Don’t Squeeze the Squash

By Sean Kenniff | Megan Swann

By

Sean Kenniff
Megan Swann
Squash Gnocchi, Brussels Sprouts, Celeriac, Apple, Kale, Pomegranate, Parmesan, and Brown Butter
Squash Gnocchi, Brussels Sprouts, Celeriac, Apple, Kale, Pomegranate, Parmesan, and Brown Butter

If gnocchi at Scala’s Bistro were a bed, you’d get the best sleep of your life. Disarmingly delicate yet assertively flavorful, Chef Larry Finn’s plush gnocchi are made of squash—squash that’s been roasted, gently swaddled in cheesecloth, and hung overnight. Only after roasting do the squash juices that slowly seep through the cloth run clear.

“The flesh needs to be very dry and dense, or you’ll have to use too much flour and the flavor and texture of the gnocchi will be off,” says Finn. “Do not squeeze the squash, otherwise the juice will be cloudy.” The collected squash jus is like a sweet, earthy vegetarian consommé. “It’s like drinking a butternut squash. I started to experiment and found that mixing butternut squash with an heirloom Italian butternut variety called rugosa, made for the perfect consistency and flavor.”

Finn adds the squash jus to a sage-brown butter sauce which, when emulsified, yields a sublimely creamy gravy for the gnocchi. The dough for the petite, marmalade-hued dumplings consists of a few egg yolks and just enough Caputo 00 flour to hold it together. “Do not over work the dough,” Finn says. “Add the least amount of flour possible to be able to roll it out.” The dainty gnocchi need to be cooked in boiling salted water and shocked to hold their shape. “On pick-up, we pan fry them until golden on both sides so that they have a crisp outside and soft center.” The gnocchi melt away, practically disappearing into the mouth—like an edible, illicit Snapchat.

“The most important part is the quality of the squash, one that has just been harvested and not cellar-ed for a while. The fresher they are, the more juice they’ll give off,” says Finn, who also uses the squash jus as a thickener or emulsifier in vinaigrettes, soups, and others sauces. 

Scala’s Bistro is located in the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, so after a meal, sated guests can rest their bellies and heads on pillows they can only hope will be as fluffy as Finn’s gnocchi.

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