January 3, 2008

Potato Gnocchi with Sage, Preserved Lemon, and Brown butter

Sage, a member of the mint family, has been enjoyed for centuries for both its culinary and medicinal uses. The name comes from a derivative of the Latin salvus, meaning "safe," a reference to the herb's believed healing powers.*

Sage is considered to have a special affinity for fatty foods like pork and cheese, so it is used in sausage dishes and poultry stuffings. It also complements potatoes and bean soups.

resh leaves are typically added near the end of cooking process, or the leaves are sauteed in butter or olive oil until crisp, much like curry leaves.

Potato Gnocchi with Sage, Preserved Lemon, and Brown Butter is a simple and flavorful dish inspired by the classic Gnocchi with Sage and Butter. It is my contribution for Weekend Herb Blogging. I used store bought Potato Parmesan Gnocchi for this recipe. (I have never made Gnocchi from scratch yet - but never say never...)

Brown butter or Beurre noisette (hazel butter) and Beurre noir (black butter) are sauces of melted butter cooked until the milk solids and sugars have turned golden or dark brown; they are often finished with an addition of vinegar or lemon juice. Brown butter is simply butter cooked until it's milk solids have browned. Butter's flavor is deepened by boiling off the water and allowing the milk sugar and proteins to react with each other to form brown pigments and new aromas**. It is often finished with an addition of vinegar of lemon juice. (Ghee is clarified butter made by boiling off the water and removing the milk solids to leave behind a clear, long keeping fat that can be heated to a higher smoke point than butter, because it has no milk solids that can burn).

I have found Preserved lemons in South east Asian stores at dirt cheap prices. These are delicious, but incredibly salty, so watch the added salt if using. I sometimes substitute them for fresh lemons as I have done in this recipe.

13oz, (about 370g) store bought Potato Parmesan Gnocchi
1 preserved lemon, seeds and center removed, finely chopped (or substitute lemon juice and zest to taste)
20-30 fresh Sage leaves, chopped
2T butter
salt to taste

Set enough water to boil to cook the gnocchi according to package directions. (When gnocchi overcooks, it turns to mush. It is also best eaten hot off the stove - I have already verified both:), so timing is of the essence). Meanwhile, melt 2T butter and let it brown to a dark amber color(do not let it burn). When the gnocchi are done, toss with the browned butter and sage and preserved lemon and toss around for a minute or so. Serve hot.

Instead of adding fresh sage leaves towards the end, you can also try frying the sage leaves to a crisp in the brown butter.

References and Notes:
*Comprehensive information on sage can be found here
** From Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

Kayln's comment about the difficulty of finding preserved lemons, inspired me to try and make Lemon Confit next. I think it may be a quick and easy substitute that doesn't need to wait for the rinds to soften - so it's good to go right away. Let me know if you do try it.


Kalyn said...

Great post, and this sounds delicious! I've been looking for preserved lemons everywhere in Salt Lake and can't find them (and so far I am too lazy/busy to make my own!)

Minti said...

You have just inspired me to try a substitute for preserved lemons that I suspect may be just as flavorful.

ejm said...

What a great idea for preserved lemons!

Kalyn, it's insanely easy to make preserved lemons. All you need is two lemons and some salt. And even though it takes about 5 days for them to be ready, it takes virtually no time at all - just the time required to juice one of the lemons, cut the other one into 8ths, put in a glass jar, sprinkle it liberally with salt and lemon juice. Cover the jar and leave it on the counter. Then turn the jar over once a day for 5 days.


Archana said...

Interesting! Preserved lemons!. Surely seem simple to make. I like the write up on brown butter. Nice photo you have there. I am waiting for the right time to try gnocchi out from scratch.


ServesYouRight said...

Delicious! Every restaurant I go to seems to offer this sage - brwon butter combination. BTW I tried that lemon confit (Epicurious/ Bon Appetit) and it came out shockingly good.


Minti said...

No way the preserved lemon thing worked! I haven't tried the BA recipe yet because everything I did with lemons recently is bitter. I made a lemon pickle, a lemon paste - I can't seem to succeed. Yours aren't bitter?