We recently got back from a trip to North Carolina, and all the sweet tea and pancakes and barbecue and honeyed ice cream — while all crazy delicious! — were bogging me down. So I decided to try some feathery-light potato gnocchi for our first meal back at home.
I’ve tried gnocchi once before. It didn’t go well. They were like dense little potato rocks, flavorless, without texture enough to speak of. But I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. I was armed with a sexy and powerful new tool:
…my POTATO RICER.
This dude is indispensable for all your potato-making needs. In one press it ruthlessly smashes your potatoes into an airy, delicious cloud of starchy goodness. Not sure how I ever lived without one before.
I read a bunch of recipes online and here’s what I ended up doing:
Peel two pounds’ worth of russet potatoes, cut them in thirds, and boil in a pot of salted water for about 45 minutes, until fork-tender.
RICE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM. It’s easiest to do this while they’re still hot.
Spread them out on a cutting board to let them cool for 10-15 minutes. They don’t need to be completely cool; they just need to be hot enough that when you drizzle egg on them they’re not going to cook.
While they’re cooling, crack two large or jumbo eggs into a liquid measuring cup — (it should come to a little less than 1/2 a cup) — and beat them vigorously. The object is to use about 1/4 cup of egg, but because the dough-making process is so touch-and-go, it’s good to have some extra on hand to balance out the dough if it feels too dry. Then measure out about a cup of flour. I have celiac disease, so I’ve got to find gluten-free alternatives; I used about an equal mix of white rice flour and tapioca flour.
When the potatoes are cool, gather them into a pile and drizzle 1/4 cup of the egg on top, then sprinkle about 3/4 of a cup of the flour on top of that.
Fold lightly until combined, then gently knead into a dough, adding more flour or egg as necessary. (Don’t overwork it!) Neither of the gluten-free flours I used is particularly gummy, so the dough was a little crumbly and I think I wound up using about 3/8 cup of egg all told in order to hold it together. When the dough is finished, cut into 8 pieces.
Roll each piece into a snaky tube about 1/2 inch diameter, then cut the tube into pieces about the 3/4 inch long.
Press each piece against the tines of a fork with your thumb, then roll off. (I found that it made the prettiest shape when I pressed the sides that had been cut, rather than the outsides of the tube.)
Put everything on a parchment-paper or Silpat lined baking sheet. You’ll get a nice little potato-pillow phalanx going.
Here’s the decadent part: melt about 2 tbsp of butter (mmmmm) and drizzle it over the gnocchi, then sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400° oven.
Baking gnocchi is a little unconventional; the traditional means is to boil them in water until they float. But take a risk, and ohhhh, the payoff —
Lookit those crisped golden underbellies. Ooof.
Here are the four things that I think made this attempt worlds better than the last one:
- I used a ricer instead of hand-mashing the potatoes. I’m sure that you can make perfectly fine gnocchi by hand, but I suppose at least MY mashing doesn’t make it as whipped and light as the ricer does. The little pieces allow for more surface area and more evaporation of moisture while the potatoes are hot, and prevents the pieces from being overly dense and heavy.
- I used a mix of gluten-free flours instead of a gluten-free flour mix. Explanation: I sometimes get lazy and swap in a prefab baking mix for “flour” in a recipe, which gets me into trouble because the baking mix includes things like baking powder, which react with the other ingredients in ways I’m too absent-minded to anticipate. If I take a little bit of time to figure out a mix of specific flours that suit the needs of the recipe (what’s light? what’s nutty? what’s at least a little glutinous?), it works a little bit more like I hope. (Which, in this case, was less like bread and more like gnocchi.)
- I baked them. Because the key to light, billowy gnocchi is not having too much moisture, it seems counterproductive to then dunk them back in boiling hot water to cook them. By cooking briefly at high heat in a dry oven, you get even more evaporation and you’re left only with fluffy potato nuggets.
- I indulged in butter and salt. Because gnocchi is made only with potato, flour, and egg, it can be a little bland. Giving a little bit makes a world of difference in the taste. Plus, baking them with the butter drizzled on made that golden-brown crisp on the bottoms. So good.
Serve and eat them any way you like. (We made up a red sauce with garlic, onions, and sweet peas.) And remember to stake your claim. Andreas already put a reservation on the leftovers for his lunch today, and now I am gnocchiless and jealous.