This weekend, I continued on my journey of cooking my way through my friends. I know that sounds a little Hannibal-y; so be it. On the menu this time was Meredith's most favorite meal. "I'm going to get Italian on you and say gnocchi," she said when I asked her for her end-all, be-all favorite thing to eat. She comes from a Sicilian family, and when we first met, she'd just returned from studying abroad for a semester in Florence. Plus, Meredith and I became friends when we both interned for a summer (along with the lovely Paige who joined us for dinner too, and who will be making an appearance in my series sooner or later) at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute where we tested kitchen appliances and technology. So, needless to say, this girl knows her stuff and that meant I took no shortcuts on my trip to gnocchi town.
Unlike the four months that Meredith, Paige, and I spent microwaving Kraft Singles-- a carefully planned test that measured heating evenness in an oven-- and dishwashing skillets ad nauseum-- over thirty skillets needed to be washed fourteen times in order to determine their wear-and-tear in the face of extreme heat and soapiness-- my gnocchi mission involved a bit more love. I began the project on Saturday, which turned out to be a really good idea, despite the few recipes I found that insisted the dumplings be cooked right away.
I baked eight potatoes in a hot oven for about an hour. Then, once cooled, I peeled and pushed the potato through a mesh strainer since I am woefully without vegetable ricer (birthday present, anybody?!). I added the remaining ingredients, mixed, kneaded, and then the rolling process began.
I could have taken the easy route, just cutting the gnocchi into small squares and then calling it a day. But of course I had to read Martha Stewart's thoughts on the matter, at which point anything other than a beautifully formed morsel with ridges that were just right for grasping onto a rich tomato sauce would not cut it. That was the beginning of approximately three hours of forming gnocchi, one-by-one in my kitchen while the greatest hits of Dusty Springfield looped in the background. (I don't mean to complain. It was a pretty special project and I got to belt out that epic part of "Anyone Who Had A Heart" when Dusty's like "...would surely taaake me. in his aaarms and. always looove me. why. won't yoooou yeaaah yeaaah" ad nauseum.)
Don't they look pretty? Plus, I've perfected the art of forming the gnocchi with a fork. Perhaps I'll make a quick video at some point, since it's hard to describe, but basically you start with a small portion of your dough. Then, on a well-floured surface (and with a well-floured fork-- that's key!), stamp out the dough with the back-side of a fork, so that you create ridges all along one side of the dumpling. Then, with the hand not holding the fork, roll off the gnocco and voila!
I topped the meal with my very simple and bright marinara, (which received rave reviews, so I'll post a quick recipe later in the week) and there was also some mozzarella and shaved parmagiano to go around! Meredith yummed her approval and even sent a photo via text to her mom in the middle of the meal-- I can imagine no better compliment! We finished the meal with her showstopping peach and blueberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream.
Overall, I was really pleased with the outcome and really pleased with the leftovers. I can't wait to make these again, especially now that I have the technique down. Try doing it yourself-- it's one of those projects that's seriously rewarding, seriously money-saving and seriously versatile. Thanks for the inspiration, Mer!
3 lbs potatoes
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 1/4 c. flour
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce potatoes with fork in multiple places to let out steam. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until fork-tender. Let cool 1 hour.
2. Holding each potato with a kitchen towel, so that you don't burn your hands, peel potatoes with a paring knife. Once peeled, cut potatoes into smaller portions to work with. Using a potato ricer, pass all potatoes through, creating a fine meal. If you don't have a potato ricer, you can pass the potatoes through a mesh strainer if soft enough, or mash with your hands/a fork. Just make sure to fluff potatoes before adding additional ingredients.
3. In a stand mixer, affixed with the mixing paddle, beat eggs. Then, add to potatoes and begin to beat more, adding in flour 1/2 cup at a time, and finally adding a few pinches of salt. Do not overbeat, but mix until well-combined. Then, attach kneading attachment and knead dough approx 4 minutes. If dough seems too wet or sticky, add a bit more flour, but it will not be as firm or elastic as regular pasta dough.
4. Taking dough in portions, roll with hands into long "snakes," an inch and a half in diameter. Cut into morsel-sized portions and form into desired shapes. Make sure that, no matter what shape you choose, there are ridges of some sort to catch your sauce. An easy version can be found on Simply Recipes.
5. Cook immediately in a pot of boiling water, removing as they rise to the surface. Or, freeze until ready to use (if freezing, freeze in a single layer before putting into freezer bags/tupperware containers. This will prevent them from freezing together in large clumps.)