Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Tomato Shrimp Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

(for the beer)

1 12 oz. bottle (or more!) Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale

(for the gnocchi: will make about 6 servings)

3 medium sweet potatoes, roasted (you can microwave them or boil them if you really prefer, but we found the dry cooking method made for less moisture to deal with--and you can be roasting the sauce elements at the same time)
1 1/2 cups white flour (approx.)
1 fresh egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1) Peel your sweet potatoes and either shave them into a fine pulp with a knife or send them through a potato ricer. Don't overwork.
2) Pile the flesh in the middle of a big well-floured cutting board with the beaten egg, maple, and all dry spices in the center.
3) Sprinkle the pulp with flour, slowly incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet ones with a fork. Add only as much flour as needed--the dough should be sticky, nearly too sticky to handle although still workable.
4) Divide your dough into 4 ropes on a dry, well-floured surface, each about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the ropes into 1-inch segments with a floured knife.
5) Leave as much gnocchi as you want to cook immediately on your work surface. Transfer the rest to a nonstick baking sheet and place in the freezer (you'll have lots). When the individual dumplings are frozen enough not to be sticky, you can put them in a freezer bag and have gnocchi for later.
6) Boil a large pot of salted water while you make the sauce. Drop all the reserved gnocchi into the water when it reaches a rolling boil, and watch it carefully. When all of it floats, it's finished. Transfer with a slotted spoon directly into the sauce.

(for the sauce: serves 2)

(just oil the to-be-roasted ingredients lightly and cook them in the oven on a tin-foiled baking sheet for about 50 minutes at 400 degrees along with your sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 roasted onion, chopped
2 cloves roasted garlic, minced
2 roasted tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 or 2 scotch bonnet peppers, minced (go easy, these are very hot)
1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled, de-veined, tails removed
1 cup shrimp or fish or vegetable stock
1 tbsp. agave or sugar
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, add minced scotch bonnet. Saute 1 minute.
2) Add the roasted onion, roasted garlic, tomato paste, sugar, and roasted tomatoes along with the stock. (I always have shrimp stock on hand with shrimp dishes because I make it by boiling the shrimp tails and legs with a little bay leaf and black peppercorn and clove.) Allow to simmer until the tomato has melted into the oil and stock and the sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes.
3) Stir in the raw shrimp. Saute in the sauce until just pink and cooked through.
4) Add parsley. Drain the gnocchi and add directly to the sauce.
5) Sip Punkin' Ale. Enjoy together.

THE BEER:

Dogfish Head folks are crazy in a really good way. They are so passionate about brewing that they are very comfortable going to extremes and pushing boundaries, but we thought their classic pumpkin seasonal ale would be a great pairing with sweet potato gnocchi in an extra-spicy sauce.

This is a brown ale style brewed with pumpkin meat, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spices. Although a very fun seasonal autumn brew, pumpkin beers often meet with one of two problems: either they don't taste much like pumpkin, or they taste shriekingly of pumpkin. Neither is delicious, although I'd prefer the latter over the former just to say I tasted the pumpkin at all. The nicest thing about Dogfish Head Punkin' Ale is that it both tastes of actual pumpkin and is also quite balanced. The cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and malty pie-crusty flavors all blend together delightfully, but you don't feel as if you're drinking carbonated pumpkin pie in any way. This is still beer, baby.

THE AILMENT:

A word of caution when dealing with scotch bonnets. You know scotch bonnet peppers, yes? The ones pictured up top with Gabe holding them? Well, that's the color and the sole quantity in which my downstairs C-Town grocery store sells them. This is because, as I have deduced by now, my C-Town is making attempts on my life.

You can't buy one scotch bonnet, you see. Or even several. You have to buy oodles. And then there they are, all multicolored and beautiful and smelling of sweet grass when sweet grass tastes a bit like lava, and my natural reaction to their loveliness is to cook them. So about two years ago, when I was determined to eat Thai-style ground pork with green beans, I minced four of them up and dropped them into shimmering oil.

Here's where I slipped up.

I had my face over the pot.

Now, I know that life is a fragile and tangential continuum, multifaceted and painted in as many opinions and beliefs as there are shades of grey, but nevertheless breathing the air above newly simmering scotch bonnets is NEVER A GOOD IDEA.

Why, you might ask? I have a two-word answer to that question:

CHILI LUNG.

How does one cure Chili Lung, the reader desires to know? How do I know if I have Chili Lung? Is it hilarious? The answer to the third question: no. Well, a little. I'm going to answer the second question next: you know you have Chili Lung when you sound as if you have walking pneumonia for literally a THREE MONTH PERIOD OF TIME. Another good sign is when your cat (pictured, a very reasonable and non-reactionary feline) screams like the vacuum cleaner just came to life and flees the kitchen in a blur of panicked mammal the instant the peppers hit the pot. See, it turns out by pure linguistic coincidence that the active ingredient in pepper spray is...well, you're an intelligent reader, so I leave you to determine whether or not you have Chili Lung.

As to the first question, what should you do about it once you have given yourself (or, if we're blaming the nefarious source, C-Town has given you) Chili Lung? I have, by rigorous process of elimination, cataloged several remedies that do not work in the smallest degree:

1) Taking steam baths. Nope. Weak.
2) Covering your head with a towel and inhaling a steamed pot of eucalyptus. No. Sets you coughing again.
3) Sucking cough lozenges. Negligible effect.
4) Standing outside C-Town swearing like a theatre techie. This feels excellent, but the symptoms inevitably return. A temporary cure, though a pleasure.
5) Stealing your Dad's asthma inhaler. Promising, but you don't have asthma--so it just gives you a really weird, distant high before you start coughing again.

Solution: outfox C-Town. Do not get Chili Lung in the first place.

Which leads me to ask: who in their right mind buys this quantity of scotch bonnets at a go? And don't say "Dominicans," because I thought of that already, but my neighbors are bon vivants, not suicidal lunatics. I am left with my original conclusion. C-Town has designs on my life.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Scotch bonnets are so cute -- you just want to fill them with tiny lights -- and string them up around your house.

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