Have you ever seen those old Sissi movies? The ones featuring a young Romy Schneider as Empress of Austria?
All that lovely… roccoco flamboyance, color codes and pomp and pomp again, waltzes and banquets, horse-drawn carriages, formal poses and ball gowns, all those steps and articles beneath the final layers, rich textures within and on the surface, excess and codified kitsch like Elvis on black velvet paintings times 100. Opulence. And its own sort of depth – that remained in local cultures and remain to this day. (Can you imagine the almost decadent pleasure of a noble woman at the end of the day, released from all that flesh-containment whether by a lover or ladies in waiting? A sweetness inside opening and revealing itself…)
…that surprising interior sweetness of these gnocchi, well known in the northeast of Italy today (Trieste, once the Austro-Hungarian main port receiving the globe’s most delicious foods) but almost unkown in the rest of the peninsula. It’s a different philosophy entirely, neither a first course nor a dessert yet still functions well as either or both or even as a second. Sweet but not too sweet, ‘poor’ ingredients yet such rich opulence in flavor, modest in appearence until you break open the dumpling to let the sour-sweet stuffed fruit ooze its color into the crunchy-smooth-butter-fragrant-cinnamon plate.
Maybe I’m biased: the surprising result the first time I made it, those lovely contrasts so unusual for someone used to more noted Italic flavors, stayed on my tongue. Maybe it’s the Bavarian peasant and Austrian nobility in my blood but it felt like a small piece of some distant lived-through past re-awoke and melted in, kinda’ like the plum-prune gnocchi stuffing itself. Anyway, it’s a great dish, well worth making this time of year – for peasants and nobility alike. A simple, inexpensive meal outside with a very big wow factor surprise once in the plate:
Plum (or prune) stuffed gnocchi
- 500 grams red potato
- 350 grams potato
- 200 -/+ grams flour 00 usually but you can mix
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp large salt
- 150+ grams unsalted butter …though too much, here, is never enough
- 1 teaspoon good cinnamon to taste
- 2 tbsps cane sugar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3-4 tbsps good bread crmbs
- 18 small plums or 'italian' prunes
- take about 30-40 grams of butter and flavor it by incorporating ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp of both sugar and brown sugar, roll it out into a tube a bit smaller than a penny, wrap in oven paper and freeze…
- put the potatoes on to boil until softened, peel immeditely once out and dry then squeeze asap through a potatoe master onto a cool surface. Let cool.
- wash and dry 18 or so small plums or prunes, remove the seeds and into each fruit layer in a slice of the frozen stuffing then close again
- open 2 eggs and seperate yolks from whites. Keep the whites in the fridge for something else.
- add maybe 100 grams or so of flour onto the now cooled and lightly salted mashed potato, then the yolks and gently mix. flour the surface you're working on and work the dough lightly, adding only as much flour as needed to get a pliable but firm finished dough.
- instead of the usual gnocchi, simply take out smaller peices and gently roll them out a bit, then one by one plop in and cover the plums with the dough. Be sure to close them well – you don't want the filling to come out in the water. Into the pot of LIGHTLY boiling, well-salted water. I recommend plopping in only 1 at first to make sure it doesn't start coming apart, then the rest. Up the heat but reduce as soon as the water is boiling again and foam begins to form on top. Unlike what for whatever reason most people recommend, even chefs – the gnocchi aren't done once they unstick and begin to float. They should be left on for some miuntes after, with these stuffed gnocchi all the more. Remove one after 3-5 minute, open and check. (So make 19 instead of 18)
- Toast 4 tbsp or so of bread crumbs lightly over light heat, mixing in some ground cinnamon and sugar after according to taste. Now take about 5 pounds of butter… ok, only 100 grams or so but you make the call, and melt it and incorprate just before you drain the gnocchi and place them in the pan,
- Careful with the dumplings in the pan. If they aren't firm enough, don't toss but gently cover with the browned, flavored bread crumbs – and you're good to go…
- …once plated and eaten, tell the orchestra to start up the waltzes, open the bubbly and dance through the eve and most of the night…