Bacon crackling and popping while frying in the pan, fresh coffee percolating and hissing with every whir, Conway Twitty playing on the radio, toast popping in the toaster, dancing and twirling with my Mom in the kitchen, and most importantly laughter.
These are my sights, sounds and smells of my childhood, memories I still cherish to this day. These Sunday morning family breakfasts were some of the rare times I felt like I could just be a kid and not a mini adult that had to worry if my Dad had taken his heart medication, or if today would be the day the big heart attack would come and he would be taken from us forever. Big responsibility and burden for an 9 year old don’t you think?
I never knew my father healthy, he had his first open heart surgery when I was 4 years old. With a large age difference amongst myself and my siblings, I essentially grew up as an only child.
My reality was different than most kids. But, I have to say it was through these ‘differences’ I was molded into the woman I am today; strong, compassionate, loving, a never quit attitude and a love for cooking!
My Mom immigrated to Canada when she was a young teenager from the Netherlands. Trying to assimilate into Canadian culture was overwhelming and scary for her and her family understandably. But there was one thing they held onto, their European values and traditions. These very traditions were naturally passed down to all 9 of us kids.
Like most European families, EVERY life event is and will always be centered around food. Glorious, delicious, decadent, lip smacking good food. Mmmmmmmm
It was in these precious moments of watching my mother take just basic ingredients and with what seemed like magic in my little mind, create a wonderment of smells and tastes that would make anyone’s mouth water with anticipation. With every chair I pulled up next to my Mom, I got a front row seat into the world of dollops, smidgens, pinches and sautes. Waffles, pancakes, pot roasts, apple fritters, oliebolen, croquets, homemade mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken devan and, and well the list could go on forever.
As I think about all of these moments and tastes we shared, one word always comes to mind, HOME.
Now since, I did invite you to come along on my journey called my crazy life, it would be rude of me if I didn’t invite you in for a little something to eat.
So pull up a seat, pass the bread and let me share some of my favorite recipes that were either passed down to me from my Mom or ones I had picked up on my own.
So from my home to yours, here is our first dish:
Homemade Potato Gnocchi with a Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce
Before I begin, I am a cook who well ‘cooks’ by feel, that is how my Mother taught me, and her Mother taught her and her Mother and so on. So my recipes may not always have exact measurements but a round about amount. I do however invite you to take any and all recipes that I will be sharing with you and make them your own, add or subtract any flavours or ingredients that would better suit and please your families pallet.
So let’s begin:
4-6 Russet Potatoes
Salt & Pepper
Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce
100 grams Pancetta cubed
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
3/4 cup Sliced Crimini Mushrooms
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup Shredded Asiago Cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Take the 4 – 6 Russet potatoes, peel and rough chop and toss into boiling salted water, boil until tender. Drain well and mash, add the dried herbs and salt & pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. Once cooled add the 2 eggs and keep adding flour until the mixture makes a bread dough consistency. I find my hands work the best, they are your best tools in the kitchen after all. Roll the dough out onto a floured cutting board or counter. Slice the dough into 1 cm thick strips, roll each strip into a log. Cut each log into 1 – 2 cm in diameter pieces. Once they are all cut, drop them into boiling salted water until they float, around 2 minutes. Drain and add to sauce. Toss them around the sauce until they are fully coated.
Chop the shallots, pancetta and crimini mushrooms. On medium high heat, heat some olive oil in a pan and add the shallots. Once they become translucent, add the mushrooms and garlic. Saute’ until the mushrooms start to brown, add the pancetta. Fry until they all start to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with white wine ( I generally use a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, which ever you prefer) Using between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. Reduce the liquid, add 1/2 a cup of chicken broth, reduce some more. Add the medium size carton of whipping cream, blend and then add both cheeses. Keep an eye on the sauce so it doesn’t burn or stick, if it looks like it is getting too thick simply either add more wine or chicken stock, or the gnocchi water whatever your taste. Reduce. Once it is a bubbling, tasty and rich, add the cooked gnocchi and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a nice glass of wine if you are so inclined.
Now its time for the best part, EATING!
I would love to hear how this turns out for you, or what modifications you made, like adding yams, squash or pumpkin to the gnocchi recipe or instead of using a cream sauce you use a brown butter sage sauce. The possibilities are endless!
Until we meet again folks, eat, drink and Mangia!