Way back in around 1996 I visited the Manfredi family’s restaurant Bel Mondo at The Rocks in Sydney. Everything about it was beautiful and inspiring. We ate Franca Manfredi’s potato gnocchi with burnt butter and sage, and to this day it is still one of the best things I have ever eaten.
Martin Boetz, Howard Gardner and I were in the process of setting up Bird Cow Fish in Balmain. Marty and I decided that we wanted to try to master this dish and have it on our menu as an homage to Franca’s dish.
This is our version, with the addition of prawns, verjuice and capers to the finished sauce.
Image Credit: Tomasz Machnik
Potato gnocchi with prawn meat, burnt butter, verjuice and fried sage
- Large 8-litre pot
- Large frypan
- Paring knife
- 1.5 kg desiree potatoes
- 1 egg 55 grams
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons Grana Padano grated on a microplane
- 125 gms plain flour approx. 1/2 cup
Prawn and verjuice sauce ingredients
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 large green king prawns deveined and chopped into 1cm pieces (Freeze the shells to make prawn stock.)
- 2 tablespoons verjuice
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley chopped
- 2 teaspoons salted capers which have been brought to the boil from a cold water start, twice.
- 18 sage leaves
- 100 gms butter
Make the gnocchi
- Place the unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan and cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until cooked. The potatoes must not be under or overcooked. When a skewer is easily inserted into the potatoes and the skins are just starting to split, they are ready.
- Drain the potatoes immediately into a colander, place the colander over the pan they were cooked in and cover with a tea towel. Leave to dry and cool slightly for about 10 minutes; it's very important that the potatoes stay hot.
- Once all of the potatoes are moulied gently mix in the egg, salt and Grana Padano. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and combine with a few swift folds.
- Tip out onto a lightly floured bench and shape into a large sausage. Test a few small balls of the potato mix by cooking in a small saucepan of water to ensure there is enough flour to hold it together. If it starts to disintegrate, you will need to gently work some additional flour into the dough.
- Cut off a quarter of the dough at a time, place on a lightly floured bench and gently roll into a sausage shape about 1.5cm thick.
- Cut off 2cm pieces and place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper, ready for cooking. You may need to scrape back and dust the bench in fresh flour from time to time.
- Refrigerate the gnocchi if it is not to be used immediately, however best to use it the day it is made.
Frying the sage leaves
- Prepare the fried sage leaves: place a small sieve over a bowl to catch the sage leaves and the subsequent sage butter. Line a plate with paper towel to drain the sage leaves.
- Melt the butter in a wide frypan until it starts to bubble.
- Add the sage leaves and toss with tongs constantly as they cook to achieve an even crispness.
- As soon as the sage leaves start to darken, drain as they will continue to cook from the residual heat and you do not want them to go brown nor the butter to burn.
- Place the sage leaves to drain further on the paper towel.
Cooking the gnocchi dish
- Bring 6 litres of water to the boil in a large pot.
- Place 20 pieces of gnocchi (2 serves) at a time in a sieve and lower into the boiling water. The gnocchi is cooked and ready to be scooped out with the same sieve when it floats back to the surface. This should take about as long as the next stage.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide frying pan. When it reaches beurre noisette (when the butter starts to lightly caramelise) add two prepared prawns to the pan and cook for 1minute, then deglaze with a splash of verjuice.
- Add the drained gnocchi to the pan and toss. Season with salt and pepper and add parsley and capers. Serve immediately, topped with fried sage leaves and a little of the sage butter.
- Repeat this process twice more for 6 serves of gnocchi.