A couple of days ago, after having a lovely dinner with my family, rather than “assuming my favorite positioning” in front of the big TV, I decided to make a batch of gnocchi. I had a few extra potatoes kicking around, felt the itch to get my hands in a dough and needed a garnish for a lunch function the next day, so what the hey, “go-go gnocchi go.”
I love gnocchi. On all my menus over the years, I’ve usually had a gnocchi dish as a pasta course or as a garnish to an entrée. Even if I didn’t have it on the menu, I always had some gnocchi handy for special tables and tasting menus. Years back, when I used to work for the “Count of Calabria,” I learned his simple, but perfect gnocchi recipe/ratio, which he in turn learned from a 3 Michelin starred mentor. I’ve been using this recipe for many years and it has never failed me. I rarely order gnocchi when I go out to eat at restaurants; in most cases, they tend to be rather gummy and dense, unlike my “ethereal pillows of heaven.” I’m not a big fan of boiled gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce or marinara sauce; the 80’s were 30 years ago and I didn’t like my gnocchi like that back then either. I prefer my gnocchi fried; I love them deep-fried because of the amazing texture, but I also love to pan fry them in a little brown butter. I know some Italian grandmother is turning over in her grave as I blog, but I can’t help it, I like what I like. I also don’t make gnocchi too often. Over the years, I’ve delegated this job to my sous chefs to be made on my days off, because it’s a great project to do on a quieter day and it’s a good project for cooks to learn finesse. In fact, I haven’t personally made a batch of gnocchi since June 27, so it’s definitely been quite a while.
I got the gnocchi party started; I peeled the potatoes, cut them up evenly, brought them to a boil in a pot of salted water (with a clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme) and let them simmer. The key to good gnocchi is in the cooking of the potato. Some people like to bake their potatoes; hey, do whatever makes you happy. Just do not under-cook or over-cook the potato. If you boil your potatoes and over cook them, they will be falling apart and water-logged and will make a lousy, heavy gnocchi. Boiling your potato takes much less time than baking a potato, so in an efficient professional kitchen, the “path of least resistance” is usually preferred. When the potato is perfectly cooked, strain them and place in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out a bit. Once you take them out of the oven, mill the potato, weigh the amount of cooked potato and follow the following recipe/ratio. You can’t go wrong.
Perfect Potato Gnocchi
1kg Yukon Gold Potato (cooked and milled)
1ea Egg (free range)
300g AP Flour (sifted)
1/3C Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
TT Salt/Pepper/Nutmeg (freshly microplaned)
I know gnocchi is not one of those things that too many people make at home, but I really think it’s quite simple and rewarding. While the milled potato is still warm, add all the ingredients and incorporate gently until a dough forms. Do not over mix or over work the gnocchi; this will make your gnocchi tough. Once the dough is formed, roll pieces of the dough into snake-like shapes and cut the gnocchi into appropriate size pieces. I don’t roll my gnocchi on a fork or a gnocchi roller like traditional gnocchi makers because I tend to fry my gnocchi and my gnocchi will not be swimming in sauce. The ridges on gnocchi are traditionally rolled on to allow sauce to adhere to the potato dumpling. OK, back to business, place on a floured sheet tray and either cook right away or you can freeze them for use later. I think a one kilogram batch of gnocchi took me approximately 23 minutes that night. I once made a batch of gnocchi in 6 minutes, but that’s a “whole other bitter story.” I wish I had taken pictures of the step by step process gnocchi making process, but it’s kind of hard when your hands are covered in flour.
On this particular evening, the “fat kid” in me had to cook some right away and taste “my little beauties” “toot sweet.” In a pot of boiling salted water, I placed the gnocchi in the water and once they floated to the surface, I let them simmer for an additional minute and strained them. I heated up a fry pan, melted a little butter in extra virgin olive oil and added the gnocchi to the pan. I let them brown nicely on one side, turned them over, allowed them to brown on the other side, before adding a little chopped parsley and S&P. I sautéed them a little in the pan and then spooned them into a bowl, microplaned some Parmigiano Reggiano on top and Yowza! “So simple, so delicious!” They were hot, crispy, perfectly seasoned pillows of potato goodness. I hadn’t had a good pan-fried gnocchi in quite a while, so it was quite a tasty treat. I brought some for “Monk” to try and the smile on her face said it all. Best gnocchi ever. I also got 2.5 year old “Jazzy” to try them and her exact words were, “Wow, I love gnocchi, they are so yummy, Daddy. I love them.” Tell me that doesn’t make it all worthwhile? Do yourself a favor, put aside a little time in your busy schedule to make a batch of gnocchi. I guarantee they’ll make you say Yowza!
Until my next Yowza! moment, peace be unto you.