Gnoc­chi are de­mand­ing. These dumplings are not.

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Sara Moul­ton Sara Moul­ton is the host of “Sara’s Week­night Meals,” a pub­lic tele­vi­sion show now in its sixth sea­son.

One of the great things about serv­ing a roast for Sun­day sup­per is that it tends to cook it­self. Slip it into the oven, and you’re free to do just about any­thing else — in­clud­ing fo­cus­ing on the veg­eta­bles and other so­called “sides.”

This recipe is for a side dish that de­serves star billing. It’s a vari­a­tion on the Ital­ian potato dumplings known as gnoc­chi, which are of­ten made with rus­sets com­bined with flour, then rolled, shaped and boiled. They’re great, but a lot of work.

How­ever, when you opt for sweet pota­toes in­stead, as I have here, and don’t have to worry about the shap­ing, the dumplings get con­sid­er­ably eas­ier. Just scoop up spoon­fuls of dough and drop them in boil­ing wa­ter. This re­ally cuts down on how long it takes to pre­pare them.

In fact, you can make the dumplings sev­eral days ahead of time. Then, about 40 min­utes be­fore sit­ting down to din­ner, you pull the dumplings out of the re­frig­er­a­tor, sauté the spinach and com­bine every­thing with the liq­uids and cheese. Pop it all into a gratin dish and bake for about 20 min­utes.

And talk about flex­i­bil­ity. You’re wel­come to swap out the spinach in fa­vor of chard or other greens. Like­wise, you can kiss off the Gruyere and re­place it with ched­dar, blue cheese or feta. Want to trans­form this recipe into a veg­e­tar­ian dish? Use veg­etable broth in­stead of chicken broth. Bingo.

Ul­ti­mately, you might con­sider mov­ing this dish from the side of the plate to the cen­ter. None of the car­ni­vores at the ta­ble will go hun­gry, I promise.

Sweet Potato Dumplings and Spinach Gratin

6 serv­ings You’ll need a shal­low, 14-inch gratin dish (or bak­ing dish with a sim­i­lar vol­ume of 8 cups). Serve with roast chicken, pork loin or lamb, sauteed mush­room ragout and es­ca­role, or­ange and red onion salad. In­gre­di­ents

2 large sweet pota­toes (1½ to 1¾ pounds to­tal), scrubbed well

1¼ tea­spoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

2 ta­ble­spoons un­salted but­ter, plus more for the bak­ing dish

About 1½ cups flour, plus more as needed 1 large egg, lightly beaten k tea­spoon freshly grated nut­meg 10 ounces fresh baby spinach 1 tea­spoon minced gar­lic ½ cup heavy cream ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth 1½ ounces (6¼ ta­ble­spoons) coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

½ ounce (1 ta­ble­spoon) finely grated Parmi­giano-Reg­giano cheese Di­rec­tions Pre­heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the sweet pota­toes with the tip of a par­ing knife sev­eral times and place on a bak­ing sheet. Bake (mid­dle rack) un­til they are very ten­der, about 1¼ hours.

Let them cool com­pletely, then scrape out the potato flesh and put it ei­ther through a ricer or a food mill, or puree it in a food pro­ces­sor. Trans­fer it to a medium bowl; you should have about 1¾ cups. Dis­card the skins. Pre­heat the oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted wa­ter to a boil over medium-high heat. Grease the bak­ing dish with a lit­tle but­ter. Lightly flour a work sur­face.

Add the egg, the 1¼ tea­spoons salt and the nut­meg to the pureed potato, stir­ring un­til smooth. Fold in the 1½ cups flour and stir un­til barely in­cor­po­rated.

If the mix­ture is stiff enough so that an in­serted spoon can stand in it, pro­ceed with the next step. If it doesn’t, add a lit­tle more flour a few ta­ble­spoons at a time, stir­ring just un­til in­cor­po­rated, to form a dough that holds its shape.

Use a l ounce (#100) disher or a level ta­ble­spoon to por­tion the dough into (rough-shaped) balls, plac­ing them on the floured sur­face as you work.

You should end up with about 36 balls.

Add half the balls to the boil­ing wa­ter, re­duce the heat to medium and cook the dumplings un­til they all float, for 2 or 3 min­utes. Use a Chi­nese spi­der or slot­ted spoon to trans­fer the dumplings to the gratin dish. Re­peat with the re­main­ing balls.

Melt the 2 ta­ble­spoons of but­ter in a large skil­let over medium-high heat. When the but­ter just starts to brown, add half the spinach, stir­ring un­til most of the spinach has wilted.

Add the re­main­ing spinach and a hefty pinch of salt; cook un­til all the spinach has wilted and most of the mois­ture it gave off has evap­o­rated.

Add the gar­lic and cook, stir­ring, for 1 minute, then use a slot­ted spoon to trans­fer the spinach to the gratin dish.

Com­bine the heavy cream and broth in a large liq­uid mea­sur­ing cup, then pour it over the spinach. Sprin­kle the cheeses evenly over the top.

Bake (mid­dle rack) for about 20 min­utes, or un­til the liq­uid is bub­bling around the edges. Serve hot.

Renee Comet, Spe­cial to The Wash­ing­ton Post

Sweet Potato Dumplings and Spinach Gratin.

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