Cooking Notes and Vocabulary (Gnocchi)

I’ve been waiting to make these little treats for the last two days.  Actually, I’ve been looking all over San Francisco for a gnocchi paddle.  Two days, five wasted hours, and an indulgent trip to Kamei Restaurant Supply; still no paddle.  But, a new pasta roller, shinny martini shaker, bread knife, and crazy grooved rice scoop / gnocchi paddle stand-in did make it home with me.  So tonight, the gnocchi!

If you’ve made (or eaten) these guys before, you know they are delicious little chunks of potato fluff.  Most recipes ask for you to boil the potatoes, but I would like to recommend a different approach.  Bake them.  And keep the skins on too.  The potato skin has most of the aroma, and potatoes cooked in their jackets retain more of that aroma in the flesh (in my opinion).  If you think about it, bake them a day (or two!) ahead of time.

Baking the potatoes will yield a less waterlogged flesh than boiling.  And that’s good.  When making the gnocchi, you want to incorporate a little egg, and just enough flour.  With boiled potatoes, I find that I end up adding a lot more flour to get the consistency I’m looking for.  Also, some recipes will ask for you to boil, mill, and then bake the potato flesh.  This seems like a lot of work (and time) just to end up with baked potato flesh.  But I’m open to feedback here 🙂

Here’s the recipe that follows below:

Chef Louise’s Parmesan Potato Gnocchi

Yield : About 250 pieces (i.e. sh@tload)

  • 6 ea Russet potatoes (baked, peeled, shredded)
  • 3 3/4 cups all purpose flour (plus some for shaping)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here are some important things to remember.  Once the potatoes have cooled and been peeled (I try to wait a few hours, and up to two days), think about this process as a work of pastry.  Try to keep the potato light and fluffy.  Work lightly with just the fingers to incorporate the flour.  Try to get almost all of the little potato bits covered in flour.  You should end up with something that looks a lot like wet sand or the beginning of a biscuit mix.  Incorporate the cheese in the same way.  Add any salt / pepper / dry seasoning (I like a little nutmeg) the same way.  Then incorporate the egg all at once with a fork.  Bring the dough together, and give it a few turns (knead it a few times) to make sure that everything is incorporated and holding together well.  Then proceed with the shaping process.

Gnocchi Basics

Peeled Russet

Shredded Potatoes

Flour, Incorporated

Seasoning

Fork It

Brought Together

Gnocchi Loaf

Start with a small piece of dough on a lightly floured surface.

I find that pulling the dough towards me with one hand keeps everything together and makes a uniform roll.  Once the roll is big enough, I move to both hands.

Roll the piece out to a uniform diameter.  Usually, a half inch is a good size.  If the gnocchi are uniform in size they will cook at the same time.  You don’t have to freak out about this, but you are welcome to.

Cut pieces off that are pretty close to the same size.  I use my thumb joint as a guide.

Put each gnocchi on the grooved surface, with the cut ends parallel to the left-right motion of the thumb.  Some people will use the tines of a fork for this process.

This doesn’t entail several hours looking for a gnocchi paddle, but as my good friend says “To each, they own”.

Fork gnocchi / Paddle gnocchi

Here’s another point of interest.  Cook the gnocchi in simmering, salted water.  They will rise to the top when they are almost done.  Let them simmer for a minute and then remove them.  They will be cooked through and fluffy.  Some recipes ask for you to cook in boiling water.  I prefer to simmer.  Do what you like best.

You can reserve to a perforated tray, or even a resting / wire rack.

If you plan on eating these right away, toss them with oil (to keep from sticking) and keep them in a covered container, or put them into your sauce and serve.  Otherwise, proceed once the gnocchi have cooled a little bit, toss them with oil (olive or neutral), and set them out to cool on some parchment or a clean kitchen towel.  Reserve for your future use.

When you are ready to use the stored gnocchi, you can steam, saute, simmer, (microwave?) and serve with whatever sauce / garnish sounds tasty.

For my treat tonight, I sweated some diced onion, zucchini, and garlic with some chili flakes and rosemary.  Then I threw in some diced tomatoes and kumquats.  It was just what I was looking for.  I used 10 gnocchi for this portion which was a nice (smaller) side dish size.  I snacked on about 15 naked gnocchi while I was making them.  Quality control, of course.

Your first gnocchi may not be picture perfect, but hopefully they taste great.  It takes a little while for some people to get a ‘feeling’ for both the dough and the shaping.  If they look really terrible, just dim the lights, eat them with lots of red sauce and grated cheese, and find an excuse to try making them again soon.

Eat well and Be well!

-Scott

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