Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking

I don't know about you, but it's usually the weekends when I decide to make something involved for dinner. It's hard to get motivated to spend significant time in the kitchen making something brand new during the week. It's after work, weeknight shows are on, etc. etc. Plus you never know if this new, involved recipe, will turn out as a total flop.

Last weekend, our local grocery was having a sale on potatoes, 10 lbs for a dollar. I sent my bf out to purchase some and he came home with 2 bags (we already had some potatoes in the fridge). Now I'm looking through all my cookbooks and favorite sites to see what I can make with potatoes. There's always the classic baked French fries, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, etc. etc., but I don't want to eat 20 lbs of French fries.

I did however, come across gnocchi. I've never had homemade gnocchi before. I've only first had it recently (in the past year or so) and each time it was either at a restaurant or from a box. Gnocchi is surprisingly vegan; you only need flour and potatoes. Some recipes also call for egg and butter, but you really don't need that. The key with good gnocchi is to get as much of the water out of the potato as possible. You do this through a series of steps, which aren't very complicated.

I decided to bust out a batch yesterday to see how it goes. I served them with pesto sauce.

Gnocchi with Pesto
- 2 lbs of potatoes (~2 large russets or 4 smaller potatoes)
- 1c bread flour (you can use WWPF or All purpose, however the higher gluten content will help the dumplings stay together)

- Your favorite basil pesto recipe (I like the one from Vegan Planet)

Step 1: Bake the potatoes
Set your oven to 400F. Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Then take a knife and lightly score the potato with an "X" at each end. Connect the X's along the side of the potato. This will make peeling the hot potato a lot easier when they are done.

Pop into the oven in a baking dish. I did not wrap mine in foil as I wanted the potatoes to dry out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes. Flip them over. Cook for another 15-30 minutes depending on size. The potato should be easily pierced with a fork when done.

Step 2: While you're waiting...
While the potatoes are cooking those last minutes, set up a pot of boiling, salted water. Salt should not be added to the dough, as that will pull moisture into the gnocchi, which we don't want. Instead, to get the seasoning, you will want to generously season the water.

Also set up a bowl of ice water near the pot.

Set up a floured surface to create and roll out the dough. Flour a plate, where you will set your raw gnocchi. Get out a fork to roll the gnocchi on (to get the ridges). Get out your ricer, grater, or food processor with grater attachment.

Step 3: Prepare the potatoes
Now that the potatoes are done, quickly peel the potatoes while they are still hot. You will probably need a dish towel to help you handle the potatoes. If you are having trouble peeling the potatoes, you can use a veg peeler or the back of a knife to help you out.

Once the potatoes are peeled, ideally, run them through the ricer. If you don't have a ricer, grate them. I was having problems getting them box grated, so I popped them in my food processor with the grating attachment.

Once grated, spread out the potato on a flat surface so the steam can come off (try not to compress it, you're just giving the breathing room it needs to air out). Leave for 15 minutes.

While you're waiting, make sure all your stuff is ready to go.

Step 4: Dough
Once the potato has cooled a bit, you can now make the dough. You want to use as little flour as possible to get a good dough you can roll. Basically you're getting it to a point where it doesn't stick to your hands or work surface.

Pull all your potato into a flat ball. Put a 1/4c of flour over it and work it in. You should work it in like pastry dough, rather than kneading it. You don't want to overwork the dough. Once it's worked in, continue to add in 1/4c at a time until it reaches the right consistency. I only used about 2/3c of flour.

Pull a chunk off the dough ball and roll into a long, skinny tube, about the diameter of your finger. Cut into 3/4 inch "pillows". Roll the cut piece down the back of a fork to get the ridges and place in floured plate. Once you have enough of them, put in your pot of boiling water. They will sink for 30 seconds or so. Once they pop up, let them boil for 1 minute. Scoop out with slotted spoon and put in ice water bath. Let sit for 30 seconds. Scoop them out with slotted spoon onto a dish. Repeat until all the gnocchi is made.

At this point is where you can either combine with sauce or freeze them for later use. From what I have read, freezing the raw dough (pre boil) doesn't turn out so great when you reheat. Instead you should do the initial boil and then freeze.

I popped my finished product into the fridge until dinner. If you're making sauce, save some of the potato water. The starchy water makes the sauce stick better to the pasta.

For dinner, I pulled out my thawed basil pesto and put in a hot pan with the gnocchi. Once heated, I added a couple of ladles of potato water. I let it simmer for 7 minutes or so. I made a side salad of spinach, sprouts, sunflower seeds, and raspberry vinaigrette. Very tasty!

The gnocchi was a little softer than I remember it being at the restaurant, but I wonder if that was due to my food processor method, vs using a ricer. I'm going to go investigate my local thrift store to see if they have one.

For dessert, we had a delicious, practically raw, chocolate chip and peanut butter ice cream. Directions to come in my next post!

Question of the day: What would you make with 20 lbs of potatoes?

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed! Nice job with the step-by-step instructions-- the tips that you include demystify the gnocchi-making process! The results look delicious, and pesto sounds magical to me today!