The Unbearable Lightness of Gnudi
Gnudi. No, not a slice of African antelope. Rather, little logs of local, fresh ricotta cheese held together with a hint of flour, aged cheese and egg and topped, in this case, with a chicken-mushroom-sage-thyme mixture and garnished with fried sage leaves. It all melts in the mouth, from the soft fresh cheese gnudi to the tender smoked chicken and the sage leaves.
It all started when I went to epicurious.com, my usual go-to site for ideas, to figure out what to do with some of my planked chicken from last night's dinner (yes, it's planking season again! Yay!) and my search suggested these little dumpling-like logs made with fresh ricotta, egg and aged cheese. I have heard of gnocchi, but gnudi was a new term to me, so I read further and became intrigued. Gnudi are, essentially, the filling for ravioli without the pasta surrounding. I found several different recipes but the one for which I had the most ingredients on hand was this one.
While there are several steps in the process and this is definitely a remove-your-rings exercise, most can be made ahead and just assembled when gnudi float to the top of the salted water. The recipe made enough for a crowd, too, so I'm sure we'll be eating them in different sauces for more than one meal.
I subbed in my smoked chicken for the prosciutto and button mushrooms for the wild ones (note to self: next time, try the original recipe!) and it made a delicious dinner, first time out. I have lots of changes that I'd make next time - more aged cheese, more pepper, wild mushrooms instead of tame, more herbs in the sauce, brown the mushrooms longer, try the spinach version - but we really enjoyed the airy texture of the gnudi and the rich funginess of the sauce.
Another new thing to me was the fried sage leaves. I have always carefully removed them from any dish in which they were included at restaurants, Fearing the Fried Fuzz and not wanting to have to (gag on) remove them in public. In private, I manned up and tasted one. It was amazing - disappearing instantly into nothing but flavor on the tongue.
Next time you are offered gnudi (not gnu) try them. They are a treat. And don't worry about gagging on the fried sage leaves.