Saturday, January 10, 2009
As is often the case, when my husband was working nights this week, I decided to have some girlfriends over for dinner. One of the invitees is a vegetarian, so I had to break from my usual meat eating ways. As a main, I decided to try out gnocchi, since I had never made it before but had always wanted to. I served it with mushroom and black bean pinwheels as a side/starter. The girls arrived early and were nice enough to help out to move things along. The result was light and fluffy gnocchi!
3 large baking potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
Boil the potatoes in a large pot for about 35 mins. Drain them, and as soon as they are cool enough to hold, either rice them with a potato ricer or, as we did, grate them with the small grater plane that comes standard with the Ikea grater set. The warmer they are when you do this, the lighter the gnocchi will be. Spread them out on your work surface without pressing the potato together. Let them cool completely.
In a bowl, beat the egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Gather the cold potatoes into a mound and form a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Knead the potato and egg mixtures together, gradually adding the grated cheese and enough of the flour, about 1 1/2 cups, to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. It should take no longer than 3 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture; the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. Repeatedly rub the rough dough from your hands and scrape it with a knife or dough scraper from the work surface back into the dough as you knead.
Wash and dry your hands. Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface with some of the remaining flour. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and set off to one side of the work surface. Place one piece of dough in front of you and pat it into a rough oval shape. Using both hands, roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch thick, flouring the dough if necessary as you roll to keep it from sticking.
Slice the ropes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour and roll each piece quickly between your palms into a rough ball. Use a fork to imprint one side of the ball. I was lucky that there were three of us, as I made the ropes and the other two had fun shaping the gnocchi. At this point the gnocchi must be cooked immediately or frozen.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil over high heat. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface.
Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, draining them well, and transfer to a wide saucepan with some of the sauce to be used. Cook the remaining gnocchi, if necessary. When all the gnocchi are cooked, proceed according to the directions for saucing and serving in each recipe.
To freeze gnocchi:
It is best to freeze gnocchi uncooked. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer of wax paper on a baking pan and place in the freezer. Freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Gather the frozen gnocchi into resealable freezer bags. Frozen gnocchi can be stored in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks.
To cook frozen gnocchi:
Frozen gnocchi must be cooked directly from the freezer in plenty of boiling water, or they will stick together. It is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible.
I served mine with pesto and goat cheese, and it was very tasty and filling. The recipe above made enough for 6-8 people, so I sent each of the girls home with some of the frozen stuff to thank them for their help. The frozen stuff was a bit gooey when it was cooked, definitely not as good as fresh. It was nice comfort food for a cold winter evening of girl talk.