Katie Green's Food Blog: Gnocchi
My TV has stopped working. Well, sort of. When you try to turn it on, instead of changing from red to green, the light just blinks green. Then there's nothing you can do but wait for it to go back to red, and then the faster you can push the "on" button, the more likely you are to be able to get it to actually turn on. Or else it just blinks. Again. And again. I call it the blinky. So I go home after work and stare at the blinky, hoping it will turn to red. It's sad. I know. But you'd stare at the blinky too. You know you would.
So with nothing to do at home but stare at the blinky, the last 4 weekends have taken me to Indiana for the NCAA Cross Country Championships (UW women placed 2nd!), Calgary for a running gait analysis course, and then Arizona and Whistler for vacation. With our trusty rental car, we drove a fair portion of southern and central Arizona, racking up the miles in 2 days. We even drove through a snow storm about 90 minutes southwest of Tucson while we were driving up a mountain to Kitt Peak National Observatory. We almost turned back and barely made it to the top, so we only stayed long enough to run into the gift shop and run back out to the car as the snow was accumulating and the trusty rental car wasn't exactly equipped for those driving conditions. In fact, we spent so much time driving and trying to see things over the 2 days that were way too far apart, that we rarely had time to eat. A box of crackers in the car served as our main sustenance. On the second day we visited the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and drove part of the Apache Trail, located about 45 miles east of Phoenix. If you're ever in the area and aren't nervous about driving over scary mountain roads (They eventually turned to dirt, so we turned around. See: Trusty rental car not equipped for snow OR off-road treacherous mountain driving), the scenery is absolutely amazing. In 2 days, we saw sites I never knew existed from my previous visits to Phoenix and Tucson.
And then there was Whistler. Because we beat the prime tourist season, we seemed to have most of the mountain to ourselves. No lines. No waits. Just snow and more unbelievable sites. After maybe 14 years of being away from skiing, it only took a few hours for me to feel like I never left, and I discovered an enjoyment of skiing that I don't remember having when I was younger.
And now we come to the gnocchi. All thanks to Metropolitan Market, who saved the day again with European cultured butter and gray salt. (If you want to make this and need some gray salt, feel free to have some of mine.) I've made this recipe twice now - or 3 times if you count the burnt butter sage mess. Yes, you heard right, we burnt the butter mixture to a blackened disgusting mess.
And I almost mixed it into the gnocci and squash anyways since we were already running late to Thanksgiving dinner. Luckily, my wonderful photographer ran out and replaced the butter and sage so everyone didn't have to pretend to make yummy noises. So there's a lesson here: Don't rush the butter. It will burn quickly. And have everything ready before you start to melt the butter. To make this recipe even more exciting, I had never seen gnocchi (even in pictures) or tasted it before. So visualizing what it was supposed to look like was interesting.
Adapted from foodnetwork.com, Michael Chiarello
With store-bought gnocchi, this recipe becomes much simpler, so feel free to go that route. However, these light and fluffy gnocchi will be hard to resist. Once you go homemade gnocchi, you can't go back. Plus, if you can make a bunch at one time and freeze them, they cook quickly in boiling water. You will need a box grater or potato ricer for this recipe as well as a fan.
1 pound russet potatoes
3-4 large egg yolks
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used the packaged kind)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp gray salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough
Preheat oven to 425F.
Spread a layer of kosher salt on a baking sheet and arrange the potatoes on top (You can save this salt for later use as well). Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45-50 mins. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use.
Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 2 cups. Make a mound of potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle, add 3 of the egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper (I mixed all this in a bowl together beforehand while the potatoes were baking).
Mix in the potatoes and mix well with hands.
Sprinkle ½ cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itseld and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together, (try not to knead it).
Work any dough clinging to your fingers back into the dough. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. To test if the dough is the correct consisteny, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope ½-inch in diameter. If the dough holds together, it is ready. If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times, and test again.
Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces (I preferred 8 as my counter length posed an obstacle). Roll each piece into a rope about ½-inch in diameter (if you have too much flour, the dough won't roll well). Cut into ½-inch long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with a gnocchi board, ridged butter paddle, or the tines of a large fork turned upside down. The indentation on the gnocchi holds the sauce and helps it cook faster.
As you shape the gnocchi, dust them lightly with flour and scatter them on baking sheets lined with parchment or waxed paper. Set gnocchi filled cookie sheet in front of a fan on low for ½ hours (turning gnocchi after 15 minutes).
This will help remove some of the moisture and make them lighter. If you will not cook the gnocchi until the next day or later, freeze them. (Place cookie sheets in the freezer for ½ hour and then transfer gnocchi to a large plastic bag and put back in the freezer for up to 1 month.) Or you can poach them now, drain and toss with a little olive oil, let cool, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. To reheat, dip in hot water for 10-15 seconds, then toss with browned butter until hot (or put into following recipe).
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface (check to make sure none are sticking to the bottom). Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer or slotted spoon, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired (or add to the following recipe).
Browned Butter Gnocchi and Butternut Squash in a Pumpkin Pie Spiced Balsamic Reduction
Adapted from Sigona's Farmers Market
1 package gnocchi (or recipe from above)
½ of one butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 oz European Style Unsalted Butter
½ cup toasted walnut pieces (or toasted hazelnut pieces), optional
1/3 cup sliced fresh sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup Sigona's Pumpkin Pie Spiced Aged Golden Balsamic (can substitute pear, honey or other balsamic since this one is difficult to aquire)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 350F. Place cubed butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet (on foil for easy cleanup), drizzle (not pour) with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently toss to coat evenly. Roast squash for 25-30 minutes or until tender (depends on how big your cubes are). Cook gnocchi according to package (or previous recipe) directions. Drain and set aside.
Note: The walnuts or hazelnuts should already be toasted at this point, if using. Only start the next step after the squash and gnocchi have finished cooking.
Place the cold butter in a medium skillet preheated over medium heat. (Slice/chop sage while butter is cooking if you have not already done so.) Do not swirl or move around. Once the butter has melted and has begun to turn brown around the edges, add the sage and salt and pepper to taste (who's going to taste the hot melted butter? Add how much you think is appropriate.). When the sage begins to give off its aroma and slightly crisps up (this takes about 30 seconds), add the nuts and cook for one minute.
Add the drained gnocchi and butternut squash. Stir gently to mix and reduce heat to medium-low to keep warm.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin pie spiced balsamic.
Stir and cook to reduce the balsamic until it becomes a bit thicker, about 3 minutes. Pour over the gnocchi mixture and stir to mix. Transfer the gnocchi mixture to a platter and top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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