Monday, January 4, 2021

Recipe of the month: Homemade Potato Gnocchi



Wishing all my readers a Happy New Year 2021!

What a year 2020 turned out to be! It was stressful on so many levels and unforgettable (not in a good way) for most people but it was also an unexpected eye-opener. Not taking things for granted is hopefully going to be a way of life moving forward. For me, personally, 2020 also turned out to be a crash course in gratitude so I would like to start this year on the same note. 

I humbly extend my heartfelt appreciation to all those of you who have  stuck by me over the years and followed my blog. And not just my blog....a big shout out to all those who follow my blog's social media pages. I receive a lot of kind DM's (especially on Instagram) and it is incredibly touching and encouraging. Also, I'd like to thank the companies and sponsors who offer me media invites and opportunities for product and service reviews. Despite not being a "famous" blogger/influencer with a steadfast legion of followers and a jaw-dropping number of pageviews, it is heartwarming to know that there are people out there who are able to look past numbers and recognize content and effort. 

It was probably because of staying home much more than usual but I blogged way more the last year compared to the past four years. I cooked and baked a LOT, read roughly two books per month (not something I've been able to do in years!) and took part in several blog collaborations. This year I plan to challenge myself further when it comes to experimenting with unfamiliar cuisines and intimidating desserts. I also intend to invest more time and effort in doing book and restaurant reviews. I hope I can continue to bring you interesting and useful content not just in 2021 but in the years to come. 

Okay, so now that I've said my piece, let me pass on the reins to my significant other. I know I can always count on him to contribute something of value to my blog so I need to set aside some gratitude for him as well. In this culinary enterprise, the only two tasks I have been involved with include 1. Shaping the potato gnocchi (simply because I like doing it) 2. Pouring (and more importantly, finishing!) the glass of red wine on the side. The rest is all him 😄💖

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Hello readers and a happy new year to all of you! I hope you have been well and have escaped the terrible clutches of the global coronavirus pandemic. With the arrival of 2021, let us hope that the journey to reach the light at the end of the tunnel is a short one. 

Today I have for you my tried and tested (repeatedly) recipe for homemade potato gnocchi. 

After several trials that included extensive reading, tweaking ingredients and ratios, trying out (and destroying!) different kitchen tools and optimizing cooking methods, I am satisfied with my rendition of potato gnocchi. 

This Italian pasta dish consisting of dough dumplings is undoubtedly a tricky dish to get right. I can't say that I've mastered it even now because no two times of making gnocchi will turn out exactly the same. 

Well-made gnocchi has a light, fluffy and melt-in-the-mouth texture. It takes a certain amount of intuition (that comes only with experience) to know if your dough is good enough to yield tender gnocchi. So if you are a newbie, don't be discouraged if your very first attempt doesn't meet your expectations. Try, try and then try some more until you get there. It is a rewarding endeavor - my family can attest to that!


Before making gnocchi for the first time, I read this very useful article from Serious Eats. Armed with this newfound knowledge, I embarked on my gnocchi-making experiments. It took me around four attempts stretched across many months to attain gnocchi nirvana. I can honestly say that I have gained valuable insight and intuition from my trials and tribulations. 

From my personal experience, there are a few important considerations in gnocchi-making,
  • First and foremost is the kind of potatoes you use. You will invariably see Russet potatoes used in gnocchi recipes and this is with good reason. Russets are starchy and have less moisture making them an ideal choice for gnocchi. Potatoes that have more moisture in them require more flour and consequently, the gnocchi may turn out dense and chewy (definitely not what you want). Desiree and Yukon Golds are frequently suggested varieties too
  • I have found that the best way to cook the potatoes for gnocchi is to place them on a rack and bake them in the oven. Water is the enemy of good gnocchi dough so always opt for baking over boiling. Using a fine potato ricer when the baked potatoes are still hot is a good way to ensure you get fluffy gnocchi. This is because the steam from the potatoes billow out instead of being absorbed back into the potato flesh as it cools. I am on my third potato ricer and I think this one's a keeper! In case you don't have a potato ricer, you could finely grate the potatoes as well.
  • So, the next question you may have is to egg or not to egg. Well, there are recipes that do both but the addition of egg yolks makes a more cohesive dough and the gnocchi tend to hold their shape during the cooking process (both desirable qualities especially if you are a rookie gnocchi-maker). 
  • The flour-to-potato ratio is quite critical and determines the texture of your gnocchi. Understand that the less flour you can add to the potato while still managing to make a cohesive dough, the better! 
  • With gnocchi, kneading too much is certainly not a good thing. If you overwork the dough, you will develop the flour's gluten too much resulting in hard and gummy gnocchi. But underwork it and it can fall apart. A great trick is to start with a bench scraper and "cut" the flour into the potato to mix the ingredients together instead of working it with your hands all the way. Only towards the end you can use your hands to pat and fold the dough into a cohesive mass. The key is to be as delicate and gentle as you can while handling the dough
  • Most of the time, gnocchi have ridges on the surface. It is thought to hold the sauce better and not to mention, it looks much fancier. You can create the ridges using a fork or a little wooden paddle called rigagnocchi which is designed specifically for that purpose. Earlier I used to use a fork but I've recently purchased a gnocchi paddle. Both work well. Some chefs claim the ridges are not necessary and skip this step entirely. It is your call.
  • After shaping the gnocchi, I recommend that you let them rest/dry for about 30 minutes. You can also consider freezing them to make handling them easier and retain their shape during cooking
  • Don't overcook the gnocchi otherwise they can become dense and chewy
  • Don't use a colander to drain the gnocchi because they are delicate and can get squashed. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot of lightly boiling water and transfer to the sauce. Again, toss gently to coat and avoid any vigorous mixing. 


I have focused most of my attention on preparing the potato gnocchi from scratch in this post. I haven't attached too much importance to the sauce. Generally, we enjoy potato gnocchi with three kinds of sauces - basil pesto, sage-walnut-brown butter sauce and a sun-dried tomato and herb cream sauce. You will find the recipes for the latter two sauces below the recipe for potato gnocchi. You could also consider doing a creamy gorgonzola sauce (which is something we plan to try out next) or choose among alfredo, carbonara or primavera sauces. We don't prefer tomato-based sauces all that much and so we tend to avoid pomodoro. But you can whip up any sauce that catches your fancy for the potato gnocchi. 

I hope you will try this recipe because the end result is delicious and will guarantee be a family favourite!

Homemade Potato Gnocchi 

Time required:~ 2 hours (including baking time and resting time)
Serves: 4-5
Recipe category: Italian/Main course
Recipe level: Moderate (needs some practice)
Recipe source: Adapted from here

For the potato gnocchi,

Ingredients:

1kg of potato (preferably Russet)
~200 gm plain/all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1 tsp salt 

Tools that are good to have (but not mandatory):

Potato ricer 
Bench scraper/ Dough scraper
Gnocchi paddle board
Metal spider or slotted spoon


Method:

1. I have used six medium-large Russet potatoes that came to slightly over 1kg. Wash and pierce holes in the potatoes using a metal skewer or knife. 



2. Bake in oven at 180 deg C for 1 hour with the peel on


3. Take out and immediately, cut in half and let cool for just a few minutes


4. Peel and rice (or grate) evenly on to a chopping board preferably when still hot. I have used a potato ricer which works brilliantly


5. Let cool and pour egg yolk over it


6. Sieve the plain flour on the riced potato and sprinkle over salt


7. Using bench scraper, lightly mix the potato mixture using a cutting and folding motion

8. Make into a log of dough folding over a few times and patting without kneading too much. Cut into 4 portions. 


9. Take one portion of the dough and roll it into a log of 1/2 inch thickness dusting with flour continuously to prevent sticking 

10. Using the bench scraper cut into 1 inch gnocchi pieces. Keep the surface well floured to prevent sticking



11. Using a floured gnocchi paddle, roll the gnocchi pieces to get a ridge on one side and indentation on the other. You can also roll over a fork to get the indentation or else lightly press the gnocchi pieces with a fork to create ridges. Let the shaped gnocchi dry for 30 minutes. 




12. Boil water in a pot with some salt and a few drops of olive oil 

13. Gently drop the gnocchi into the lightly boiling water. Stir once very gently with a spider or slotted spoon to prevent sticking. Wait till the gnocchi rise to the surface and leave for a further 20-25 seconds 


14. Scoop using a metal spider or a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to sauce

Sun-dried tomato and basil cream sauce

Ingredients:

1 small onion finely chopped 
3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped 
3-4 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp butter
300 ml stock (of your choice)
100 ml milk
50 ml fresh cream
Sun dried tomatoes chopped
Few fresh basil leaves
1 bunch thyme
1/4 tsp nutmeg 
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper 
1/2 tsp paprika 
1/2 tsp salt
25 gm Parmesan cheese
A sprinkling of dry red chilli flakes

Method:

1. Prepare a roux using 2 tbsp of butter and plain flour. Whisk continuously until golden brown. Keep aside

2. Use remaining butter and fry onions and garlic for few minutes.

3. Add stock and thyme and bring to simmer

4. Reduce heat, remove thyme and whisk in milk

5. Add sun dried tomatoes, nutmeg, black pepper, paprika, salt and grated Parmesan and mix 

6. Simmer on low heat till sauce thickens

7. Mix in roux to get desired consistency of sauce

8. Add fresh cream and basil leaves and stir


9. Gently toss the cooked gnocchi in the sauce. 

10. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and dry red chilli flakes if desired. 

Sage-walnut-brown butter sauce

Ingredients:

85 gm unsalted butter
15 sage leaves
A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp garlic powder
A sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper
Salt, if required
A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

Method:

1. Heat skillet over medium-low and cook the butter, swirling often, until just melted, 2–3 minutes.

2. Add the chopped walnuts and continue to cook, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until nuts are light golden brown and butter solids are browned as well, 3–4 minutes longer. It will get very foamy and hard to see the bottom of the skillet, so use spatula to drag through butter—you should leave a trail of little brown specks in your wake (i.e. toasty, delicious milk solids).

3. Add 15 sage leaves and cook (still over medium-low heat), stirring constantly, until sage crackles and is dark green and crisp, about 1 minute longer. Remove skillet from heat. Season with salt (if required) and freshly cracked black pepper. 

Note that the sage leaves I used were very small in size and so they didn't retain their shape very well. 


4. When the gnocchi is cooked, transfer to the brown butter sauce along with a little of the cooking liquid. Return skillet to medium heat and cook, stirring and tossing, until pasta is well coated in sauce, about 30 seconds. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning as necessary.

5. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and more black pepper.


Enjoy the homemade potato gnocchi two ways!

Food-wine pairing:
We happened to have a full-bodied Malbec red wine at home that is believed to compliment sage and cream-based dishes but for gnocchi with the above-mentioned sauces, if you are looking for the best wine pairing, I would suggest a rich and tasteful white wine. Soave, Valpolicella, Ripasso or a Chardonnay would be more suitable choices. 


Notes:
  • If you don't have a potato ricer you can use a metal grater or a sieve
  • If you don't have an oven, you can boil or steam the potatoes in their skin but note that you need to get rid of as much moisture as you can
  • You can use a fork instead of a gnocchi paddle board



Cheers,
A



2 comments:

  1. What a Great Blog Really I Like this recipes Thanks! for sharing information.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i really love it, thank you

    ReplyDelete

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