Make Me a Sandwich!...Gnocchi
“Hacks” are a popular thing to see floating around the internet these days. You know you have seen them all over your MySpace wall or cramming up your Friendster account. There is always the “Top 20 Hacks to Declutter Your House” or “Best Binder Clip Hacks” or “Trump Announces That His Hacks are the World’s Greatest” or “Clinton Hacks Her Own Secret E-Mail Server”. I like these hacks and I’m excited that Food & Wine Magazine has started a regular article called Mad Genius Tips that include hacks for making delicious meals easier.
My first foray into using these kitchen hacks was when I made a special Valentine’s Day meal for Rizzo using a bundt pan to roast a chicken. It turned out great so it wasn’t a surprise that I decided to make another dish from the Mad Genius. There was just one problem. I lost the damn recipe.
You see, I was reading my issue of Food & Wine Magazine and in the section for Mad Genius Tips there was a method used to cook gnocchi. For those of you who don’t know, gnocchi are Italian dumplings that I know best as being made from potatoes. They are thicker and doughier that pasta but used in very much the same way in that they can be served on the side of a dish or as the main dish as well as being covered with various types of sauces.
The Mad Genius wasn’t so much focused on the gnocchi recipe as the method of getting the dumplings into the water using some string (we will get to that). So without having the actual recipe from the Mad Genius (I know I could have looked up the exact recipe on the internet but I was too lazy for that I just found another recipe) I just went in alone with one recipe in hand and the method of cooking in my head. If you want to make these delicious balls of potato here is what you’ll need:
- 2 pounds of potatoes
- 2 large egg yolks (you’ll see four in the pictures because I was making a double batch)
- ½ cup of all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- Cooking twine (for the hack)
Ready to get started making some Italian dumplings. Well here we go.
First thing we will need to do is get those potatoes baked. The recipe calls for one of two options. The first is a combo of microwave baking and oven baking. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then you’ll need to stab the potatoes all over with a fork so those mini-bombs won’t explode in the microwave or oven. Toss them in the microwave on high for about 10 minutes, flip them over, then zap them on high for another 5 minutes. After all this is done you’ll still need to put them on a baking sheet and bake the potatoes for 15 minutes in the oven. That was way too much work for me just to save some time on baking so I simply put my stabbed potatoes in the oven for an hour and let the oven do all the work.
After you have your potatoes baked you want to let them cool off a bit just so you can pick them up without leaving a mark like that creepy Nazi guy from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. When the potatoes are cooled down enough for you to handle go ahead and cut them in half and scoop out all the guts into a separate bowl. You can toss the skins into your composter or if you have some extra time just sprinkle them with cheddar cheese and bits of bacon to have as a snack while you finish cooking up the gnocchi. I’m an idiot so I actually didn’t think of making potato skins out of the left over, you know, potato skins until right now while I’m writing this.
Now the recipe I was working from stated that you should add the guts of the potato to a ricer and rice the potatoes. Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up too. A ricer is essentially a giant garlic press and there was no way I was going to purchase a giant garlic press just to smooth out the potatoes to make the gnocchi. Rizzo had the wonderful suggestion of just mashing the potatoes using the potato masher and it worked out just fine. So instead of getting another expensive kitchen tool just mash your potatoes until they are nice and smashed. Stir in the two egg yolks and a teaspoon of salt until they are nice and mixed. Then add the ½ cup of flour to the mixture and knead it all together until you have a smooth and sticky dough. Take that entire ball of dough and put it into a gallon sized freezer bag. Don’t put this in the freezer just sit it aside. You’ll see why soon.
Now that you have the dough ready you’ll need to set up your cooking area. The key is the giant pot of salted, boiling water. You’ll need to tie a string across the top of the pot. Make sure it is nice and tight because you’ll be using this as a way to cut the dough instead of the traditional way of making gnocchi of rolling logs and cutting them up. In addition to the pot of boiling water you’ll need to melt the butter in a skillet in order to finish up the dumplings.
Cut one corner off the freezer bag to use as a way to push the dough out of the bag. Squeeze a piece about the size of an acorn and cut it using the string letting the acorn fall into the boiling water. Cook the gnocchi until it floats to the top of the water which should take about 2 minutes. After the gnocchi floats to the top, use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi from the water and add it to the buttered skillet. Brown the dumplings for about 30 seconds on each side, remove from the butter, and then you are ready to serve. We went with just a little olive oil and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
The gnocchi worked out nicely but took quite a long time. It made for a nice lunch during the week when we added some fresh Italian sausage. Was it worth it? Yeah, it was a good experience to know that I can make some fresh gnocchi. Would I do it again? Probably not. I’ll just buy some at the store. It was still pretty good.