Friday, March 27, 2009

Guest Blog: Adam's Chopped Dinner

This post, dearest readers, was guest blogged by my Darling Husband. I did not alter his text, and will comment below on my thoughts. Thank you, honey!

So, tonight was my night to tackle my latest round of Chopped ingredients. As you may recall - and you read it here first! - my ingredients were andouille sausage, buttermilk, chayote squash, and potato chips. The squash and the buttermilk I a little bit figured would take care of themselves. Whatever route I went with the other ingredients, they'd surely fit in somehow. And the sausage, I figured hey, it's sausage. You cook it, and it's sausage, and it's yummy, and you eat it.
And then, there's the chips... My initial thought was to break them down to crumbs, and use them to crust something. But crust what exactly? The sausage? I COULD, Iguess, but... I don't know. Sounds a little weird. Especially alongside my preliminary thought for the chayote and the buttermilk, which was some sort of creamy pureed soup type of preparation. Creamy soup with a side of crusty sausage...? Ehh...

The next idea started as a joke. "Maybe I'll just make gnocchi from them." But then I tried it out again... "I'll make... gnocchi... from them!" With a mad scientist's gleam in my eye, it was all settled. So, I present to you, tonight's featured dish...

Potato-chip Gnocchi with Andouille in a Chayote-Sage Brown Butter.

Yeah, that's right. ;-)
It could've been a disaster. I had no idea how or if the gnocchi was going to come together. I started by stuffing chips into the food processor and grinding them down as finely as I could. NOT very encouraging. I was hoping for something that looked like cornmeal, or Italian breadcrumbs. What I got looked like the bottom of a potato chip bag. So, I thought, maybe what I need is a little moisture. I added a splash of the buttermilk, and tried it again. Within 30 seconds, the mixture had gathered itself into a perfect ball.

It looked like dough. It FELT like dough. It tasted... like potato chips. I repeated the process with the rest of the chips, adding an egg to bind it, and a bit of flour, and I had a pretty acceptable looking dough. It was a LITTLE crumbly - rolling it out, I had to stick with more of a log than a rope, but I was able to make a nice pile of little nuggets.

For the sauce, I began by browning the sausage, which I'd cut to lengths roughly the same size as the gnocchi. Once it was nicely browned, I set the sausage aside, and began to brown about a third of a stick of butter in the rendered sausage drippings.
I then added the chayote...The chayote was interesting. In my head, as I'm thinking through the dish, I'm imagining it as a squash. Butternut, acorn, whatever... But it's almost more like an apple. It's got a seed, and a bit of acore, thin skin... The raw flesh was crisp, not unlike a granny smith or a jicama, with a hint of tartness, and a clean, grassy, cucumber-y flavor. Would make a great salad... But for today, I cubed it and added it to the brown butter. I then covered it, letting it simultaneously saute and brown in the butter, and steam and soften in its own moisture. I pureed everything with astick blender, and then added a sprinkling of fresh sage, and a touchmore of the buttermilk. It was a complex sauce... all at once nutty and sweet from the brown butter, and bright and clean from the chayote and the sage.

I quickly boiled the gnocchi, which mostly held together, tossed them with the sauce and the sausage, and garnished with a dollop of ricotta. I tasted the first of the gnocchi, and let out a little giggle. They were a LITTLE weird. But they worked! Despite the occasional slightly toothy and recognizable bit of chip, I found them surprisingly light and pillowy. The sausage was bold and flavorful, and the sauce, which had been so complex in the pan, managed to tie it all together and be completely unobtrusive.
I had to go back for more...Maybe my dear wife will see fit to weigh in too, but I must say that I was a little bit impressed with myself. I took an idea that seemed faintly ridiculous and far too ambitious, and managed pretty well. For better or worse, I pulled off a shocker. And not a buckwheat fritter in sight...


  1. I was speachless when you brought out your dish--it would've been 10,000 years before I came up with that! I'm impressed at the idea, and I'm a little jealous that you pulled it off (readers will remember I once tried making gnocci from a recipe and couldn't make it work. You throw some stuff into a food processor and BAM). ;o)

    The texture of your gnocci was a little coarse, but not in a bad way. It reminded me of pollenta, actually. When I tasted the sauce alone, it was divine. I'm glad I tasted it alone, though, because I lost the wonderful nuances of it when everything was together. Andouille was spicy and flavorful (like you said, it's sausage and you cook it and yum!) and provided a nice counterpoint to the gnocci. My first taste of the gnocci, I should say, was VERY potato chippy... it reminded me a little of the breading people sometimes do on pork chops. You mentioned that might've been one from a batch that needed a few extra chip crumbs to balance the texture. Subsequent gnocci were not as assertive, which was nice. They were best with a little of the ricotta, which provided a wonderful richness that they called out for.

    Oh, and brown butter in general? Oh, yeah...

    The chayote was, indeed, a grassy apple when raw. It reminded me of summer festivals like the Jazz and Blues festival. Grassy apple sounds yucky, but it was fresh and crisp, bright and comforting. Like eating summer, in many ways. I'm a fan.

    Great job, sweetheart. [applause] Thank you for guest blogging and taking pictures, too!

  2. oh, and I love the picture at the end where you can see the steam coming off of it! :o)

    one of these days we'll have to explain the buckwheat fritters...