Saturday, January 16, 2016
Gnoochi is one of those incredible winter comfort foods that I struggle with making homemade. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up with gnoochi that stuck together in the pot and turned into a massive ball of mush. Other times I managed to create dense hockey pucks of potato and flour - nothing like the pillowy ethereal gnoochi from the best Italian restaurants. Starting in October and going through April, I try every couple of months to create a batch that is perfect; light, melt in your mouth pieces of heaven.
A few weeks ago I made what may be the best batch of gnoochi of my short thirty year old life. They were tender, fluffy bites of wonderfulness and I was one proud lady (even Tyler said they were my best!). I'm not sure I've figured out all the secrets to making perfect gnoochi but I've come close. This recipe has been (for me at least) the most successful and hopefully it helps you make your best gnoochi.
Recipe from Andrew Carmellini
Some gnoochi advice based on my own experience - do NOT attempt gnoochi on humid days. You will end up with horribly sticky dough that is impossible to work with and you will cry.
Once the potatoes are tender, work quickly. Don't wait for the potatoes to get cool. You want that sweet spot of not so hot you are burning your fingers and not cold. I don't know the magic behind why it works but it really does help the final product.
If you freeze your gnoochi, I find that when you are ready to cook them, it's best to only cook a small handful at a time (and then transfer to a plate until all are done and you are ready to sauce). If you put a lot of frozen gnoochi in the pot at one time, the temperature goes down too quickly and then when it comes back up to a boil, it causes all the gnoochi to stick together (which is when Tyler will usually find me cursing). Take the extra time required to just cook a few and you'll have better results.
4 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 lbs.), scrubbed
1 whole egg, beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
Method: Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Prick each potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a small knife (about 60 minutes).
Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly—just enough so that you can handle them, not more. They should still be steaming when you cut them open ( about 6 to 10 minutes). (If you let the potatoes get too cold, the proteins in the egg won’t bind with the potatoes, and your gnocchi will fall apart). Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Pass the potato flesh through a food mill or press through a ricer set over a medium bowl. (When it comes through the ricer, the potato should look sort of like Play-Do.) Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the beaten egg, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper, and 1 cup of flour, reserving the rest. (You can melt the butter in the microwave). The mixture should be stirred only until the ingredients are combined: anything more will overwork the dough, and your gnocchi will come out tough (like the frozen-in-a-bag variety). Work the mixture into a smooth ball; if the dough seems a little too moist for this, add a touch of flour (the moisture level in every potato is different, so every batch of gnocchi will be a bit different, too).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, cut the dough into inch-wide slices, using a dough cutter if you’ve got one, a regular dinner-table knife if you don’t. Roll these between your hands to make them into a ball. The dough should feel soft, slightly tacky but not sticky—sort of warm and sexy. Roll out each piece into long logs (or “snakes,” as we call them in the kitchen), approximately 14” to 16” long, about ¾“ thick. (This isn’t a precise measurement. You can make your gnocchi whatever size you want—this is just how I like ‘em.) Cut each on in half and roll it out again, thinner, to the same length. Sprinkle the rolled-out snakes with flour to keep them from sticking, and keep adding more flour to the work surface as you go to help as you roll the dough. Cut each snake into gnocchi-sized pieces ( I like mine to be about 1 inch x 1 inch), and place the pieces on a baking sheet covered with semolina. Cover this with a cloth or plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, so they don’t dry out.
Gnocchi are delicate little things; fresh gnocchi should be cooked the day they are made or, at the very latest, the next day. Frozen and stored in an airtight container, they’ll keep for up to a month.
To Cook the Gnocchi: This step is just as important as the preparation: tender gnocchi require careful attention.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi all at once (or as close to it as possible). Stir once gently all around, so that the water is aerated and the dough doesn’t become glued together like one big gnoccho. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface (about 1-2 minutes); wait one more minute and then, using a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the gnocchi. (Don’t ever dump the gnocchi out into a colander the way you would spaghetti: that’s a disaster. All the gnocchi crash onto each other and break.)