Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Gnocchi fit for an Italian Fraternal Organisation

In the latest "Cook the Books" bookclub, we've been reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

I'm actually faintly ashamed that I hadn't read it before. I have had many people tell me that I had to read it because I would love it, but somehow I never got around to it. And they were right - I did just love it.

I loved his no-holds-barred style, I loved the minutiae of life in a professional kitchen and I loved how clearly you could hear his voice. It reads very much like his narration on some of his TV shows. So I guess he didn't have a ghostwriter. Which makes for a pleasant change!

I am not one of those enthusiastic amateur cooks who imagines going pro one day. I don't want to run a pub, or a cafe, or win Masterchef (unless I get a newspaper column out of it). I like my sleep too much. But getting a comfy lounge chair view of the life was brilliant.

It was quite difficult to choose something to cook that represented the book for me. Would it be something piled into a ring? Would it be garnished with snipped parsley? Would it be the sort of beef daube Bourdain says he likes to eat on his days off? No. It had to be gnocchi.

I loved the story from early on in his career about the hotel chef being asked by some mobsters to make some old-fashioned gnocchi Genovese. I also found it funny (typical of the Gallocentric restaurant training I guess) how very scornful Bourdain is about Italian restaurants.

In the incident with the mob, Bourdain comments that the chef probably hasn't made gnocchi or meat sauce from scratch in years. Now, I couldn't find a really Genovese meat sauce recipe, so I went with the classic pesto. Which turned out to be a good thing, because I ended up serving this to vegetarian friends.

For my gnocchi recipe, I turned to Giorgio Locatelli. Locatelli specifically states in Made in Italy that not all professional kitchens are swashbuckling pirate ships like Bourdain describes, and his kitchen is definitely not, so I thought that tied in nicely too.

It took a couple of goes to figure out what the paste was supposed to feel like, in order to have them cook to light, fluffy clouds. But I got there! Fresh pesto, extra cheese on top, and a side dish of warm barbecued vegetable salad (baby leeks, aubergine, courgettes and peppers in a lemon and garlic vinaigrette). It wasn't pretty, it wasn't restauranty, it was vegetarian and it certainly wasn't French. But I don't think Bourdain would hate it.

20 comments:

Natashya said...

I was surprised at how much I liked this book, but I still have no idea what to cook from it.
The gnocchi was a great idea! A true labour of love.

Darius T. Williams said...

I'm so loving this presentation...I love gnocchi anything - and this looks good.

kat said...

Such a great book. I always tell my husband that Anthony Bourdain is my TV boyfriend

Foodycat said...

Natashya - it was a skill I was wanting to acquire.

Darius - thanks!

Kat - you have good taste in men ;)

The Cat's Mother said...

Did you use a ricer for the potatoes?

I can't find a meat-based Genovese sauce. Pesto seems pretty authentic (unless you have a few truffles left over?)

The vegetables are a Ligurian touch from my reading of Claudia Roden.

Debinhawaii said...

Great job with the post and your gnocchi. (I recently made them for the first time and I admire anyone who undertakes the task now!).

I am so glad you liked the book--this one is a re-read for me but I am enjoying it again.

Joie de vivre said...

I haven't read this book either. I'll have to now that I've read your recommendation!

Heather said...

homemade gnocchi is the greatest thing ever. yours looks so delish!

Foodycat said...

Mother - yup. Lovely new ricer! No truffles in at the moment.

Deb - thanks! The books have been great choices so far.

Joie - it is a great read.

Heather - that's a big compliment coming from an Italian!

Peter M said...

I too recently made gnocchi for the 1st time...we share that bond! lol

I too have to get crackin' on the "cookbooks" entry...Kitchen Confidential was a good read but I agree, I have no desire to run/work in a professional kitchen.

Rachel said...

Great post. The mobster gnocchi was a good choice from the book. I am in the middle of rereading it and forgot how filthy, yet fun, Bourdain's writing is. Should be a great Cook the Books roundup.

Foodycat said...

Peter - how did yours go?

Rachel - I am really looking forward to seeing what everyone else does!

Sam said...

Home-made gnocchi is something I have to try, I'm sure they're so much better than the shop bought version.

How do you rate Giorgio Locatelli's book, I've been considering that one for a while...

Johanna said...

I am glad you liked the book so much! You did a great job with the food, but I think that your book analysis really catches the spirit of the writer so well. Good luck!

Foodycat said...

Sam - this is the first dish I have made out of it and I have had it over a year, but the writing and photography (the pics are by Dan Lepard) is so amazing that I think it is worth the shelf space

Johanna - thanks! This is such a great event to be part of.

Ali said...

what fun! your guests are so lucky. how do you do your artichoke fritters? they look absolutely scrumptious. I don't like jelly in trifle either. what a beautiful meal!

alexandra's kitchen

Joanne said...

Gnocchi IS quite an undertaking, so major props to you for that! I love Bourdain's voice as well, he is so unapologetic and real. He would definitely have loved all the effort you put into this!

Suzie said...

Looks really good to me - I am in awe of anyone who makes something like gnocchi from scratch. And I agree - Bourdain would definitely like too!

Foodycat said...

Ali - thanks! I like to be kind to the vegetarians, because they miss out on so much.

Joanne - thanks! I have all sorts of plans for other types of gnocchi now I've had some practice.

Suzie - they were surprisingly easy, once I had a feel for how the batter was supposed to be.

Simona said...

I also had not read the book before. And I am also not entertaining any idea of going pro. Gnocchi was a great choice!

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