Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Gnocchi with Caramelized Onion, Duck and Mushroom Gravy

Sauteed homemade gnocchi gets topped with a rich caramelized onion, duck and mushroom gravy. Paired with roasted vegetables (from last night's roast duck) it is a hearty, filling meal for N after a long day!

Is it seriously almost September? While I haven't set foot in a (physical) classroom since the beginning of March, I feel like I never stopped working between remote teaching and remote university courses. However, the calendar doesn't lie, and while it isn't cold yet, we seem to be settling into the comfort-food mode faster than ever around here.
The last time N came over, I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted for dinner. He absolutely loves duck, and while I couldn't find a duck breast at the store I did come away with a whole bird for a decent price and roasted it on a bed of veggies for one night's dinner. Being, well, me, I had planned for leftovers by making the gnocchi I posted yesterday and picking up a handful of ingredients with the idea to make a caramelized onion and mushroom sauce of some kind. I am a sucker for caramelized onions and mushrooms of all kind, so my brain went on a single track to those flavours! After running the idea past N (he loves French onion soup so he jumped on it) I started thinking of flavours - the thyme I used in the roast duck was mirrored in the gravy with a little rosemary to offset the mushrooms. A little honey amplified the sweetness of the onions while smoked paprika added smokiness that bacon would add (I didn't have any and it would have been too fatty for this recipe anyway). To thicken the gravy, I used a staple in my (and my mom's and my grandma's) pantry called Veloutine, which is essentially an instant starch thickener made by Knorr. If you can't find it (I only found it on the Canadian Amazon site), a cornstarch slurry would work fine! The resulting sauce/gravy is thick, glossy and a perfect foil for the crisp gnocchi.

A few notes for those wanting to make this like I did. I highly recommend you start with a roast duck with plenty of salt, pepper and thyme over a bed of hearty vegetables like carrots and parsnips (even a utility duck will work for this purpose, and they are cheap!). After the duck finished roasting, I strained all the juices into a glass measuring cup and refrigerated it. The creamy, soft white fat rose to the top in a disc which I removed and used part of for the gravy, and the concentrated, almost gelatinous liquid on the bottom became the duck stock when mixed with a little water. Of course, if you are using a cooked duck breast (or another game bird) and don't have access to these flavourful ingredients, I would suggest either store-bought duck fat and a rich chicken bone broth or, in a pinch, butter and bone broth. If you only have chicken stock, I suggest simmering it with dried mushrooms and a scoop of collagen powder (if you have it) for an hour and straining it to add some rich flavour.

Also, if gluten is a problem, the sauce is completely gluten-free - swap in your favourite starch (polenta or mashed potatoes are always good) or use gluten free gnocchi!

Gnocchi with Caramelized Onion, Duck and Mushroom Gravy
Serves 4
2 tbsp duck fat (see note above)
1 large onion, sliced into half moons about 1/4" thick
2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp baking soda
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme 
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2/3 cup rich duck stock (see note above for alternatives)
3 oz cooked, shredded duck meat (I used leftovers from this recipe)
2 tbsp Veloutine (or a cornstarch slurry: 2 tbsp cornstarch + 3 tbsp cold water)
spray olive oil, for sauteing
1 batch Cheese and Potato Gnocchi or one 4-serving package prepared gnocchi
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used my Staub), melt the duck fat over medium-low heat and add the onion.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until the onions begin to caramelize.
  3. Stir in the honey and baking soda and cook another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Raise the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms and paprika. 
  5. Cook until mushrooms are well browned, stirring often as to not burn the onions.
  6. Add the salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, vinegar and duck stock, stirring well to scrape up the browned bits. Bring to a brisk simmer.
  7. Reduce heat to medium low, add the tomato paste and cook 20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half.
  8. Add the duck meat and cook another two minutes. 
  9. Stir in the Veloutine or cornstarch slurry and cook until thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while sauteeing the gnocchi.
  10. In a large non-stick pan sprayed with oil, saute the gnocchi until crisp all over. 
  11. Serve bowls of gnocchi with the gravy on top (and a salad on the side) and enjoy!
* If you have leftovers, I strongly recommend storing the gravy and gnocchi separately so that the gnocchi doesn't go soggy
* I categorized this recipe based on the gravy ingredients, not the gnocchi. If you need gluten / dairy / egg free, see my suggestions above

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