When Geoffrey Zakarian announced we had to make pasta for the first round of Cooks vs Cons...I wasn't very excited.
I'll occasionally eat pasta when I'm out to dinner, but I rarely make it at home and when I do, it's always dried pasta or sometimes pre-made fresh ravioli. I know I must make fresh pasta. This has been ingrained in me after years of watching cooking shows.
But I do have one pasta recipe up my sleeve: gnocchi. With some adjustments, I thought I could make it a 30-minute version, with some extra time for a dynamic, complex sauce.
My first trick was adding polenta to the dough. Usually pasta dough needs ~30 minutes for the gluten bonds to form, but I had no such luxury. So I added instant polenta, which creates instant dough "glue". Bonus points because corn is the surprise ingredient and of course polenta is cornmeal.
My second trick was to make an onion soubise. I first had soubise at Momofuku Ko, in a now-iconic poached egg with caviar and potato chips dish. A soubise traditionally calls for softened onions and cream or bechamel. But what about using corn as a not-too-rich thickener?? I gave it a try, and it worked!
And finally, corn and pasta are both soft and starchy. Where's the pop? So I added chipotle puree to the dough, along with ground annatto seeds for color. I swapped the traditional Parmesan with Mexican cotija, to keep with the Mexican flavors. I also added some tortilla chips and popcorn for texture.
This was a tough round, especially since I don't really make or eat pasta. But these gnocchi may make it into my everyday rotation...
POLENTA GNOCCHI WITH CREAMY CORN SOUBISE RECIPE
¾ cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
2 tablespoons potato flour
1 ½ tablespoons instant polenta
1 ½ tablespoons flour + extra for rolling
2 tablespoons chipotle puree
1 tablespoon ground annatto seeds
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
semolina flour for gnocchi dusting
2 tablespoons butter
2 large Vidalia onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup of corn
salt / pepper
Sandwich the ricotta between four paper towels to soak up excess water. Salt your pasta water and bring to a boil.
Melt butter in a saute pan. Slice onions and add, along with cumin, oregano and salt. (If you want to do this under 30 minutes, I recommend using a mandolin to sweat the onions faster. Slice the onions directly over the pan.) Sweat the onions until semi-translucent, about 7 minutes.
Mix the ricotta, cotija cheese, potato flour, flour, polenta, chipotle puree, annatto and eggs. Form into a dough. Roll into snakes a little wider than your finger and cut into 3/4" slices with a bench scraper.
Add the sauteed onions to a blender and add the cream, corn, white wine vinegar and salt to taste. This is your creamy corn soubise.
Add the gnocchis to the salted boiled water. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon when they float at the top for about 30 seconds.
Place gnocchi in a bowl and add onion soubise plus cilantro, sumac, chili powder, more corn, sumac, crushed tortilla chips, and chili powder. Or not! The judges weren't fans of all the fixins, and I kind of agree. But at home, it's up to you.