Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cruise gourmet the lazy way: gnocchi with candied bacon and Marsala thyme butter

I recently went on my first cruise to the Caribbean with my husband and some of my brother and sister-in-laws (he's got a large and complex family and I'd have to draw you a flow chart, which I'm not going to do). We went on Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, and when I tell you that this ship is a floating castle, I'm not kidding.

Words cannot describe the decadence of a cruise ship of this size. Fifteen floors, 16 bars, and I'm guessing about 10 restaurants (3 upscale). Many pools. A spa and fitness club. Rock climbing wall (I do not rock climb, but its a nice thought). An ice skating rink. A two floor night club. There is a reason some people retire onto this boat and never even leave at the Ports of Call.

The food! Unbelievable! Even the "complimentary" main dining room was an exquisite affair. The buffet was absolutely ridiculous. Kind of made you feel remorseful as you step foot onto impoverished Caribbean islands. But that's not where I'm going, you see...not today anyhow.
After tasting night after night of amazing dishes, I couldn't help but notice a cook book for sale outside the main dining room, "Carte Du Jour: The Restaurants of the Royal Caribbean International". MINE! Even got it signed by the captain, head chef, and head sous chef.
So I bring you this amazing dish, which after all of my story above, didn't even come from a restaurant that was on the Navigator of the Seas (it was from 150 Central Park Restaurant on an even bigger boat, the Oasis of the Seas). This book is great, however, these are not really recipes for home cooks (at least not of my meager caliber). So I took it upon myself to shorten and change this (originally "Gnocchi with Chanterelles") into something feasible.

Whoever came up with this recipe is my all time personal hero for life. Except for the part where they had you make gnocchi from scratch, not messing with that on a Tuesday night (just look at that mess!). Or the 20 dollar a pound chanterelles? Not unless I'm already paying for a cruise - I went with simple cremini.

And yes, candied bacon is just what you think. Add sugar to bacon before baking in the oven, and you make it even better! Hard to believe that is possible. I guess you could sub for maple bacon and it would be easier, if you do that let me know how it goes.
Little balls of wonder, these are fantastic! I served this with a 2010 Barbera from our foothills fav, Boeger Winery.

3 lbs pre-made gnocchi

8 oz. bacon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup Marsala wine

1/4 cup fresh thyme

2 cups whole parsley leaves

1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped

Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
- Place bacon slices on a parchment-line baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 15 minutes or until you are drooling over the oven from the incredible smell. Drain on paper towels, and once cool, dice and keep in a dry area and try not to "taste test" all the bits before using in the dish.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil and saute mushrooms for 5 minutes. Deglaze with wine. Add thyme and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.
- Cook gnocchi in a large pot of lightly salted water, and cook according to package directions. Drain and gently toss with some melted butter in a large stainless steel bowl.
- Finish thyme sauce by whisking in the remaining butter a little at a time. Incorporate the lemon juice at the last minute.
- Toss all ingredients together with parsley leaves, and serve.
- Enjoy. Thank me later with a kind comment on this post :-).
Gnocchi dough photo courtesy of Tastespotting. Candied bacon photo courtesy of David Lebovitz's colorful food blog. Happy retiree courtesy of Daily Margarita, that's the life, huh?


  1. What could I substitute for mushrooms? I'm not ready for them yet...

    1. While I personally think mushrooms are important to this dish, I suppose you could get away with not including them. It's really the bacon that shines :-). What is it about mushrooms that puts you off? Is it the texture? If it is, the texture in these cook mushrooms is not rubbery at all after cooking in butter and wine.

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