Sunday, May 6, 2007

An Old Family Tradition

When I was living at home, and it was my birthday, my mother would ask me what I wanted for dinner on my special day. I would always reply "GNOCCHI!!". My poor mum would spend endless hours in the kitchen, preparing my meal. At the time, I didn't truly realize how much work it was.

Now that I am living on my own, my mum has graciously passed on the family's traditional recipe for potato gnocchi. In my first attempt, I added way too much flour to the dough. The thing with this dough, is that it is very sticky, so I kept adding flour to it. The end result was that it didn't taste much like potato and was very dense and chewy. Now that I am a little more experience at making these little dumplings, I keep in mind that the dough is very sticky and to flour my working surface (as well as my hands), so that they don't stick so terribly.

To shape the dumplings, you can use a fork, which I had been using for many years, before my mum got me a gnocchi board for Christmas. I love that little tool. It makes the job go by much quicker than a fork, because it hardly sticks to the board, if you flour it lightly.

The beautiful thing about the shape of gnocchi, is that one side has ridges, while the other side has an indent. Both are meant to capture the sauce served over them, and make each bite equally delicious.

Now, my gnocchi does not turn out as perfectly as my mums. I am blaming it on the fact that, although I make these often, I still have not purchased a potato ricer. You cannot just mash these potatoes, or it will turn into a gluey mess. You must pass them through a potato ricer or food mill. My ingenious solution was to grate the potatoes on the finest side of my steel grater. It is not so ingenious when you have a very hot potato in one hand and a hot grater in the other. My hands are getting nicely calloused from this as well as burning myself on hot pans and the inside of the oven :)

Serve with the sauce of your choice. I usually make a meat based tomato sauce, which cooks for nearly the entire day, which is another family tradition. I will post that one later! I've seen this served with a butter sauce as well, which sounds super yummy!


4 large Yukon Gold or yellow potatoes, (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
Cornmeal, for dusting

Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high, and cook until tender, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill another large saucepan with cold water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. Drain potatoes, and peel while still hot, holding them with a clean kitchen towel. Pass potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with the finest disk onto a lightly floured work surface. Make a well in the center of the mound of potatoes, and sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes. Break eggs into the well, and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt. Using a fork, lightly beat eggs, and incorporate the remaining ingredients to form a dough. Knead lightly on the work surface until the dough is soft and smooth.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Divide dough into four balls, and shape each ball into a rope 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces.

Shape the gnocchi: Hold a dinner fork in one hand, and use your thumb to hold a cut edge of a piece of gnocchi against the curved back of the tines of the fork. Press into the center of the gnocchi with your index finger to make a deep indentation. While you are pressing the piece against the tines, flip it away over the tip of the fork, allowing the gnocchi to drop to the work surface. If the gnocchi becomes sticky, dip fork and index finger into flour. The finished gnocchi will have ridges on one side and a depression on the other. At this point, gnocchi can be refrigerated for several hours or frozen on a baking sheet sprinkled lightly with cornmeal before boiling and serving.

To cook gnocchi, drop half of them into the boiling water, and cook until they float to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. REMOVE AS SOON AS THEY RISE TO THE SURFACE. Otherwise they will over cook and just fall apart. If they are frozen, do not defrost, just put directly into the boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in the ice bath for about 20 seconds. Transfer from ice bath, to a colander, and repeat process with the other half of the dough.

Serve with the sauce of your choice.


Anonymous said...

Oh my god....GNOCCHI! I can still remember a long time ago watching your mom making it when I was over for supper. I miss it!

Maybe I'll have to attempt to try the recipe.

Anonymous said...

nice blog!