It was a random moment, I was looking for inspiration for an upcoming dinner party and I was paging through David Lebovitz’s wonderful new cookbook: My Paris Kitchen. He describes this dish as: humble fare, and one you would never see in a restaurant.
Indeed this recipe reminds me of a very cheesy version of lasagna. Except instead of pasta or little potato gnocchi it’s made with pâte à choux, yes the very same dough that is used to make éclair and profiteroles. Unlike its sweet counterparts these pâte à choux gnocchi’s are poached then baked.
I’ve made this dish a couple of times and did some research online to see how many version of this dish were out there. Turns out quite a few. In the spirit of diversity at the end of the recipe I give several variations.
The original dish calls for a Swiss style cheese like Gruyère. My fridge was filled with sharp cheddar and smoked cheddar ergo via Vermont.
Given the winter in the North East has been so cold and snow filled I thought this creamy, cheesy, casserole would be a perfect way to greet your loved ones when they come in from shoveling snow or just trudging home from work, which in itself can be quite the challenge these days. Of course if you are lucky enough this would be the perfect Après–ski dish to serve in your chalet with a simple green salad and some vin rouge after a day on the slopes 😉
Gnocchià la Parisienne via Vermont
To make the pâte à choux: add 1 1/4 cups of water, 7 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (sea salt or kosher) into a medium-sized pot .
Over medium heat warm until the butter has just melted then take off the heat and add all at once: 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour stir vigorously until the mixture forms a smooth ball (2 ish minutes).
This next part is best done in a standing mixer, but if you don’t have one, not to fret, you can do it by hand with a whisk. It’ll be good for your biceps.
Put the dough into the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment. Let sit for about 3 minutes to let cool. Give it a brief spin with the paddle for a few seconds two or three times to help release heat.
Turn the mixer on medium and one at a time add: 4 large room temperature eggs. Mix well after each addition. Add 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard mix to incorporate then cover the batter with a tea towel and put aside.
Melt 5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat when the butter has melted add 1/3 cup of flour. Stir and cook for 2 minutes, the mixture will bubble and thicken just don’t let it brown.
Gradually whisk in 3 cups of warmed whole milk.
Decrease the heat to low and cook for 6 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and season with 1 teaspoon of salt, a generous pinch of cayenne pepper and a grating of fresh Nutmeg whisk in 1/2 cup of grated smoked Cheddar. Don’t let the cheese clump.
In a large frying pan add a tablespoon of butter and sauté 1 pound of spinach until it is nicely wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Place into a sieve and let cool until you are able to handle it and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.Butter a 9 x 12 (or thereabouts) baking dish and coat with 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Add 1 cup of the Mornay Sauce over the bottom of the dish.
Place several layer so of paper towels on a plate next to the pot.
I used a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this but you could easily use two tablespoons, whatever you use you need to work fast once you start putting them in the water. Fill the pot up with as many gnocchi as will fit and cook for three minutes. This is not an exact science as some go in first and come out last. Some recipes suggest plunging them in an ice bath, this seems like too much of a bother especially given they are about to go into the oven.
Place the poached
Increase the temperature to 400F and cook for another 20 or so minutes until the cheese has browned and the profiteroles have puffed up.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before you serve.
Use 1/2 cup of parmesan in the Mornay and use Gruyère instead of cheddar.
Don’t use spinach or any greens or use another kind of green like raddicchio or arugula. I tried Kale and wasn’t thrilled with it.
Add 1 cup smoked ham or bacon roughly chopped on top of the bottom layer of Mornay or greens.
Add fresh Thyme, Parsley and Chives to the profiteroles batter.
Use marinara sauce instead of Mornay.
Don’t make a casserole at all! Just bake the gnocchi in a cheese coated baking dish sprinkled with cheese on top for about 25 minutes then brown under the broiler for a few minutes.
Would love to hear any stories you have about this dish. Do you make it? Have you made it? And if what’s your recipe?