Saturday, September 26, 2009

Okey Gnocchi

I've been uninspired lately. My last few blogs were about sandwiches and junk food. I felt I needed to get back into the kitchen with a mission, a new outlook and a real recipe. I wanted to make gnocchi. The word gnocchi means "lumps" in Italian and I have fond memories of the fabulous comfort food being ordered in many restaurants. I, however, have never attempted to make the dish before. It seems simple enough: flour, eggs, potato. Basically gnocchi is little potato pasta dumplings.

The problem is there's a million recipes for gnocchi. Even when you rule out all the non-regular potato varieties (like ones made with sweet potato, corn, squash, cheese, etc.) I couldn't find much consistency in my recipe search. Should I use eggs or not? How many? How many potatoes - should I weigh them or count them? Ricotta or Parmesan, or both? One recipe said to use cake flour, one all purpose, one no flour whatsoever. One website said that once the gnocchi are boiling I'll know if i used too much flour if they sink and too little if they flake apart. Thanks, that helps lots.
Yet, as I sit here and write this I am eating a nice plate of gnocchi. It's not the tastiest lumps of potato and flour I've ever had but I made them and they're decent.

I finally went with a recipe which included one egg, ricotta, Parmesan and regular flour. I started out with the ingredients prepped and put the four in the middle of my counter with a well in it for the wet ingredients - like making pasta. I put the egg in. So far so good. I put the ricotta in. Splush. The four walls broke open and a mutiny of egg oozed onto the floor. I quickly put my hands in there to re-form the four around the wet stuff and stop the oozing. This caked my hands in slop and made it very impossible for me to continue on without much scrapping and washing. The recipe continued on in the same doomed fashion, including a yelling match between me and the food processor which I used because I did not have a potato ricer.

In any case though, my dough probably had too much flour and not enough light-ness. But as I watched my little lumps boil away, sure they would be a complete failure, I saw one rise to the surface. Then another popped up. And soon they were all coming up to say hi. I was shocked. I drained them and took a taste. Not bad. Not flavourful or light but hey, it wasn't a complete disaster. I'll take it. And if you smother anything in olive oil and accompany it with a big glass of red wine, your meal is pretty much fit for a queen.

I don't think I'll be making gnocchi my signature dish anytime soon. But I do know I tried and have some ideas on how to make it better next time around. Though that next time will be very far into the future and I'm bringing backup with me.

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