Friday, February 11, 2011

Gnocchi... OH!

On a recent weekend I got it into my head that I needed to make gnocchi from scratch.  I still had some potatoes from my garden and this would be a good way to use some of them.  Besides, the gnocchi you buy in the grocery store can be pretty gummy and I knew I could improve on it.

I did some research on recipes and figured that Mario Batali probably knew what he was doing.  Besides, his parents have a deli in Seattle and he used to live in Italy - his recipes carry street cred.  I decided to use this basic gnocchi recipe, which you can find here.

After skimming the recipe I decided to increase the potatoes from 3 pounds to 4.  My reasoning was that 3 pounds of baked or mashed potatoes doesn't go very far and since I was going through the effort of making gnocchi, dammit, I'd make the hell out of some gnocchi.

Fast forward about a half hour... I've peeled, cut up, boiled, drained...

and riced the potatoes.

And then I realized... that's a LOT of potatoes.  To give you some scale, these tiles are 4"x4".

I ran back to the computer and checked out Mario's serving size.  Double crap: his recipe served 12 but with my additions, it would serve more like 16.  Gnocchi dough?  More like gnocchi... DOH!

I had to split the potatoes in half in order to work with them.

Seriously, I must have had my head up my butt that day.  The recipe clearly calls for oil, which you may notice is absent from the above photo.  I made the gnocchi without oil and they were fine but still: it was obviously amateur day in my kitchen.

By the way, that ceramic thing on the right that looks like a motorcycle helmet is a French main a sel (salt pig/cellar), which I bought in Brittany in 2000.  I love it and the memories it evokes.  When I bought it I also bought 2 kilos (nearly 5 pounds) of French grey salt for some piddly amount like $3.  Do you have or use a salt cellar?  Once you get used to it you'll never go back.

Back to the gnocchi... The mixing & kneading portion of this program is brought to you by... NOBODY!  It's too sticky and goopy and messy, so no photos.

After kneading the dough I separated it into balls and used this plastic thingy to cut it into smaller sections.  I rolled them out into snakes and cut those into the final dumplings.

At this point you can leave them as-is or run them over the tines of a fork to give them the characteristic lines of gnocchi.

Here's the best video I could find of the shaping process:

Start to finish the entire process of making gnocchi took roughly 2 hours.

Did I mention this makes a lot of gnocchi? 

This made so many gnocchi that I placed them on silpats & froze them on cookie sheets.  After they were frozen I threw them into a zip-top bag and returned them to the freezer.  We ate gnocchi for quite a few meals, quite possibly more than 16.  These are very filling and hearty.  I think they'd last a couple of months in the freezer but no longer.

To cook these gnocchi, simply bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the desired amount.  When the gnocchi flloat - about a minute - scoop them out with a slotted spoon.  Top with your favorite pasta sauce and VOILA gnocchi!

Why did I make gnocchi? 

First, I was curious.  Could I do it?  Would they taste good? 

Second, they were cheap to make.  The potatoes were from my garden, as were the eggs.  Flour and salt are both cheap.  And since I forgot the oil they were even cheaper!  Gnocchi are kinda pricey at the store.

Finally, they provided a starch that was local.  Many of the dark days challenge dishes I've wanted to make were better with pasta.  With homemade gnocchi I could confidently say that yes, this starch was local.

I'll definitely make gnocchi again.  Like I said, we ate them for a long time and they were delicious and filling.  Next time I think I'll enlist the hubbie to help with shaping the pasta, which was the longest part of the process.

I'll post next about how we ate the gnocchi!

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