Tasty potato gnocchi

May 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Spice up your pasta dish with the freshest ingredients. Executive Chef Mark Estee from Moody's Bistro and Lounge in Truckee shares this great recipe.

Potato Gnocchi with Fava Beans and Morel Mushrooms
Serves 4

For the gnocchi

  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cup semolina flour
  • 2 cup all purpose flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees, wash potatoes, rub potatoes with salt and olive oil. Bake in oven until tender, 50 minutes or so. When potatoes are able to handle, scoop out the "meat" and pass through a ricer or food mill. Combine riced potatoes, egg yolks and mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth. Combine the flours and mix into the potatoes until a dough forms, be careful not to over-work it! Let dough rest covered for 20 minutes in a bowl in the cooler. Turn out dough and break into three equal pieces. Roll into nickel size dowel shape and cut every half inch. Scrape onto parchment lined sheet pan sprinkled with flour mix. You can freeze or refrigerate at this time.

For the Morel Mushrooms
Look over the mushrooms, clean any visible debris from them. Fill large bowl with cold water. Quickly submerge to shake off any dirt, cut as needed depending on size. Wash again, drain to towel.

For the Fava beans
Remove beans from shell. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Set up bowl with ice. Season water with salt. Add Favas beans cook for 2 minutes. Remove to ice bath. Shell the beans again. Use these beans for the recipe.

For the dish

  • 48 gnocchi
  • 1 cup fava beans cleaned
  • 1 cup morel mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 4T fresh snipped chives
  • Pecorino Cheese to grate

Heat a large pot of salted water on the stove top. Heat a sauté pan on medium heat. Add 1/2 cup butter, cook for 5 minutes. Add the morel mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. When they float remove with a slotted spoon and place into sauté pan. Toss and roll in the butter. Add the Favas beans. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chives. Place into bowl and grate the pecorino cheese on top. Spoon some of the butter from the pan onto the gnocchi.

For information on Moody's Bistro, visit www.moodysbistro.com

About Chef Mark Estee

If there's one certainty about Executive Chef and Co-owner of Moody's Bistro & Lounge, Mark Estee, it's that diners can expect the unexpected, a new twist on an old favorite or a surprising burst of flavors. Estee's energy and spirit are contagious and it comes across in his cooking and in the experience diners have at his restaurant. Take, for example, his "Whole Hog" philosophy. This involves a sustainable way of preparing food that is as much about paying respect to the animal as it is about creating fare for what has become a shining star among Truckee restaurants. "I enjoy letting already great products be the focus of a dish as much as I like to coax greatness from lesser known food items, "Estee explains. "Everyone cooks the loin or tenderloin, but what about the hams and feet? - for every tenderloin there are two feet to use! If we can use these products, and have them become more accepted and available we are doing the animals a service by using everything they have to offer." According to Estee, this is the old way of cooking, but with a new sensibility.

Anyone who gleans from the statement that Estee likes to do things a little differently would be absolutely correct. In fact, it is Estee's creativity combined with his commitment to serve only the freshest, seasonal ingredients that has transformed his bistro into one that stands out among other Lake Tahoe restaurants. "The relationship we have with our suppliers is what drives our kitchen," said Estee. "We are nothing with out great product - our job is to apply a solid, simple and creative process to these products and treat each one with respect, as this is what our customers have come to expect from us."

Estee's culinary credo involves the philosophy that "food should be fresh, seasonal, local, and simple." Consequently, Estee has cultivated relationships with nearby farmers to ensure his kitchen always features the freshest seasonal produce available. Estee plans his nightly menu based on items that may have only that morning been growing in a field or green house. A majority of all the food served is from local, organic, sustainable producers that Estee has personal relationships with. "I was fortunate enough to travel to Iowa with Bill Niman to cook for Paul Willis and the many proud hog farmers that supply Niman Ranch, "said Estee. "That trip changed my life - I was able to make the connection of farm to table and to be able to bring that back to the Moody's staff (and anyone else who will listen!) has been amazing."

Estee's philosophy and contemporary American cuisine have landed him in the spotlight of the national culinary scene from New York to California. He's appeared twice at the James Beard House in Manhattan. At Ahwahnee Chef's Holidays, featuring some of America's most innovative and acclaimed chefs, Estee's cooking demonstrations and dinners are some of the most popular. He has been asked back to the Ahwahnee six times and counting. He has also been featured in the New York Post, Cosmopolitan, Plate, Wine Country Living, SKI Magazine and Food Arts to name a few. Chef Estee's most notable audience was in his own restaurant: in February 2003 then again in 2004, when he was called upon by Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills to serve as their private chef while they vacationed at Lake Tahoe. McCartney thrilled patrons of the Truckee restaurant by joining the nightly jazz musicians for impromptu performances.

A regular at Tahoe's Autumn Food and Wine Jubilee, Estee is the first to push the entire culinary landscape of Tahoe as fast growing, "There are so many great restaurants opening here and the classic Tahoe joints give us a great charm," said Estee. "It is only natural for us to grow along with the Tahoe community." In 2003 he was dubbed the best chef of Tahoe in a "Blazing Pans" culinary cook off. Estee loves the competition and showmanship that comes from this new era of culinary entertainment.

Through his career, Mark's enthusiasm, leadership, passion and dedication have led him to stage in some of America's best kitchens, including Gary Danko, Lespinasse and Chez Panisse. After graduating Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI he worked at two small high-end restaurants: Pot au Feu and Café Luigi. From there he joined Hyatt Hotels working first in both Boston then Lake Tahoe, where he served as executive sous chef and chef de cuisine at the Lone Eagle Grille, the area's most upscale, lakefront dining establishment. Prior to opening Moody's, Estee was executive chef of the exclusive Lahontan Golf Club community.

Estee is always the first to donate his time and tantalizing meals to various community and non-profit causes and he serves on the board of directors for Project MANA, the local service that deals with food, education and helping the community. He keeps a busy schedule with private cheffing, catering gigs, sponsoring products and being very active in the community. He is most comfortable working the line and cleaning the walk-in after a long day and busy night. The Tahoe-Truckee area is growing and Estee is growing right along with it!!


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