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Potato gnocchi, roast chicken breast and creamy mushrom gravy

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Chicken and potatoes are a time honored combination. Both are cheap and plentiful, and in their simplicity complement each other. KFC and countless other fried chicken franchises thrive on our appetite for chicken, potatoes, and gravy. This dish is a play on that combination, using fresh potato gnocchi, roasted chicken breast, and flavorful creamy mushroom gravy.

James Beard's Beard on Pasta and the Il Fornaio Pasta Book by Maurizzio Mazzon offer similar basic gnocchi recipes. Both advocate 3 medium sized potatoes, flour, eggs, and seasonings. They differ slightly in the quantities, but 2 cups of flour and a maximum of 2 eggs will yield a good amount of pasta. The two egg mixture will give you a wetter, stickier batter to work with, so keep that in mind.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. You can wrap the potatoes in foil as Il Fornaio suggests, or cut them in half lengthwise and bake on a tray per James Beard. Either way, the object is a potato that's dry and soft. Remove the skins, and mash the potato thoroughly, no big lumps. Add salt, pepper and flour together and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Flour a fat work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough, using a dough scraper to keep it together if necessary. After three minutes, start forming your gnocchi.

Separate the dough into three potato sized portions. Roll each portion into cylinder, as you would a ball of play-doh. Cut the cylinder into small pieces, about 3/4 of an inch. Use a pork to crimp the gnocchi by lightly pressing the tines into the dough, then put the formed pieces on a light floured plate. Cook into boiling water for 3 minutes, adding them to the water a few at a time and removing when the gnocchi float to the surface. Spoon into a serving dish and hold in a warm oven.

While you were making the gnocchi, a Cornish game hen should be quietly roasting in the oven. Prep the chicken by rubbing it down with olive foil and herbs, like oregano and tarragon. Stuff with onion and butter before roasting.You should have a finished chicken to carve when the gnocchi are done cooking. Use thick, rustic slices of breast meat with the herb-encrusted skin attached. Transfer pan juices to a bowl for the gravy, at least two big spoonfuls. Put the sliced chicken breast on a serving dish and keep warm in the oven with the gnocchi.

Dice a strip of baon and put it into a saute pan. Add half a small onion or shallot and let cook until bacon is done and the onions are soft. Add one cup of sliced mushrooms, 1/4 cup of white wine, and pan juices. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Now stir in a 1/4 cup of milk, and slowly sift in flour until gravy is the desired thickness. Season to taste.

Arrange the plate, adding vegetables and greens for color. In this version, spinach and a stewed tomato were used. Place about 8 gnocchi and a few slices of chicken breast on the plate, then ladle on gravy. This recipe should yield two servings, enough for leftovers (or to share).

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