It was amazing just lying there on the chaise; a piece of furniture Jonathan I practically gave birth to considering the nine months of arguing in public we endured before it arrived. There are at least eight San Franciscans I’d like to apologize to, because setting foot in the Union Square Crate & Barrel after having the unfortunate privilege of being there at the same time as we were shopping for a couch is now a traumatic endeavor I’m sure. Let’s just say if I didn’t understand the consequences of what happens when Jonathan’s blood sugar levels dip below normal before—I definitely know now. Imagine shopping with sweet and reticent Dr. Bruce Banner, the kind of guy your Jewish mother wants you to marry, and then suddenly his skin turns green, his eyes fill with rage and before you know it you’re looking at fabric swatches with the terrorizing, destructive, and impossible to console Incredible Hulk. Yeah, it’s a lot like that. People joke about the “hangrys” but this is anything but funny. And what he did to that woman’s Maltese…I can’t even go there.
So after the journey to hell and back that was “buying a big boy couch” we finally got our baby—the Hess mid-century sectional from Room & Board with deep sea-blue synthetic microfiber and premium down-filled cushions. It was our first major purchase in our new home together. We’d been in the place for a few years already with an amalgam of pieces collected since the dorms in college and the series of depressing apartments after that. We’d agreed that as pieces fell apart (could hurt someone), it was time to grow up and buy more substantial replacements that actually worked with the aesthetic we were going for. Which I think is mid-century modern with a flare of masculine-urban-chic, but the decorative egg collection sort of throws things off. [more to come on that later]
I had been lying there with my legs fully extended and crossed at the ankles. The couch had enveloped me slowly over the course of 20 minutes like a soothing bear hug you hope will last forever. My arms were folded across my chest. My eyes were closed and I listened—still like a corpse—to the early Friday evening hum of the city outside.
The bay windows were open half way. A cool breeze danced in and out like a little girl flirting with a friendly stranger at a family member’s wedding. Wisps of air caused a gentle rush of sensation to shift around my body. A motorcycle hummed by and the hair on my right arm stuck up. The 5 Muni bus that always shoots out a blast of air when it proceeds through the intersection after coming to a stop came and went, and the hair on my left arm stood up too. I could hear women bashing some guy they didn’t like as they walked around the corner and cars whizzed by in both directions. It was a contiguous soundtrack, verse after verse, eventually molding into one single orchestrated symphony — white noise. And yet it felt so quiet. This is what it’s like to live in a city I thought to myself. This is urban silence.
At that point I was practically falling asleep. The pot I’d smoked had taken hold, and I was one with the heartbeat of the world around me. The long workweek was over. I was as relaxed as can be. I know this because the thoughts in my mind were deep and yet incoherent. That’s the thing with good pot. You feel like you’re on some heightened plane of perceptivity, which you very well may be, but you’re also over-stimulated and your mind is like a cat fruitlessly chasing a laser pen, because it will never actually catch it when RING! RING!
My magically relaxed—short lived—moment at the end of a long week is officially over. Jonathan was calling, but my cell was on the dining room table across the room. Part of me wanted to let it go to voice mail and just tell him I didn’t hear it. And yet I needed to answer the phone to know what the plan was for the evening.
So I got up…..and our evening began.
Gnocchi Recipe with Mushrooms, Leeks, Cognac & Cream
For me there are two ways to relax after a long workweek: a nap in the perfect place at the perfect time of day when it’s quiet and about 68° out as the sun is setting; or, cooking an easy delicious comforting meal. And there’s nothing more comforting than the pillowy softness of fluffy gnocchi potato pasta in a rich mushroom cognac cream sauce.
- 6 oz of shitake mushrooms
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 leek
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- ¼ cup Cognac or Brandy
- ⅔ cups cream
- 2 tblsp unsalted butter
- 2 tblsp chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (or a little less)
- 1 package of fresh or frozen Gnocchi cooked according to the packaging.
Start boiling some water in a large pot with some salt to taste and follow the cooking instructions per the packaging for the gnocchi you bought. Just know that you’re going to finish cooking the gnocchi in the sauce so I’d suggest undercooking it by a minute or two because you’ll get a few more minutes to cook it with cream sauce before serving.
Cut the stems off the 6 oz of shitake mushrooms and cut into ¼ inch slices and set aside.
Clean the 1 leek, and dice the white and light green parts into ¼ inch pieces.
Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot and shimmering, add the leeks and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly softened. Then add the shitake mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves finely minced, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and cook for another 2-4 minutes covered so they don’t get too dry and burn.
When the mushrooms are softened and everything is starting to brown slightly (caramelize) and stick to the pan, deglaze the pan with the ¼ cup Cognac (or Brandy). If you can flambé the Cognac to assist in burning off the alcohol, then fine. Just don’t burn down the kitchen.
Stir everything together and add the ⅔ cups cream and 2 tblsp butter and cook for another 3 minutes.
Toss in the cooked gnocchi, and 2 tbslp chopped parsley and stir until combined.
If you need to add some starchy pasta water to thin out the sauce, you can (maybe 2 tblsp or so). Also add more salt and pepper to taste. Finish cooking the gnocchi in the sauce until done, and you’re ready to serve it. Just before serving, garnish with the grated parmesan cheese.