This is my favorite dish in DC these days: duck ragu gnocchi at Bibiana.
I can't get enough of this stuff.
Imagine, if you can, the sheer smokiness of this dish. On a cold and rainy night, eating Bibiana's duck gnocchi is the culinary equivalent of curling up by a fireplace. It begs for pinot noir. It looks deceptively simple, and then you begin to eat, and you cannot help but close your eyes and make an unfit-for-a-restaurant sound with your mouth.
I assumed the dish's bold flavor came from smoking the duck, but when I asked, our waiter told me that it's actually the potatoes that are smoked before they're turned into gnocchi. Here's where he blew my mind: The basic preparation for these potatoes - used both in this dish and in Bibiana's sweetbreads - involves hay smoking. I'm going to assume you're as unfamiliar as I was with the concept. Here's what it involves: an industrial-sized dutch oven in the Bibiana kitchen, filled with hay save for a bare spot in the middle. The center of the dutch oven is filled with potatoes, surrounded by the border of hay. The hay is then set on fire and the lid to the oven is closed.
I'm dying to hay-smoke something now.
And also, cook some duck. My sister's family is coming for Thanksgiving (!!!), and we're leaning away from turkey because we'll be eating so much of it the previous and following weekends with the rest of the fam. I don't want to go all Julia this Thanksgiving, so I'm not looking for anything extreme, but if you have a favorite simple duck recipe, I'd love to have a look. I'm thinking in keeping with our low-key approach, some simple breasts, maybe dressed with a decadent sauce that'll give them a Thanksgiving feel. So far the recipe that appeals most is in Alice Water's 'The Art of Simple Food'... it's very, very simple, but without a sauce. Any ideas?
But back to the dish at hand: please go to Bibiana for this duck and this hay-smoked gnocchi if you're local or visiting. If you're not in the mood for a night-out kind of dinner, try a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine at the bar. Hopefully your seatmates won't mind the sounds you'll be making.