In late fall of last year I found myself sitting in the midst of a dying garden. My presence alone in the garden brought an overwhelming sorrow for I knew to well that the months to follow would bring great amounts of ice and the crisp darkness that a Wisconsin winter promises annually; I prayed it be swift…
I collect acorns from the floor of the backwoods intrigued in the idea of making them edible, a way to pass the time I suppose…
Jokes on me… Sitting in a cold house in late April, in the middle of a snow storm, I find myself completely loathing the rest of the world as their menus progress well into spring and into a new season. After a winter of tinkering I revisit the Acorn idea. Following a minimal amount of research and an hour spent shelling the squirrelly tidbits, I dare take my first bite…
An Ah-ha Moment
For the first time in my life, I understand the exact correlation between Brown butter and the flavor of nuts. The acorn tastes of a Brown Butter and Rich Caramel in the first few seconds of being introduce to my palet, then almost instantly they become bitter and unbearable. The nut is highly tannic and harsh, overwhelming ever sensation completely engulfing my tongue. The luxurious flavor in the first seconds urges me to continue.
Boil, Soak, Rinse, Repeat…
I bring the shelled nuts to a boil and let the acorns soak in the water until the water comes down to room temp. This works on extracting the harsh tannic flavor achieving a usable product. The water soon has a maroon hue, I dump the colored liquid then rinse the nuts before starting the process over… about fifteen times.
I rinse the nuts until the water becomes clear. To my satisfaction, the desired flavors were still wildly apparent.
I dry the nuts on a lined sheet tray, for several days before running them through a food processor and pulsing them into a powdered state.
I sift the powder through a fine sieve to be left with a delicate acorn flour.
I want so bad to prepare a spring dish, so naturally in the midst of a Wisconsin Winter I am faced with the challenge of creating a dish that showcases an “in-between” change of season… not yet spring, but dying to get out of winter.
I use the Acorn Flour to make a gnocchi, a delicate dumpling that I love and associate with the subtleties of spring.
The artisan in me takes over and the tiny potato and acorn dumplings come to life. The dough has the consistency of a soba, dry and almost spongy, a firm foamy tone to the feel.
I have dried Wood Ear mushrooms from foraging seasons past. Lamb would be far too spring… so I go with the more robust and hearty flavors offered by an aged Goat. The dish takes life and soon I find that I am on a path headed in the right direction.
The dish is everything I wanted it to be, the Acorn is unpretentious and tastes of the woods. With the Mushroom and Goat the dish has a light heartiness, a squeeze of lime and the dish is complete in balance. I could not be happier with the results.
Acorn Gnocchi, Wood Ear & Billy Goat Ragout, Young Peas, Garlic Sprouts, Lime