Parlez-Vous Style Herbed Gnoccis

Makes six hearty portions

These are not the heavy, Italian potato-based pellets you might know.  These are how they make them in France, and they're like little fluffy butter pillows from heaven! They're really, really time consuming though, so they've been relegated to 'special occasion' status on our boat.  It's probably best to read all the directions a couple of times before you start, because it's a bit involved.  But they're very worth all the effort, and you can pair them with all kinds of things: grilled or broiled seafood, sauteed veggies, tomato sauce, brown butter sauce, etc.  You will miss them for days after they're gone.

1.5 cups water
1.5 sticks of salted butter (organic or gourmet butter really is preferrable here-- the taste of good butter really shines through)
2 cups sifted all purpose flour (honestly, all purpose white flour really does work better in this recipe vs. whole wheat)
1 splash of white wine
dash of salt and pepper
1 handful of assorted chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, marjoram and tarragon is a nice combo, but put in whatever you like)  
1 cup of Swiss or Emmentaler cheese, not packed
6 large eggs

Set up a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or set aside a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and maybe drink a protein shake-- you've got some heavy-duty mixing coming up, and it's not the kind you can use beaters for.

Bring the water and butter to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.  Once simmering, lower the heat to medium and dump in all the flour, stirring with a sturdy spatula or spoon to form a dough.  The dough should not stick to the sides or the bottom of the pan, it should stick to itself, and it should look smooth and shiny, not dried-out.  Keep stirring the dough in the pan for another 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the dough from toasting or scorching.  What you're trying to do here is allow enough liquid to cook off so the dough can absorb the eggs you're going to add, but you don't want it to dry out too much or your gnoccis will be crap.

The dough is ready when a thin skin forms on the dough, and the smell of cooking (not burning) flour permeates the air.  Quickly transfer the dough from the pan into the mixing bowl, and add the wine, salt, pepper and herbs and mix for a few seconds.  Add the cheese once the dough has had a moment to cool just a little.  

With the mixer on the lowest speed, or mixing steadily by hand, add 3 eggs one at a time.  Completely mix in each egg before adding the next.  Increase the speed and add two more eggs in the same way.  Once all the egg is mixed in, do a test:  raise some of the dough on your spoon or paddle.  Does it move?  It should slide languidly down your tool.  If it doesn't move, or it just falls off, beat in the sixth egg.

Put the dough in a gallon-sized ziplock bag (or a pastry bag if you're fancy!) and let it rest for half an hour at room temperature.  While it's resting, fill a stock pot with very lightly salted water and bring to a simmer.  Line a cookie sheet or the counter with paper towels.

This is going to take a while, so get comfy:  cut one of the bottom corners off your ziploc bag, creating a hole that's about big enough to  fit your pinky into.  With the bag in one hand and a paring knife in the other, stand over the stock pot and pipe inch-size bits of dough through the bag, cutting them with the paring knife.  You'll get into a rhythm, don't worry.  Try to make them all close to the same size.

First each little gnocci will sink into the pot, but as they cook they'll rise to the top.  Let them simmer a minute or two on the surface of the water before scooping them out with a slotted spoon and deposit them on the paper towels to drain.  Don't worry that they don't seem completely done-- you'll lightly cook them again before serving.  Alternate between dough-piping and gnocci-scooping until you've done the whole batch.

Once all your gnoccis have drained, they need to be refrigerated for at least half an hour before you use them in a recipe.  Store them in single layers in tupperware containers lined with wax or parchment paper, or on lined cookie sheets wrapped with plastic.  Or, you can freeze them on the cookie sheet and store them in the freezer in ziplocs.

To cook them, you can lightly poach them in water or broth, or simmer them in sauce.