Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Malfatti: Ricotta and Swiss Chard Dumplings

Do you ever read a cookbook, food blog, or food magazine, and a recipe just reaches out, smacks you, and screams, "You must make me!"? That's what happened to me with this recipe. I don't know why, but when I saw it in this month's Saveur, I instantly decided that I had to try it. And because these little dumplings are basically like ricotta gnocchi, I was finally motivated to make homemade ricotta the way I'd been planning to do for approximately 5 months. 

You can make a whole meal out of these little dumplings, or you can serve them as a side. As an added benefit, they freeze well, and you don't even have to defrost them--just throw them in a pot of boiling water the same way you would with the unfrozen dumplings.

The original recipe called for sage leaves to be gently cooked in some butter along with the boiled dumplings. I tried this and wasn't crazy about it, but I left the sage leaves in the pictures because they looked pretty. You can certainly try adding some sage leaves to the butter as the dumplings cook; if you try it, let me know how you like it. I was kind of thinking that rosemary might work well, and I was also thinking that olive oil rather than butter might be nice. But whether you use herbs or not, you should definitely add pine nuts; they weren't in the original recipe, but in my opinion, they made the dish. And one last change--I used less butter than the original recipe called for because the original recipe called for a total of 16 tablespoons, which I just couldn't do.

Ricotta and Swiss Chard Dumplings
(Adapted from Sauveur)
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard (about 2 pounds), tough inner stems removed
  • 1 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (or two more bunches Swiss chard--that's what the original recipe called for)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • A handful of pine nuts
  • Optional: 24 sage leaves
Make your own ricotta and drain it well, or put store-bought ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and let drain overnight in the refrigerator. Measure 1 1/4 cups drained ricotta and reserve any extra for another use.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add chard; cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain chard and let cool. Squeeze chard with your hands to expel liquid. Place chard and spinach in a tea towel and squeeze to remove as much water as possible.

Transfer the chard and spinach to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer chard to a large bowl along with the ricotta, 1 teaspoon salt, melted butter, flour, nutmeg, egg yolks, and egg. Season with pepper and mix until smooth.

Test one dumpling--in a large pot of salted water, cook the dumpling until it floats to the surface. If it falls apart during this process, add more flour. Also taste the dumpling for seasoning, and adjust as needed. Using 2 spoons, shape 1 teaspoon at a time into an oval (like making a quenelle). Place the dumplings on a lightly floured baking sheet.

If you're not cooking the dumplings immediately, freeze them at this point. Later, when you would like to cook them, just throw them in a pot of boiling water--there's no need to defrost them first.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts (add the sage leaves at this point if you would like to use them) and dumplings and cook, tossing frequently, until the pine nuts and dumplings are nicely browned. Serve.

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