Cooking with Riggio’s | SteamboatToday.com

Cooking with Riggio’s

Brandon Gee

Richard Most adds pesto, a mixture of fresh basil, garlic, Romano cheese and pine nuts, to the sauce of his lobster and shrimp gnocchi. The dish is one of his favorites at Riggio's in downtown Steamboat Springs.

A few simple things – including simplicity itself – can make all the difference in your cooking, Rich Most said.

“It’s the simplicity of Italian food that really drives me,” said Most, executive chef at Riggio’s in downtown Steamboat Springs. Most and his wife, Stacy, own the restaurant. “Some of the best dishes are garlic, basil and tomato. Nothing else. It becomes more poignant. If you say there’s basil in the dish, you should be able to taste the basil in the dish.”

Perfection for Most is two or three ingredients cooked perfectly. A typical meal he would cook for himself at home is a piece of fish with garlic and lemon juice.

“The tendency is to ask, ‘What can I add to this dish?'” Most said. “When in reality we should be asking, ‘What can I take out of this dish?’ : You’re putting layers of other stuff in there and it’s : just going to smother those other ingredients.”

By the sheer number of ingredients involved in Most’s lobster and shrimp gnocchi, the restaurant’s popular dish is somewhat of an exception to the chef’s preference for simplicity. Cooked expertly, however, each ingredient plays its distinct role with none of the feared smothering.

Gnocchi, one of Italy’s oldest pastas, has a humble history itself and was born from the necessity of poorer 12th Century Italians to subsist on what was readily available – namely potatoes and wheat.

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“Basically, in any culture, food develops from what’s available, and ironically in a lot of cultures, it’s the people who don’t have a lot : who come up with dishes : that are very desired today,” Most said. “Gnocchi is a perfect example of that. Now you put gnocchi on the menu in a nice Italian restaurant and people go nuts for it.”

Gnocchi can be purchased in stores, but for those who will make their own, Most’s favorite base is the Idaho potato. Potatoes convert to glucose fairly quickly in the body, triggering the release of insulin, which leads to increased levels of relaxing serotonin in the brain. For Most, making gnocchi is a relaxing activity itself. He recommends pinching each one to create indentations that will hold the sauce, immediately dropping them to a floured surface to limit handling, and cooking them right away if possible.

When it comes to the sauce, Most stresses that cooks remember another golden rule that, if followed, will translate into better results with all dishes.

“It’s important to add your ingredients that need to be sauteed to bring out the flavor of those ingredients before you add your liquids,” Most said.

In this dish, the rule applies to the garlic, tomatoes and artichokes that need to be sauteed before other ingredients are added. For example, if you add the white wine before the garlic, you’ll end up with more of a raw garlic taste rather than a distinct cooked garlic taste encapsulated in the sauce.

“Little things like that make all the difference in the dish,” Most said.

The Mosts recommend pairing their lobster and shrimp gnocchi with a bottle of Chianti classico.

“It’s not just about the great food,” Stacy Most said. “It’s about enjoying it with other people with a great bottle of wine.”

Lobster and Shrimp Gnocchi

Gnocchi (four servings)*

Ingredients:

1 pound baking potatoes

1 3/4 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash paprika

Dash grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

1. Peel the potatoes, cut in quarters, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook until tender. Drain and mash. You should have about 2 cups.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, a few dashes of paprika and nutmeg, and the chopped parsley.

3. Add the warm potatoes and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead just until dough is well mixed and not sticky. Let rest for 15 minutes.

4. Roll chunks of dough on floured board into logs about 1 inch thick. Cut into diagonal slices about 3/4 inch thick.

5. Boil a large pot of water. Add gnocchi. After they rise to the surface, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered.

6. Drain well and cover with your favorite pasta sauce.

* Gnocchi do not have to be made from scratch; you can find gnocchi in supermarkets or specialty markets

Sauce (one serving)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic

3 ounces lobster tail, medallions

3 ounces shrimp

1/2 cup artichokes, 1/4 round

1/2 cup roma tomatoes

1/4 cup white wine

2 tablespoon Pesto (mixture of fresh basil, garlic, Romano cheese, pine nuts)

1 tablespoon cream

1 cup gnocchi

Pinch salt and pepper

2 tablespoon pecorino romano

1 tablespoon butter

Makes 1 serving

Instructions:

1. Boil water with 1 tablespoon salt in a 2-quart pot and add gnocchi. When they float, they’re done.

2. Strain.

3. Heat a saute pan.

4. Add oil. When oil is hot, add shrimp and lobster, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for one minute, and remove from pan.

5. Add garlic, artichokes and roma tomatoes, and saute until you get aromas.

6. Add white wine, and reduce by half.

7. Return lobster and shrimp to pan.

8. Add pesto and cream, and reduce by half.

9. Add cooked gnocchi, and finish cooking in sauce.

10. Finish with butter and cheese