Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

A lonely sack of 5 lb potatoes was sitting on our kitchen bench. Since we rarely eat potatoes, I don't know what possessed us to purchase a 5 lb sack. I had some great suggestions to make gratin dauphinois or 5 lbs of french fries. But I decided to overcome my fears of making potato gnocchi and give it one more try. I tried making gnocchi once in college and it was a complete fail. The dough was a ball of sticky mush that never ended up in our mouths. 

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. I think I mostly chose it because I could identify with her failed attempts and the pictures made me drool. 

2 pounds Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, and bake them on a baking sheet for 45 minutes to one hour, or until they are fork-tender. For best results, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking time. Let the potatoes cool slightly.

2. Peel the potatoes, and then pass them through a potato ricer, food mill or grate them over the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon.

3. Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips.

4. Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes.

5. Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.

6. You can cook the gnocchi as it is now, but traditional gnocchi has ridges. To create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. This takes a little practice. If you find the dough sticking to the fork, dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it.

7. Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. This ensures that you won’t have one enormous gnocchi mass when you are ready to cook them.

8. To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove and set aside.

If your dough ball comes an unruly, sticky mess, do not give up! Keep adding flour slowly and eventually it will stop sticking. I thought about throwing the whole batch away when large stabs of dough kept sticking to my entire palm, but I just kept at it. 

The result is light, chewy gnocchi that is quite fabulous lightly pan-seared after a quick boil. Since these take considerable effort (especially in the beginning), I would suggest making a bunch and freezing for rainy days. 

Gnocchi-making aversion? Cured!

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