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Gnocchi: Little Fluffy Pillows of Swiss Chard

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The latest dish to hit the menu at Dirt Candy is breakfast! Swiss breakfast!

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Kind of. Full explanation after the jump.

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First, just a note: this is the most popular dish I’ve ever made. Every single table that’s come in since it hit the menu has ordered it at least once, and often it’s been ordered more than once. For a while, I was scared that my sous chef was putting crack in it, but I sent it to the lab and it tested clean.

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The rumblings of this dish began when I was running out of pickled squash blossoms and so the end of the Zucchini with Mint & Tarragon Fettuccini, Squash Blossom Relish and Yogurt & Saffron Sauce was in sight. Winter is coming and I wanted something hearty to get everyone through the dark n’frosty months. I haven’t done anything with greens since the spinach soup way back when, and so I decided that I’d be grilling some greens. Grilled greens are one of my favorite things. The grill gives them a lot of char, making them meaty, chewy and smokey, simultaneously bringing out their bitterness and their sweetness while making them really juicy – the perfect winter food. Swiss chard is heartier than spinach, but not as tough as collards or kale, and out of all the greens I experimented with it stood up to grilling the best.

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Because it’s Swiss chard, I started thinking of things I associate with Switzerland, and the first thing that popped into my mind was breakfast, in particular, muesli and yogurt with fruit. Getting yogurt into the dish was easy. I love the labneh I used with the Mint & Tarragon Fettucini and I wasn’t ready to get rid of it yet. Labneh is thicker and creamier than yogurt, and it doesn’t curdle when heated so you can turn it into a sauce. I didn’t want a repeat of the yogurt sauce, so I gently caramelize the labneh over a long period of time to slowly bring out its sugars, and it becomes a nutty, buttery, rich and tangy sauce on top. But the granola was trickier.

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At first I experimented with savory muesli (the less said about those experiments the better), but finally it clicked and I realized that simpler was better: garlic granola. It’s almost like garlic bread, but crunchier, and it was a revelation to couple the taste of garlic with the texture of granola. For fruit, I added a drunken fig jam, cooked in the amazing Oloroso Sherry on my wine list to give it a deep caramel taste.

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The sauce for the dish could have been a yogurt sauce, but I didn’t want to repeat myself. Instead, I found a really goaty goat cheese. It’s very aggressive and capable of scaring the children if you’re not prepared for it, but it also gives the dish a wild, gamey taste, like something you’d find standing, untamed, on top of a mountain in Switzerland with four pointy hooves and a red gleam in its eyes.

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The centerpiece of the dish, though, is the Swiss chard gnocchi. For me, it’s really hard to make pasta in a city like New York which is full of great pasta makers and amazing Italian restaurants. Gnocchi has always occupied prime psychic real estate inside my head. One of the first things I ate in NYC that blew me away was the gnocchi at Il Bagatto back in the 90′s and if I was going to make gnocchi, then it had to be perfect. Everyone has an opinion about gnocchi, some like it with more bite and chew, others like it as soft as little angel pillows. I’m firmly in the angel pillow camp – I want my gnocchi with almost no flour in it, just enough to hold it together, and I have to make sure we don’t overwork it which will make it tough. The chard gnocchi here is fluffy, it’s soft, and it melts in your mouth.

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The last challenge was the stems. I really believe in root to stem cooking where all parts of a plant are used, but these chard stems were killing me. I sauteed them, but they were too chewy. I pickled them but they broke down strangely and were way too vinegary. So right before service they get a salt and lemon juice bath which makes them crispier but, oddly enough, easier to chew. They also turn bright pink and look great on the plate. Basically they serve the same function capers do in pasta: adding tangy saltiness to balance the richness of the dish.

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And there you have it, Swiss Chard Gnocchi with Grilled Chard, Garlic Granola, Drunken Fig Jam, Caramelized Labneh, Pickled Chard Stems and Goat Cheese Sauce.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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