Cooking School Creations: Butternut Gnocchi and Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken

This is part ONE of my new "Cooking School Creations" series. I am currently teaching Adult Education Cooking Classes at a local Trade College, and I will be sharing some of the recipes I create for the students. I will do these recipes in a slightly different format than my other recipes because I will generally be sharing more than one recipe at a time. Also, because I am copying over from a word document, the font size is larger than the rest of my blog. (When I can figure out how to remedy that, I will change it!)

I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment or email me with any questions that you have! I love to teach, and I love to help others learn to love cooking!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Browned Butter Sauce

This is a dish that you need to plan ahead for. Because Butternut is so high in moisture content compared to Baking Potatoes (which are used in traditional Gnocchi), you need to make certain the flesh is as dry as possible to insure that you don’t have an overly sticky and wet dough that requires excess flour to be able to form the gnocchi. Too much flour makes for a very heavy pasta. The squash can be prepared a day ahead if needed.

2 cups cooked and prepared Butternut
2 cups Flour **
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp Nutmeg, optional
Additional flour for shaping

To prepare the squash, cut in half, scrape out the seed cavity, and place cut side up in a baking dish that has been very lightly oiled. Bake in a 300° oven for 1 hour, and then turn over. Bake for another 45 minutes, or until the flesh is completely cooked. Let sit for an hour to cool, and then scrape the flesh from the skin. Spread the squash in a thin layer over a parchment covered baking sheet and return to a 200 ° oven for another 90 minutes to dry out, stirring halfway through the cooking time. Allow to cool, uncovered, for at least another hour after removing it from the oven. It needs to be at room temperature before you proceed. If the pulp still seems to have a lot of moisture, place the pulp into a clean dish cloth and squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible.

For the dough, combine the egg yolk with the squash pulp. Combine the flour with the salt and nutmeg. **You may not use all the flour mixture but the flavor will not suffer.  Using a bench scraper, blend 1 cup of the flour mixture into the squash.  If it remains very wet after most of the flour has been incorporated, add another ¼ cup. Repeat process if it’s still too wet to work with. It’s at the right consistency when you can touch the dough and it feels moist, but it doesn’t stick to your hand. Sprinkle your work surface with some more flour, and proceed to knead the dough by poking holes in the surface with your fingers, and then bringing up the sides. Do not roll it like bread dough, or it will turn rubbery.

Once you have a ball of mixed dough, cut off a piece about the size of a lemon. Roll that piece gently on a lightly floured surface, forming a thin log, but taking care not to smash a side flat as you roll. After you have made all of the dough into logs, you are prepared to cut and shape the gnocchi.

Shaping and cooking the Gnocchi:

Cut each log into pieces about 1” wide. To form with a fork, hold your fork at 45° angle, with the tines pointed upward. You may find it easier to rest the tines of the fork on a work surface. Lightly press down on a piece of dough using your thumb, with the cut ends out, and roll down the length of the fork until you make a “c-shaped” piece of dough that has rolled over itself. Alternately, use a Gnocchi Board to create the same shape. If you choose to leave the gnocchi unrolled, that is acceptable as well. It may be a little heavier when it cooks, so you may want to make sure to sauté this type after it has been cooked in the water to crisp it up and make it seem less doughy.

As with many homemade pastas, Gnocchi that is allowed to dry out slightly will cook up better. So if you have time, place the shaped gnocchi onto a parchment lined baking sheet and let sit out for an hour or two.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil, and then turn it down slightly to maintain a low boil. Drop about 20-30 pieces of gnocchi into the water, taking care not to overcrowd them. Gently stir the bottom of the pot to make sure that the gnocchi don’t stick, but after that let them just do their thing. When they are cooked, they will float to the top of the pot, usually about 2-3 minutes. Scoop them out with a small colander or large slotted spoon, taking care to let the excess water drain off. Place them on your serving platter, or another parchment lined sheet if you are planning to pan-coat them.

Browned Butter Sauce
½ cup Butter
½ tsp minced Garlic (bottled is fine)
1 TBL fresh herbs of choice

Over high heat, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan.  Do not walk away from this or you will end up with bitter, burned butter!  Swirl the pan as the butter starts to melt, and continue until it starts to brown and an aroma starts to smell like cooking nuts. Remove from the heat once it is nicely browned. Stir in the garlic and herbs and return to low heat for 1 minute. Add pasta of choice and toss until well coated. Serve with shredded cheese, if desired.

Italian Stuffed Chicken wrapped with Prosciutto

Because this recipe is very easy to make ahead in bulk for large groups, or to freeze for later, I’m not including precise measurements in the instructions . However, for every full breast of chicken, plan on using 1 oz of Proscuitto, and 1 ½ oz of cheese.

Chicken Breasts, trimmed
Prosciutto slices
Italian Semi-Firm Cheese of choice, shredded or sliced
         (Fontinella, Provolone, Asiago, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, etc.)
Salt and Pepper
Seasoning of choice
(Garlic and Red Pepper is my preference, but Lemon-Pepper, etc are good as well)
Dried or fresh herbs, if desired

Butterfly each breast, and then place between layers of waxed paper to pound with a meat mallet. Always pound on the outside, shiny surface, not the cut side. Take care not to make holes or get the chicken too thin. You’re just going for even thickness in this process. Alternately, you can just stuff the cheese inside a cut pocket of the breast rather than fully butterflying it.

Spinkle salt, pepper and seasoning on each side of the meat before proceeding.

Place cheese inside, taking care not to get too close to the edges and then roll up tightly. If you are adding herbs, place them on top of the cheese before rolling. Wrap each breast with 2 slices of prosciutto, tucking ends underneath if possible.  If desired, pull the two ends up and secure with toothpicks. This will help to keep the cheese from escaping during the cooking process. Remember to remove the toothpicks before serving. Lightly coat each breast of chicken with a little bit of oil.

Start the cooking process in a pre-heated 450° oven. Bake for 10 minutes only  at this temperature, and then immediately reduce it to 300. Bake for 40 minutes, and then temp the largest piece in the middle. It needs to read 165° before being removed from the oven, so continue to cook until that temperature is reached. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to set up slightly.

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