And now for something completely different ...

For a change of pace, rather than another kitting post - this one is about FOOD ... and WINE! Today was my hubby's birthday so I cooked dinner and we opened an AMAZING bottle of wine (from the other stash). Dinner was gnocchi. Specifically, a test recipe from Cook's Illustrated. I moonlight as a recipe tester (don't get too excited - you can sign up to do the same thing here. No complaining if the link is broken - I don't know how long the promotion is going.

Here's the recipe for the gnocchi:

We recommend using Calabro brand ricotta for this dish (part-skim ricotta can be substituted). The gnocchi can be rolled and cut in advance and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. To freeze the uncooked gnocchi, place baking sheet in freezer until gnocchi are firm, about 1 hour. Transfer gnocchi to a zipper-lock bag and store for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen gnocchi in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking as directed. To prevent gnocchi from cooling off too quickly, warm serving platter or individual serving bowls in 200-degree oven just before cooking gnocchi.

2 large slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed and torn into quarters
1 pound (16 ounces) whole-milk ricotta cheese (part-skim ok, 15oz container also ok)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour plus additional for work surface

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

1. For the gnocchi: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. Spread crumbs on rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and just beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes, stirring once during baking time. Let cool to room temperature (you should have about 1/2 cup crumbs).

2. Line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread ricotta on paper towels in even layer into approximate 12-inch square. Cover ricotta with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until top layer of paper towels is saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Grasp bottom layer of towels and fold ricotta in half; peel back towels. Grasp bottom layer of towels and flip ricotta onto baking sheet; discard towels. Transfer ricotta to food processor and pulse until curds break down into fine, grainy consistency, about eight 1-second pulses.

3. Using rubber spatula, beat ricotta, egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl until well combined and fluffy. Add Parmesan, flour, and 1/2 cup bread crumbs; stir until well combined. Let dough rest, refrigerated, for 15 minutes.

4. Lightly dust work surface with flour. With floured hands, roll golf ball-sized pieces of dough into 3/4-inch thick rope, rolling from center of dough outward. Cut rope into ¾-inch-long pieces and transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. For the sauce: Melt butter and salt in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, about 1 1/2 minutes. Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice; cover to keep warm.

6. To cook gnocchi: While forming gnocchi, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce heat so water is simmering, then gently drop half of gnocchi into water and cook until all pieces float to surface, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer. Continue to simmer until gnocchi are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Using slotted spoon, scoop gnocchi from water, allowing excess water to drain from spoon; transfer gnocchi to skillet with sauce and cover to keep warm. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi. Using rubber spatula, gently toss gnocchi with butter until uniformly coated. Divide among warmed individual plates or serving platter and serve immediately.

Yeah, I should have taken a picture of the finished dish, but I wasn't that together. I served it with a tomato-basil sauce (rather than the brown-butter) because I couldn't justify that much more sin.

On the other hand, I did take a picture of the wine before it was all gone.

The bottle is a 1997 Ravenswood Zinfandel - one of the last bottles we purchased shortly before the winery went public. It did so back in (I think) 1999 and I was a proud shareholder. After about 2 years on the open market, it was bought by Constellation Beverages - yes, these are the same people that bring you Thunderbird, Maneschewitz and other no-name beverages. On the other hand, they also own Mondavi, Simi, and other "top tier" wineries in California and the US. I have to admit, however, that I think Ravenswood's quality has gone down - while the prices for their vineyard designate vintages have gone up. I'm truly sad. They were my favorite. Regardless - this 10 year old zinfandel was INCREDIBLE.

There were notes of cherry, oak, tobacco - and things I can't describe. There are no more Cookes down in the cellar, though we do still have a few Teldeschi, Gregory, Dickerson and McGill's. This is the year that the corks get pulled! The remodel is coming (which means our basement/house will be torn up for the better part of 8 months) and these wines are definitely on their last legs.

Anyway - a nice change from knitting (though the first sock is done). Cheers!

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