A special occasion dinner with The Captain is always a tricky issue… especially if it’s for me. The poor bugger never knows where to take me because I’m notoriously fussy. You see, I don’t really like fine dining or fancy restaurants and I don’t like making a big ceremony out of things. I’m definitely at my happiest in a loud, crowded German beer hall tearing into a roasted wild boar rather than sitting through a French degustation. But obviously, that just ain’t his thing if it is supposed to be a ‘special dinner’…
But ever since my first encounter where I tasted the best canapés of my life, I’ve been itching to try out Tastevin in Darlinghurst. It was a perfect choice. French food in a nice, intimate setting for The Captain and a relaxed, friendly and informal atmosphere for me. In fact, 9pm dinner on a Sunday night and we had the place to ourselves to mull away the weekend while watching the buzz of Darlinghurst down below. As for Tastevin? I loved it. All in all, it was such a beautifully understated menu. No tricks, no fanfare, just honest good food (I could eat my weight in their housemade bread and French butter. Oh, My. Gawd).
Their other trademark dish is the Gnocchi à la Parisienne. Simple, flavourful and comforting – just the way I like it. And is it just me, or does everything sound better in French?
I’ve also learnt that choux pastry reigns supreme in the pastry world. I knew you could bake it and fry it. But poach it? Genius! And this method makes for a fabulous gnocchi. It’s lighter than its Italian potato version and less fiddly than ricotta and is a hell of a lot easier to prepare. Choux is king.
I am grateful that I’ve come across this recipe for Tastevin’s Gnocchi à la Parisienne because ever since the first time I tried it, I’ve wanted it over and over again (in moderation of course). Feel free to tweak the recipe to whatever knocks your socks off. Add black pepper and citrus zest to the gnocchi or change up the herbs. Flavour the sautéed mushrooms with whatever you like (wine. Wine is good!) or pick your favourite cheese for the mornay sauce. But all power to you if you prefer to stick with the original Tastevin recipe (such as I did).
The servings look small but believe me, there are enough carbs, cheese and cream to fill you up quickly. The only thing I recommend is to up the portion of the mornay sauce (the recipe below is of the original serving size). With a good Gruyère, there is absolutely no such thing as too much sauce.
Gnocchi à la Parisienne
Gnocchi / Choux pastry (makes approximate 50-55 gnocchi pieces)
60g butter, coarsely chopped
125g plain flour, sifted
1 Tbl parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbl thyme, finely chopped (can be substituted with tarragon)
1 Tbl dijon mustard
2 Tbl olive oil
200g mixed mushrooms (such as butter, shiitake, oyster, swiss brown etc), roughly chopped
2 golden shallots, finely diced
White Truffle Mornay
35g butter, roughly chopped
35g plain flour
1 egg yolk
100g Gruyère, roughly grated
1 tsp white truffle oil
pinch of freshly grated or ground nutmeg
Bring milk, water and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, shower in the flour and beat continuously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan.
Transfer to a heatproof bowl, add herbs and mustard and beat the dough around until combined and slightly cooled.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating continuously after each egg until incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny. Transfer mixture to a piping bag with a 2cm plain nozzle.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil over high heat. Pipe pastry into the boiling water, cutting with a small sharp knife at 2cm intervals while piping. Cook in batches.
Gnocchi is cooked when the pieces float to the top (1-2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well. Place gnocchi on a tray lined with baking paper to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Divide gnocchi among 4 gratin dishes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat until hot, add mushrooms and stir frequently until starting to colour. Add butter and shallot and stir until softened, season to taste and divide among gratin dishes with the gnocchi.
Bring milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine butter and flour in a separate saucepan, stir continuously over medium heat until it comes together as a smooth dough and cook for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously until smooth and incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, stir through egg yolk, half the grated Gruyère, truffle oil and nutmeg. Season to taste.
Spoon over gnocchi, scatter with remaining Gruyère and bake until golden (or around 15 minutes). Alternatively stick it underneath a hot grill to toast the cheese. Serve immediately with a green salad.
Adapted from a recipe from Tastevin thanks to Gourmet Traveller