Sunday, March 11, 2012

Homemade Gnocchi

I’ve always loved homemade Gnocchi, but not near as much as my oldest daughter.
Jessica is a Gnocchi junkie.   So for her 23rd birthday today, I decided I’d give it a try.  I was surprised at how simple it really is.  There are a few rules that you must follow to ensure light and tender gnocchi.
Here is what I have learned…
Keep potatoes whole and in their skins to boil. You don’t want them to absorb excess water.   I riced the potatoes while they were warm to get them through the ricer better.   Make sure to let them cool COMPLETELY before moving on to the next step. The riced potatoes need to cool so that excess water evaporates.  If you mix flour into warm moist potatoes they will absorb more flour and your gnocchi’s will be  heavy.
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First I had to get myself a potato ricer.  You can use a ricer or a vegetable mill.   I’ve read that a ricer makes for lighter gnocchi. Use the attachment with the smaller holes.
So lets get to it.
6 large russet potatoes
2 tablespoons salt plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 tsp white ground pepper
2 eggs beaten
3 – 4 cups unbleached flour
Sauce of your choice
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Boil the potatoes whole and  in their skins about 40 minutes, until they easily pierce with a  skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and take off any imperfections left behind.  Cut each potato in half and rice them into a baking sheet spreading them loosely so they cool completely or you can  rice them right on the counter and spread them out there to cool. (Make sure they are cool before moving on). At this point, bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of the salt to a boil. On a cool, preferably marble work surface, gather the cold riced potatoes into a mound, forming a well in the center. Stir the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the white pepper  into the beaten eggs and pour the mixture into the well.
Homemade Gnocchi 048a

Work the potatoes and eggs together with both hands, gradually adding 3 cups of the flour and scraping the dough up from the work surface with a knife as often as necessary. (Incorporation of the ingredients should take no longer than 5 minutes.  The dough will be smooth but slightly sticky.  Remember the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with flour and cut the dough into six equal parts. Continue to dust dough, hands, and surface as long as the dough feel sticky.  Your dough should like like this.. moist and grainy.
Homemade Gnocchi 050a
Using both hands, roll each piece of dough into a rope 1/2-inch thick, then slice the ropes at 1/2-inch intervals. At this point you can indent each dumpling with your thumb or use the tines of a fork to produce a ribbed effect. (Apparently this practice of ribbing the gnocchi allows the sauce to stick to them).  I left mine plain.  After cutting the pieces toss them lightly in flour to ensure the cut edges are lightly coated.

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Shaking excess flour off, drop the gnocchi into boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they rise to the surface. Do not overcook.
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Homemade Gnocchi 031a
Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer them to a warm platter, adding your sauce of choice.  Don’t overcrowd them in the water. Boil in batches if you have to.  Add sauce and grated cheese, Serve immediately.
To freeze gnocchi:
It is best to freeze gnocchi uncooked as soon as they are shaped. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan and place the pan in a level position in the freezer. Freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Transfer the frozen gnocchi into portion size 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. Bring 6 quarts salted water to a boil in each of two large pots. Shake any excess flour from the frozen gnocchi and split them between the two pots, stirring gently as you add them to the boiling water. It is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible; cover the pots if necessary. Drain the gnocchi as described above and sauce and serve according to the specific recipe.
Homemade Gnocchi 043a
Don’t forget the cheese!
Enjoy ~
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