it for the sheer depth of utility – concentrated mushroom flavor, ready to go, without having to take up a ton of space in a recipe.
Some things don’t reduce down well, their flavors don’t hold up to the prolonged heat: berries, herbs, fruits – those are things designed for low prep, their flavors immediate and fresh. Mushrooms, on the other hand, do great. The flavor mellows a bit, smoothes out and becomes uniform.
Here, at The Cliff House, we make these mushroom en croutes on the dining room menu, with marinated portabella mushrooms, feta cheese mixed with duxelle, all wrapped in a puff pastry crust. The duxelle lets me add super-intense mushroom flavor into the filling, without having to make it watery or taking up too much space for the feta. You can do the same thing with salmon or beef tenderloin, wrapping it in puff pastry, with a thin layer of that duxelle inside giving a new angle of flavor.
Of course, you have to wait for that – you can’t rush a duxelle. It takes time, a watchful eye, low heat, and ... did I mention time? If you cook it on too high a heat, you’ll scorch it and make it bitter. Too low and… nothing will happen, not very surprising there. Pull it off too soon and you won’t have cooked it enough, and it will be too wet; anything you add it to will be soggy. So, in true Goldilocks fashion, you’ve got to wait and make it… just right.
- Chef Savage
3 pounds Crimini, Portobello or Button mushrooms
2 ounces butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Finely chop mushrooms with a knife. Heat butter in large skillet, add shallots and garlic, sauté till translucent. Add chopped mushrooms. Stirring regularly cook over low heat until all moister cooks out of mushrooms and mixture becomes dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
You may also add fresh herbs and white truffle oil to the finished product.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Maybe the saying shouldn’t be that we make it complicated, but that we think it is. Gourmet food is in the eye of the beholder, whether from the premium ingredients within or the intricate processes required to make it. But just because gourmet food looks more complicated doesn’t mean it’s unapproachable for the average cook at home.
As a chef, the main task in my hands is the pairing of flavors, plain and simple: What goes well with what? That’s the question I ask myself, every day. Take a few simple, strong flavors, blend them together, you’ve got a dish. Use natural, fresh ingredients, you have a better dish.
The physical process, the manipulation of proteins and vegetables – that can look complicated. But transforming them from their rough, raw states into things of beauty is easier than you think, and it’ll take your better dish to a fantastic one.
Whenever I sit down to create a new recipe, the focus is flavor. When I created this Colorado Lamb dish last summer, the key idea in my mind was building the other flavors around the lamb. The execution of the dish might be complicated, but the flavors? Not by a long shot. The dish is dominated by simple, core flavor concepts: fruit (from the fresh apple and dried apricot), herbal (from the crushed mint in the filling) and the raw, natural gaminess of the lamb (the best part). These three simple flavors drive the entire affair.
Once you knock out the flavors of your dish, what’s left? The physical preparation? …and that’s the easy part. Don’t let the look of a rack of lamb scare you off: anyone can do it. Not only that, you can do it in no time at all; half an hour, tops. You’ll have an amazing meal to impress friends and family, and you’ll see how simple gourmet cooking really is.
And remember, in addition to trying this for yourself in your own kitchen, I will be offering this dish in The Cliff House dining room this weekend only! Utter the “secret phrase” at the end of this episode for an exculsive 15% discount only for viewers of “The Savage Kitchen”.
And if you love the dish, or if you have any questions, don’t forget to comment and most importantly: please, share it! Also, you can subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest videos, posts, and recipes.
Stuffed with Apricots, Fuji Apple and Fresh Mint
Rissolée potatoes, Sautéed Spinach
2 8 Bone Frenched racks of lamb
1lb Dried apricots
2ea Fuji apples
10 Mint leaves
2ea Russet potatoes
2lb Fresh spinach
4c Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Clean silver skin from lamb and cut into 4 bone racks. Season the lamb with salt & pepper. Sear in skillet and let cool.
In a food processor blend apricot, peeled and cored apple with mint. Place in a piping bag.
Take cooled lamb and cut a slit through the center of the loin. Take piping bag and place the tip into the slit in the lamb and fill with stuffing. Don’t over stuff because when you finish cooking the lamb the meat will shrink and squeeze out the stuffing.
Wrap bones with aluminum foil to keep from burning.
Cook lamb in a 350 degree over for 10 to 12 minutes.
Peel potatoes. Use a Parisienne scoop to shape the potatoes into small balls.
Simmer the potatoes in salted water until the potatoes are tender but not fully cooked.
Drain the potatoes.
Place the potatoes in a sauté pan and sauté with butter over high heat till potatoes turn golden brown.
Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.
In a large sauté pan cook spinach in butter till wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Place Vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan and cook over low heat till small bubbles appear about 15 to 20 minutes.
Pull from heat and place in small soup cup till needed.
Place spinach in center of plate. Cut lamb in half and place over spinach, locking bones together. Place potatoes around the outside of plate. Drizzle Reduction over the lamb.