Capital Chefs: Dan Giusti of 1789 (Part II)

Photo courtesy of
‘This just makes me want to eat more gnocchi, immediately, from this spoon’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

As you read earlier, Katie and I spent yet another Saturday morning slaving away in the kitchen for you, dear reader. Not that we mind.

While we waited for potatoes to bake (no really), we made ourselves quite comfortable in the 1789 kitchen. We sort of started to feel like a part of the family.  The best part was snacking on the homemade sugar cookie bits, chocolate hazelnut-dipped waffle cone triangles, and sugared, Italian pistachios. We watched a tray full of huge crabs slide into the steamer and a salmon salad artfully prepared for a group event. La de da. How are those potatoes coming along? Not quite completely, perfectly tender? Ok, no worries. There are some pepitos in a Tupperware over here that I might sample.

My dinner party on Saturday night was sort of similar. If those gosh darn potatoes hadn’t taken 2 hours to bake, well, we might have had dinner before 10:00 p.m.

Photo courtesy of
‘Hot potatoes’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

At 1789, we didn’t waste any time waiting for those potatoes to cool. Doubling up on plastic gloves, we sliced the potatoes open and got straight to work since the potatoes are best turned into dough when they’re still hot.

Not that my guests would have allowed me to let those silly, little potatoes cool down anyway… They were ready to stuff ’em with butter and eat ’em whole. (Thankfully – instead they assumed the role of celebrity guest photographer/videographers. There’s even a video of me cracking the eggs!)

Is it worth the wait for those gosh darn potatoes to come out of the oven? Absolutely. Would I recommend making gnocchi for a hungry group of 7? Probably not. I thought a riot was going to break loose when I told them there would be no leftovers.

Photo courtesy of
‘raw gnocchi dumplings ready for boiling’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Fortunately, gnocchi is filling. Chef Dan recommends one potato for every two servings. I used 15 smaller potatoes (because I bought a pre-packaged bag of Ida-not-want-to-cook-in-under-two-hours-ho rustic potatoes) and achieved exactly 7 servings.

Would I make this again in a heartbeat? Yes.

Chef Dan says one rarely eats properly cooked gnocchi. After tasting his creation, I would have to agree with him. Using a few simple techniques, as you might expect, these gnocchi turned into what almost seemed like impostors to the dense, little dumplings I’ve become accustomed to. These gnocchi were the lightest, fluffiest pillows with a hefty, filling punch you would expect from a bowl of potato dumplings.

Photo courtesy of
‘Pinching gnocchi dough into dumplings’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

His techniques?

  • For every potato you bake, use one egg and approximately 1/2 cup of flour.
  • Barely mix the dough. If you over mix it, this also can change the consistency of the dough. Once it has come together, stop mixing.
  • The amount of flour you use depends on the humidity in the air on that given day. So, add flour sparingly at first, and add more later. If you add too much flour, your dumplings will become the hard and dense variety mentioned above. He says the harder the dough the easier it is to roll out, which explains why more people would want to add too much flour.

Photo courtesy of
‘Barely mixing the dough’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

  • So, this might seem like they are hard to roll out, but they really aren’t. Chef Dan explains that the roll is “more about time than pressure.” This is key. So, don’t push too hard; you’ll squish down the dough. But if you roll quickly and press lightly, you’ll have great success.
  • You can make your dumplings any size you want depending on your preference. If you want to make those fancy ridges you sometimes see on gnocchi, you can use a fork to press in the ridges. However, due to the time involved, I would not recommend this. Chef Dan says you can also buy fancy molds that will cut and shape them for you.
  • When you make your sauce to put on the gnocchi, make sure it is a little more loose than normal. The gnocchi absorb the liquid.

Chef Dan made his gnocchi with cipollini onions and morels. If I’m dining at 1789, of course I want to see morels in my gnocchi. When I’m cooking for me and my friends, it’s a different story. Chef Dan promised that you could use this same recipe with a few simple ingredient substitutions to make just about any combination work – and work well.

He was right. The technique for the sauce is just spot on. I had a hard time explaining to my dinner guests that no, really, there’s nothing else in it. The flavors meld together so wonderfully; it’s just perfect.

Photo courtesy of
‘1789 Gnocchi with Morels’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

1789 Gnocchi with Prosciutto, Asparagus and Cipollini Onions
Serves 2-4

Gnocchi Ingredients:

  • 2 rustic potatoes, baked until very, very tender
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Approximately 1 cup of flour, give or take – see “Techniques” above

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 8 oz sliced prosciutto, or any cured ham, cut into 1″ x 1″ squares
  • 8 stalks of asparagus, blanched and sliced into 1″ pieces on the diagonal (or try using peas)
  • 6 cipollini onions, roasted, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 c mushroom or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 c butter
  • Fresh herbs, finely diced – according to your taste. I used rosemary. Chef Dan used parsley and chives.
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste

Special Equipment:

  • Food mill (an inexpensive investment that will make the best darn mashed potatoes, and… applesauce)

Photo courtesy of
‘Milling the potatoes’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

To make the gnocchi:

  • Spear your potatoes with a fork (for ventilation) and bake your potatoes at 350 degrees F until they are squishy and tender.
  • While they are still hot, slice them down the middle, squeeze the ends to open the tear, and spoon out the insides into the food mill.
  • Throw in your beaten eggs, and throw your flour in while you’re at it.
  • Using one hand, sort of sift all the ingredients together, barely mixing. The dough will be very moist and messy. Keep it loose, don’t over mix. (Chef Dan recommends double-wrapped kitchen gloves. I just don’t have those in stock at my house. Yes, my hands were a sticky mess. Yes, I just washed them off.)
  • Grab a handful of dough and roll it lightly between your palms. Working on a heavily floured surface, quickly and lightly roll out the dough until it is about 6 inches long.
  • Using a knife or a pastry cutter, pinch down the dough into square pillows.
  • Use the pastry cutter to scrape the dumplings onto a floured cookie sheet.
  • These boil up in salty-like-the-sea water in just about a minute or so. Make sure the water is really boiling when you add them. Once they float to the top, they are done. Use a small strainer to whisk them out of the boiling water. (I threw in a lot of extra flour with the dumplings, and I found that, fortunately, it didn’t make a difference.)

To make the sauce for gnocchi:

  • Back when those potatoes were roasting, I threw in some cipollini onions to roast. They roast up pretty quickly, so keep an eye on them.
  • In a saucepan, heat up the olive oil, and saute the shallots for a minute.
  • Add the cipollini onions, butter, and the mushroom stock.
  • Kick the heat up really high and get your sauce to boil down. But make sure there is still plenty of liquid, because the gnocchi will soak up a lot of sauce.
  • Add the prosciutto and asparagus near the end.

Combine the gnocchi and the sauce, and add a little of the fresh herbs you selected (chives, sage, rosemary, parsley). If it’s a little too tight, add a little more pasta water. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Photo courtesy of
‘Cathy’s 1789 Gnocchi with Prosciutto and Asparagus’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

See that yummy bowl of buttery, brothy sauce with assorted deliciousness floating amongst the the little pillows of dumplings? Yes, it was as good as it looks. Yes, I still want to grab a spoon and stick it into my computer screen.

If I throw some potatoes in the oven tonight, maybe they’ll be baked in time for dinner tomorrow? These little guys are well worth the wait.

Cathy was fortunate to spend a year in Paris – traveling to all surrounding countries and touring all that is worthy. Upon realizing that there is no place like home (she does hail from Kansas City – but did not click her heels to get back – thank you, Air France), she returned to America where she set out to explore every last inch of our massive country. From her base in the nation’s capital, she has worked in marketing and event planning for the past 4 years. Mail any and all DC related tips to Cathy (at) WeLoveDC (dot) com.

2 thoughts on “Capital Chefs: Dan Giusti of 1789 (Part II)

  1. I just LOVE gnocchi. Your little “pillows” look just like the ones I had in Sicily. I bet they tasted just as good. :) Brava!

  2. If you don’t have time (or are feeling lazy) you can make gnocchi w/ ricotta instead of potatoes. It is delicious and less heavy (not to mention less time consuming) than the tater kind. I learned to make them with ricotta growing up, so the tater kind has always kind been a runner-up in my mind.