6:30 pm is the witching hour in these parts.
I must admit, it's a time when I am just done being Mom for the day.
Okay, I must further admit that my desire to play my part as Mom ends shortly after naptime is over -- right after he stops being sweet and happy to see me and starts demanding his afternoon "apple" (which is to say "snack").
Tonight I scrambled to snap a couple of photos of this dish to share with you while the light waned quickly, as it does earlier and earlier this time of year. My little man was underfoot whining about the inequities of life as a baby, which obviously just pile up more when Mommy is trying to finish something. He begged for dinner, and then merely wiped it around his high chair tray and before begrudgingly sampling a gnoccho (singular of gnocchi, just FYI) or two.
Right now I'm watching him tear the living room apart in his destructive evening tiredness. Somehow tonight I am finding it easy to ignore his fit-throwing in favor or ruminating upon the sweet moments of the day: The sweet kisses he gave me without my asking, the riotous laughter we shared at many a diaper-change zerbert, the delightful way he pokes me in the eye to hear me tell him it's an "occhio" (the Italian word for "eye"), the moments when I can move past the sting of his obvious preference for his father's company into the special relationship we share as daily playmates.
The truth is, I lack the patience I need on any given day. I keep asking God to help me find the patience I lack, but He just sends me more moments to practice. What is the deal with that? ;D
The rain found its way back to Portland this weekend, and it is a welcome return for me. The cooler weather makes way for hearty fall dishes, like this one. I adapted it from a Rachael Ray cookbook given to us on the occasion of our wedding. My favorite bit about it is the way the sauce is characterized as "blushing", which makes me think of the rosy glow you might have after a walk in the crisp fall air. I also love that it's a quick-fixer (obviously, since it comes from the 30-minute-meal queen).
Fennel is one of those things that I can take or leave, but I enjoy what it does for this dish. If you really don't prefer it, you could certainly omit it or add in extra onion. If you're on the fence about it, though, do give the fennel a chance -- it might surprise you!
I've always thought this could benefit from a couple handfuls of spinach wilted in at the end, but I keep forgetting to try it. But it pairs nicely with roasted winter squash or steamed green beans. If you try the spinach thing, tell me how you liked it, deal?
Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi in a Blushing Cream Sauce
adapted from Rachael Ray
2 Tbsp. oil (olive, canola, what have you)
1/2 lb. chicken sausage (I use breakfast sausage, but you can use whatever you like), removed from casing
2 lg. onions, thinly sliced
1 lg. fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 c. white wine (I don't have alcohol in the house, so I add a splash of white wine vinegar to white grape juice)
2 lbs. gnocchi
1 1/2 c. chicken stock
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 c. flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add salt, and keep boiling until ready to cook gnocchi.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add in sausage -- I like to slide it out of its casing directly into the pan in chunks about the same size as my gnocchi, but you can also break it up as you cook it as you would ground beef. Brown about 5 minutes, then add onion and fennel. Season with salt and pepper, and continue to cook 5 minutes more. When onions and fennel have softened, add the garlic and continue cooking for a minute or two.
Scootch everything over to one side of the pan, and put the tomato paste on the empty side. Smoosh it around for a minute or so, then add white wine (or equivalent) and scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon to release the little bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add gnocchi to the boiling, salted water, and cook according to package directions (probably about 4 minutes).
Meanwhile, add chicken stock to the sausage mixture, and bring it to a simmer. Add cream cheese and stir to melt and combine. Let simmer for a minute or two to thicken.
Drain the gnocchi and add them to the sauce. (Don't worry if it's a bit soupy-seeming. The sauce will thicken as it cools.) Add parsley and parmesan and stir gently to combine.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of parmesan cheese.