It’s a Hard Knock Life is one of the two big hits from the show, Annie, and the inspiration for this deceptively moreish side dish, It’s A Hard Gnocchi Life!
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Not that we at Life Is A Cabernet would ever put puns ahead of the food, but how do you create hard gnocchi? Simple: oven-roast them, creating beautifully crunchy potato croquettes, garnished with pancetta and rosemary.
Annie was the very first professional musical I went to see with my family in London in about 1982, and I have very clear memories of different aspects of the show (as well as still having the programme – one of the orphan girls was played by a young actress known simply then as “Zeta Jones”, the future Mrs Michael Douglas).
The tale of a respected philanthropist selecting orphans for grooming would, undoubtedly, lead to much bleaker musicals nowadays (especially when you factor in that he likes to be called “Daddy” and usually brings home little boys for his Christmas treat). First performed on Broadway in 1977, Annie tells the tale of an endlessly-perky orphan girl’s escape from the cruel tyranny of Miss Hannigan’s New York orphanage to [spoiler!] a new life of kindness and comfort, whilst spreading optimism and sunshine (which will always come out tomorrow) to all she meets.
First, boil a packet of potato gnocchi as per the instructions on the packet and drain well, spreading the gnocchi out on a cake rack to dry and firm up for about five minutes. Gently mix the gnocchi with extra virgin olive oil and a small sprig of rosemary, and add to an oven-proof dish big enough to hold everything in a single layer.
Roast for 20 minutes at 200C(400F) then stir the gnocchi to turn them over and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Sprinkle cubed smoked pancetta (or bacon!) over the dish and return to the oven for a final 10 minutes. Once crisp and golden, remove the oven and serve, garnishing with some grated Parmesan. Warning: these are very moreish!
Note: if not using pancetta/bacon, you may want to add some salt to the gnocchi along with the olive oil prior to roasting.
Pan-frying the gnocchi and pancetta together for about 15 mins also works well, but the oven-roasting method leads to a more satisfying crunch and is worth the extra time.