October is over and I’m so very obviously behind on my Halloween posts. It doesn’t seem right to run my blog, considering its history, that I would leave international costuming month without a little cosplay in my kitchen. Oddly enough, I just happen to be bringing back the same lady you might recognize from The Gluttonous Geek’s very first cosplay in the kitchen post (Pan de La Muerta from The Book of Life): Jessi Stephens of Kuiosikle Industries.
So among the many many things Jessi and I share is a love for the show iZombie. If you’ve never heard of this delightful undead camp-fest, iZombie is about and up and coming surgeon, Liv Moore, who after being scratched by a zombie at a party turned massacre, wakes up in a body bag craving brains. In needing brains to keep from turning into a mindless killing machine, she begins working at Seattle PD morgue to eat the murdered, then bring their killers to justice with the visions their flesh bring her. Did I mention that Jessi has a wicked Liv costume among her work?
One thing I love about this show is the various ways zombies cook up brains to make them more visually and texturally palatable when the only flavor they can now taste is spicy. In these past two seasons, we’ve seen Liv cook up all sorts of dishes, from her Brain-Stuffed Poblano Peppers to her Brain-L-T Sandwich. Today’s dish, though, wasn’t made by Liv and I’ve been hankering to make it since I first saw it in season one last year.
The main villain from season one, Blaine, is the zombie who turns Liv to begin with. He starts his own business, turning the rich and powerful into zombies and then extorting them with a meal plan of brain-based culinary delights from a company he names MeatCute. The first dish featured from this deli from hell is this: Gnocchi Stuffed with Medulla Oblongata in a Fra Diavolo Sauce (with pureed neurotissue for that silky texture).
I originally thought I would use shrimp or lobster for texture in the filling, but decided for a bit more spice I’d mix chicken sausage with some tabasco sauce.
Fra Diavolo Sauce is traditionally a tomato sauce made super hot with crushed red pepper flakes. I decided to mix things up by fire-roasting a red bell pepper in addition and putting it in, char and all, for a little smokiness.
For the silky texture, I also threw in some silken tofu and blended the whole lot with an immersion blender. Now if you want it to be zombie-spicy, leave out the cream and sugar as both are used to tone and balance the spice to your liking. I like to have my flavors a little more balanced, though, as I am not one of those brain-eating brethren.
I won’t lie to you. This dish took a while to make. You might want to make up the gnocchi ahead of time and cook it the following day, or even freeze them between layers of parchment paper so you have them ready to go since this recipe makes up a lot of it. We ended up with about six very large portions. I also ended up using the leftover sauce as a base for chili my workplace’s chili competition (I won third place if you are curious).
So zombie or not, here is a dish spicy enough to wake you from the grave…or from the Romero state you found yourself in after a boat party gone horribly wrong.
MeatCute's Stuffed Gnocchi with Silken Fra Diavolo Sauce
Equipment: Oven, stovetop, baking sheet, aluminum foil, parchment paper, cooking spray, food processor with blade and grating attachments, skillet, large saucepan with lid, large pot, blender or immersion blender, pastry bag with 1/4 inch tip.
- 3 large russet potatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 egg
- pinch or two kosher salt
- 1/2 pound chicken sausage
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1-3 dashes tabasco sauce
Fra Diavolo Sauce:
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 block silken tofu
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- kosher salt and sugar to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- Fresh tarragon
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prick potatoes with a fork several times and place on a foil-lined, and cooking spray-coated baking sheet. Bake until fork tender (about 30-45 minutes). Carefully peel the potatoes and slice in half. Allow to cool until steam stops rising from the potatoes and run through the food processor using the grating attachment. Empty the contents and let cool completely while making the filling.
- Start making the filling by heating up some cooking oil in a skillet. Add the chicken sausage and minced garlic and cook thoroughly (about 3-5 minutes), breaking down the meat into crumbles. Add wine and cook until it evaporates. Transfer the sausage to the food processor with the regular blade attachment. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and process until a fine paste. Refrigerate for half an hour.
- While the filling is cooling, stir in the egg, salt, and dried herbs into the mashed potato. Mix in flour bit by bit until it forms into a dough. Refrigerate for half an hour before handling. Start making the sauce by fire-roasting the bell pepper on the stovetop (or oven roasting) until all sides are blackened. Remove the stems and seeds and discard. Dice the pepper and set aside. Heat some cooking oil in the saucepan and add red pepper flakes. Stir for about a minute, then add the red pepper and rest of the sauce ingredients except for the cream, salt, and sugar. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and let simmer while prepping gnocchi.
- Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into four portions and shape each one into a 1-inch diameter roll on lightly floured surface. Cut pieces 3/4 inch to an inch wide with a sharp knife and place on the parchment paper. Flatten each piece into a 2-inch by 1-inch oval.
- Transfer filling to a pastry bag with 1/4 inch piping tip and pipe a dime sized blob in the center of each piece. Carefully pinch the long sides together over the filling. Lightly roll the ends closed and place back on the parchment paper. Refrigerate until you are ready to cook.
- Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and discard.Transfer the sauce in batches to the blender, or blend smooth in the pot with an immersion blender. Stir in cream, salt, and sugar. Pour a ladleful or more of sauce in each serving bowl.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and boil until they float to the top (about 2-3 minutes). Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place on top of sauce in each bowl.
- Top with parmesan cheese and shredded fresh tarragon. Serve.