We just finished dinner.
It was…phenomenal. Fantastic. Deliriously and deliciously divine. Scrumptiously swoon-worthy.
I am sitting here, in shock, to be honest. Why? Because I made dinner without a recipe. Hell, I even went to the store for this without a real plan and ended up grabbing stuff on the fly. I often cook from scratch using just my imagination and it usually turns out absolutely delicious but tonight’s dinner stretched me beyond my comfort zone a bit in using an ingredient in a standard recipe. It was daring and I prayed like hell it would work out. It did – obviously. I had to stop at just one serving because it is the kind of dish in which you could easily over-indulge.
Bacon. Cheese. Potatoes. Onion. Garlic. Breadcrumbs. BACON. CHEESE. POTATOES.
For additional nutritional value, I tossed in a can of quartered artichoke hearts which actually worked quite nicely to balance the dish.
I did not keep track of exact measurements of ingredients but I will do my best in recreating the recipe below because you HAVE TO MAKE THIS and then bask in the heaven that is Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE). You HAVE TO…it’s a food coma-inducing meal.
Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE)
- DeCecco Potato Gnocchi (1 pkg made a 9×13 pan)
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 8 tablespoons of butter
- 1 lb Peppercorn crusted Center Cut Bacon (Or any Center Cut/Thick cut bacon will do)
- 1/2 finely chopped/diced red onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground pepper as needed
- Pinch Cayenne Pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
- 2 cups Swiss Cheese, Shredded
- Sargento’s Cheddar Blend, 2 cups
- Panko Bread Crumbs
Preheat oven to 375.
Cut 1lbs of bacon into quarters. Cook in large deep saute pan over medium heat until crispy, place in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb fat. Let drain. Set pan aside. (If you’re the drinking sort – you can save the bacon fat, put it in a clean mason jar, add 1 cup of Vodka, cover, then let it sit overnight in the cabinet. Then put it in the freezer, let the fat freeze. Remove fat. Strain through tea filter, then coffee filter, then cheesecloth. Bacon Vodka. Boom.) Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes.
Large pot – fill with water, add a couple tablespoons of sea salt (kosher will do too), bring to a boil. Add Gnocchi. Once it starts floating, strain it. Put strainer (if you can) over the large pot to let the Gnocchi continue to drain while you start on the cheese sauce.
Chop garlic into fine pieces. Dice/chop onion as well.
Drain the bacon fat from large saute pan. Discard if you want or use it as recommended above. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. Then add garlic. Let it saute for a few minutes before adding onion. Once onion starts to get translucent, add half of the gnocchi, place the other half on a clean plate. Pan fry gnocchi until it is golden brown, 4-5 minutes if you leave it alone and don’t stir it a lot. (Live and learn!) Remove pan fried gnocchi to colander you used to drain the gnocchi after boiling it. Add other half of gnocchi and pan fry until golden as well, removing to colander once complete. While you’re waiting for the gnocchi to pan fry, put 2 cups of milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.
Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. As it melts, add all spices – Cayenne, Paprika, Salt, (1/2 tsp or so), few turns of the pepper grinder. Using a wooden spoon, stir until spices and butter combine and turn a light caramel colour. Add flour. Stir until combined. Add slowly (and I mean SLOWLY), warmed milk. Whisk constantly as you’re adding it in order to avoid any creepy lumpage. You don’t want lumpy cheese sauce. Seriously. Trust me. EWWW. Stir constantly, and lower heat to low medium. Get your cheeses.
Add 2 cups of mixed cheddar, 1 cup of swiss, 1 cup sharp cheddar. Stir until melted. Lower heat and add additional milk to thin, up to 1 additional cup. Let simmer for a few minutes.
Open can of artichoke hearts, drain, and squeeze until no more liquid releases. Toss into cheese sauce along with bacon and pan fried gnocchi. Stir until combined and turn off burner, letting it gently simmer in remaining heat.
Spray 9×13 pan with non-stick spray. (We use Misto so we don’t use propellant chemicals). Pour cheesey deliciousness into pan. Top with remaining swiss cheese, then with remaining sharp cheddar cheese. Sprinkle lightly with 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs.
Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
Melt remaining butter in small bowl.
Remove pan, sprinkle with additional panko, maybe 1/2 cup. Drizzle with melted butter.
Adjust oven temperature to 400. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until top is golden.
Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving to let cheese settle & cool. We want to enjoy the cheese, not have it sear our taste buds off. Warm gooey cheese is good. Molten searing cheese is bad.
Eat intentionally, savoring every single bit, wishing time would stop so you could eat this forever.
Wow, that looks so cheesy and delicious! Whenever I travel back to visit my family I always go by this on restaurant and get their Gnochi and it is just like fluffy little pillow clouds I want to eat and rest my head on. :-) and I’m a non-recipe follower myself and whenever I don’t follow a recipe the dish seems to turn out so good!
I often Google recipes but mostly for methodology more than anything. Sometimes I follow them but when it is stuff like this, I usually don’t. Cooking is all about knowing what you like and what goes with what.
Mmmm. Fluffy little pillow clouds sound heavenly.