Monday, July 9, 2012

Home made Gnocchi

3/4 cup flour
1 medium sized russet potato
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Poke a few holes in the potato, then microwave it for about 5 minutes, or until it's quite soft. While the potato is still hot, break it open and scoop the insides out. Let the  potato cool enough to handle, then press it through a wire sieve. Toss the potato crumbs with the rest of the ingredients, then gently knead everything together. You don't need to work it very much, just until the dough comes together into a reasonably smooth ball. Squeeze or roll the dough out into a rope about 1/2 inch thick and twist off little balls. Set the balls aside until you have a large pot of salted water boiling. Dump in the gnocchi and wait for the water to return to boiling. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer, then wait until the gnocchi flip themselves over and they feel slightly bouncy against a spoon, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and serve immediately with your favorite sauce, they are nowhere near as good the next day.

Some thoughts:

1. Pressing the potato through the sieve is really pretty brilliant. What happens is that the cooked potato cells get separated into uniformly small particles without the starches inside them being turned into a heavy glob of paste, which in turn allows the potato to combine very evenly with the dry ingredients. The recipe I read suggested it and I thought well, I might as well give it a shot. Good call.

2. Add more herbs and maybe a little more salt? Depends on how you like them, and what you're serving them with. You can serve them in broth, like mini matzo balls, in which case go lighter on the seasonings. If you're doing a sauce with more flavor, you might want to punch them up a bit or they will get lost.

3. Gnocchi are dumplings, so think about what texture you like your dumplings to have. Lighter, fluffier? This recipe will do it. Firmer, chewier? Leave out the baking powder and chill them slightly before cooking.

4. In any case, don't over-boil them. Gooshy is not the same thing as tender.

5. Traditionally, you're supposed to roll each gnocchi under the tines of a fork to create ridges for the sauce to stick in. Pain in the ass. By twisting off the dough bits, the twisted surfaces of each one will remain slightly shaggy, which amounts to the same thing with less fuss.

6. Don't be tempted to make them much bigger. If you make them too big, you will have to cook them until the outsides fall apart before the centers are done. The potato dough has subtle and delicious qualities, but the drawback is that it does not have as much structural integrity as an all-flour dumpling, or one with egg as a binder.

7. What's that business about 'flip themselves over' mean? Well, as they cook, starches expand and become less dense, also, steam accumulates inside the part of the dumpling that is underwater. Eventually, enough of the dough will be affected by the heat to reverse the buoyancy of the dumpling mass, and the lighter, i.e. more cooked, part of the dough will roll upwards to the surface. Neato!

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