Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stirring it Up in Boston, Barbara Lynch Hits Food Spot On

Sometimes we all need a little hiatus.  I just returned from a few days in Boston earlier this week, and while I was not exactly enthralled with the chilly weather, my discovery of award-winning chef Barbara Lynch's multiple restaurants and concept stores/bars made the trip quite cozy all-around.  Lynch is a born and bred South Bostonite and she's not one to mess with in the kitchen (and possibly out of it as well).  Her culinary empire in the city is fairly extensive, with 5 restaurants, a mid-century inspired bar, a catering & special events company and a unique concept store that blends cookbooks and private classes.  She's best known for drop-dead delicious and toothsome pasta dishes as highlighted in her recent book, Stir.  I was lucky enough to get a solid sense of Lynch's flavors over the weekend both at Menton (which was just noted among Esquire's best restaurants for 2010) and the more-casual, modern diner spot Sportello.  I also took a peek into the restaurant/butcher shop, aptly named the Butcher Shop (above) and Stir, her tiny concept store/kitchen that makes you feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door and plop down at a communal kitchen table surrounded by colorful cookbooks.  To sum it up, Lynch's food and ideas are pretty inspirational.  And she herself is wonderfully approachable. Quite a pleasant surprise to randomly sit at a communal table on a Saturday afternoon and schmooze with the chef about running shoes and new cookbooks.  
If you get a chance, check out Stir, it's guaranteed to make you hungry.

the interior at the Butcher Shop where wine and a meat-heavy menu intermingle with 
prepared take-away items and an on-the-spot butcher
the graphic menu at Sportello
lunch at Sportello: Lynch's pasta with duck, picholine olives & rosemary was deemed 
"transcendent" by Bon Appetit this month...and they were spot on. 
 Accompanied by a hen of woods and frisee salad with roasted chestnuts

Sportello's Gnocchi with Peas and Chanterelles

For Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 oz mushrooms, preferably chanterelles, cleaned and trimmed (about 2 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup peas (fresh or thawed frozen)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (for garnish)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Gnocchi:
4 large russet potatoes
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place the unpeeled potatoes in a pot, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and cook until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork (about 20 min). Strain the potatoes, peel and put through a ricer. Spread the riced potatoes on a baking sheet and let cool.
Once cool, sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and gather them into a mound. Create a well in the center of the mound and add the salt, truffle oil and egg. Using the tips of your fingers, knead the dough together until it forms a ball. Do not overwork. Using a knife, cut the dough into six even pieces. Working one at a time, roll each piece of dough into one-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into one-inch pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Using a gnocchi board, roll the balls lightly across the board to form the gnocchi shape. Place the formed gnocchi on a well-floured tray.
Cook the gnocchi in batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water. The gnocchi are done when they float (about 4 minutes). Strain from the water, place in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Season the gnocchi well with salt and freshly ground black pepper before dividing it among four warm bowls. Garnish each with the chopped chives and a drizzle of truffle oil.

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