Easter Feaster! A last minute pantry pairing day.

Pantry Pairing with Gnocchi, Viognier and curious cats

Easter Feaster! A last minute pantry pairing day.

Planning a last minute Easter Dinner

So I’ve been planning pairings recently and on Easter Morning realized that I had not even thought of an Easter pairing.  So…I dove in on a last minute pantry pairing.  Immediately I thought of gnocchi and got a craving.  The sage in the backyard was in bloom and I visualized some Trader Joe’s sweet potato gnocchi with fresh sage and sage blossoms.  Easy delicious and beautiful!

Change of plans

Sadly, when I went to the freezer, I found there was none there.  (I thought for sure I had unpacked that from the stuff Michael picked up a week or so ago).  So I asked Michael, who confirmed he had not picked that up and he suggested I make some homemade gnocchi.  Hmmm…so he found a recipe and huzzah!  We had all the ingredients.

You can’t eat just gnocchi

Well, now I was going to be really cooking, so we should probably have a protein, right?  We have steak and fish and chicken in the freezer.  Steak…red meat is not pastel and wouldn’t do for today.  Fish?  Not feelin’ it.  Chicken?  Okay, except I suck at cooking chicken.  I have a tendency to dry it out or under cook it.  But…I do have a sous vide cooker.  Maybe I could find a recipe to sous vide the chicken.

Coincidences and kismet

So I set out to the internet and searched for a sous vide chicken recipe and since I wanted it to be pretty, I searched via images.  One image caught my eye and I popped it open.  The author was PlatingsandPairings.com!  We met Erin of Platings and Pairings, last October at the Wine Media Conference in Australia. She has a stunning site and her photos are both magazine and drool worthy.  Her Sous Vide Chicken Breasts Recipe gives you the basics as well as lots of flavor options. 

As we had traveled with Erin and her husband on a post conference tour through Orange Australia, I chose to season my chicken with orange slices and rosemary with a bit of salt and pepper.  We had a great time in Orange and you can look forward to plenty of videos and posts on our trip there coming up!

There ought to be a salad

Lastly I had zucchini in the fridge and I determined I could make a beautiful decorative and delicious side salad with zucchini ribbons.

We did the dishes separately, starting with the gnocchi and then later the chicken and zucchini salad.

Making gnocchi

The gnocchi really is not difficult, it’s just a bit time consuming.  The important thing is dealing with the potatoes to get the starch right. 

Get the potatoes right!

Scrub the potatoes, and put them in a pot of cold water.  No peeling, no cutting, no poking.  Bring it to a boil and boil 35 to 45 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes) until you can easily stick a knife into them.  Then let them cool just enough to handle them.  Peel them.  The jackets will slide off easily now.  Then if you have a ricer, get it out and rice them!  If not mash them with a fork or potato masher.  I love any opportunity to use my Grandmother’s ricer.

  • Ricing potatoes for gnocchi
  • Potato, flour, salt and a egg for gnocchi
  • Cutting up Gnocchi
  • Gnocchi ready to cook after being rolled on a fork
  • Butter, sage, and cheese for the sauce for our gnocchi.

Add the other ingredients and roll it out

Now let the potato cool.  Once it is fairly cool, you add 1 ¼ cup of flour and 2 tsp of salt.  Just pour or sprinkle it on top. Make a well in the center and crack your egg into it.  Then mix it all up with a wooden spoon (some people use their hands…go for it if you are feelin’ it!). 

Flour a surface and knead the dough on it for 2 minutes.  Then cut the ball into 4 pieces.  You will roll out each piece to about 24 inches long and ideally ½ wide (it’s tough…mine were bigger and I’m okay with that).  Roll out from center.  Then chop them into ½ inch pieces (again…mine were probably a little bigger).

Then you can use the back of a fork to roll them on, creating great little indentations for your sauce to stick to when they are done.  Stick them on a cookie sheet and dust them with flour.

Cook the gnocchi and make the sauce right in the bowl

Cook them in hot salty water in batches.  All at once and you will end up with them sticking together.

I had a big bowl waiting for them with ¼ cup of butter chopped into little pieces, fresh sage leaves and ¼ to ½ cup of shredded cheese (I used parmesan and asiago).  As the gnocchi float to the top of the pot, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and stick them on top of the butter, sage and cheese.  When they are all complete, add a ladle full of the water from the pot to the gnocchi mixture and stir until the cheese and butter make a delicious sauce.

Plating – Make it pretty!

I was determined to make a pretty plating, so we used some fancy bowls and garnished with salt, pepper, fresh parmesan, sage leaves and the beautiful (and edible) sage blossoms. The pastel colors were beautiful and I loved the purple, which was a celebration of my friend Emily’s birthday (her favorite color is purple and it was her birthday!).

Pantry pairing with Gnocchi in butter, sage and pamesan sauce
Gnocchi in butter, sage and parmesan sauce

On to the chicken!

So the chicken was sous vide according to Erin’s recipe and it was waiting now to be seared and served.  But I was determined to have a pretty plating today, so I started with a zucchini salad.  I made ribbons of zucchini, and soaked them in olive oil, orange juice, salt, pepper and a little dried orange zest.  Then I rolled some and twisted some and added some strips of orange zest and a little arugula.  Then I seared the chicken and topped it with some seared orange slices.  Et viola!

Seared Sous Vide Chicken with zucchini salad and a 2018 Larner Viognier.
Seared Sous Vide Chicken with zucchini salad and a 2018 Larner Viognier.

Pairing 2018 Larner Viognier

I picked the pairing to go with the chicken originally.  A Chardonnay would have done the trick there, but the Viognier was likely to pair well with the gnocchi also.

Michael pulled out a bottle of 2018 Estate grown Viognier from Larner Vineyard and Winery in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon. They are a favorite of ours and you can read so much more about this winery and see some great video interviews we have done with Michael Larner here on our site.

It’s a big wine at 14.5% abv, but the weight and texture paired perfectly with the food.  It was lovely with the herbs and pulled out the orange notes.  It has great acid to balance the heavier notes of the gnocchi and the fat in the chicken dish.  They only made 45 cases of this wine, so it will go fast and it’s a bargain as $30.00 SRP.

So all in all I was pretty pleased with our dishes and our pairing.  It was a lovely day that revolved around the kitchen.  Cooking can be such a comfort.  Even unexpected cooking from the pantry.

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Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

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Robin Renken
[email protected]
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