The pungent scent of ramps is enough to make any cook swoon--and is a harbinger of spring for Shea Gallante, the executive chef and co-owner of NYC's Ciano. There, he pairs these oniony-garlicky gems with pillowy bites of gnocchi and smoky speck. Gallante created the dish on a whim, inspired by the sights, smells and flavors of the season. It quickly became our favorite spring supper, and it will soon become yours. Although we included Gallante's recipe for homemade gnocchi--and highly recommend trying it--feel free to substitute store-bought gnocchi in a pinch.
Potato Gnocchi with Ramps
Recipe adapted from Shea Gallante, Ciano, NYC
Yield: 4 to 6 main-course servings
Cook Time: 3 hours start to finish
2 large Idaho potatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour, as needed
½ pound ramps
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 ounces speck, diced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon fennel pollen or finely ground fennel seeds
3 teaspoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (4 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
1. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the potatoes and, when they're cool enough to handle, peel them. Pass the flesh through a ricer or food mill and spread the riced potato on the prepared cookie sheet. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
2. Season the cooled potatoes with salt, pepper and nutmeg. On a clean work surface, form the potato into a mound and make a well in the center. Place the egg in the well and use your fingers to blend it into the potato until well incorporated. Using your hands, gradually incorporate the flour until the mixture forms a dough. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Roll the chilled dough out into long cylinders, each about ½ inch in diameter (you will get about eight 15-inch-long pieces). Dust the cylinders with flour and use a paring knife to cut into 1-inch pieces. Using your thumb, roll each piece along the back of a fork to form ridges.
4. Separate the ramp greens from the bulbs. Wash and dry both the greens and bulbs thoroughly. Cut the ramp greens into 1-inch pieces and thinly slice the ramp bulbs.
5. In a large skillet, melt half of the butter over low heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt; sweat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the ramp bulbs and garlic and continue to sweat until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and the remaining butter. Cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Stir in the ramp greens, speck, fennel pollen and parsley. Set aside and keep warm.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until the dumplings rise to the surface of the water, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the gnocchi with a strainer or slotted spoon and add to the reserved pan sauce. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and cheese. Serve immediately, passing the extra cheese at the table.