Tandem Potato Gnocchi

March 19, 2012

Let me start by saying that the man that I married  doesn’t *really* cook. Though he does make the most perfect crepes I have ever imagined, and knows how to prepare a mean grilled cheese, he is the type of guy that has reported eating a bowl of quinoa with mustard when we didn’t have leftovers in the fridge. But there has been a new guy in the kitchen in the past few weeks.

This guy has been prying me for the details of artisan breads, recently has been cultivating himself a starter, and stepping in to poach eggs, fill ravioli…I don’t know who he is, but I love this man. I don’t remember exactly when he showed up on the scene – sometime between the CSA boxes filled with potatoes, leeks, and celeriac and those of late that have included new spring carrots, arugula greens and the last of the mercott tangerines. We had both been digging away at work all day, and per usual, I was preparing to return home to a beautiful bounty of raw vegetables to diligently, and somewhat painstakingly, turn into Tuesday night dinner.

I had called from work, and asked him to boil the potatoes and let them cool so when I walked in the door, there they were – all ready for me to grate and toss with the other two ingredients in this recipe. Our present apartment is a modern space – the type where the kitchen expands into the “living room” and the “dining room,” and is thus ideal for entertaining, chatting with those reading on the couch, watching the news, relaxing, or working at the farm table. We cleared the benches, set up a gnocchi station and -me with a big smile, and he with a camera- started to create together. And, at the same time, had a chance to catch up on the day – what is ahead, and behind – in time, rather than playing catch up long after I had collapsed into the couch with flecks of flour in my hair and eyelashes.

Now, I have lots of experience in making homemade pasta – but never gnocchi. There is no joking around when it comes to these little dumplings — there are many elements that can go awry and I imagine that though ours turned out to be rather light and pillowy, we have a good bit more practice to enjoy. Had the gnocchi fallen apart when they were boiling, never making it to the plate, (an insufficient amount of flour, or too much moisture in the potatoes as a culprit) we would have had a good laugh together at the finicky nature of our dinner. Either way – success.

As for a recipe, we only half-followed the one that I set my sights on (this little gem that I intend to use/modify again on future attempts); a lot of this was winging it wonderfully so. I (oddly) don’t own a potato ricer and so appreciated Heidi’s approach to mashing the potatoes delicately with a fork — it worked out just beautifully. Heidi made gnocchi like a grandmother might make-  kneading the dough by hand on the countertop having made a little well for the egg – the way that you would with pasta. We started off this way and truthfully found it to be a tremendous mess. So, decided to make gnocchi like a modern, busy, domestically-inclined woman with a few things to do after dinner besides clean up; I whipped out a bench scraper and plopped the dough in our stand mixer, finishing the kneading with a dough hook. This worked swimmingly and I would suggest it to any new-to-pasta chefs out there as the machine will moderate the pressure of kneading for you, rendering a more fluffy gnocchi.

Lastly, Heidi suggests fishing the gnocchi out of their cooking water and tossing them immediately with sauce or pesto – which would have been delicious as well. We had a new shipment of truffle oil just sent from Garagiste that we couldn’t wait to drizzle and so elected to bust out a saute pan, brown some butter, and immediately transition the cooked gnocchi to the pan for a little crisping before transfering to a bowl and then drizzling with oil and parmesan. Quite killer.

Below you’ll find the way we split up tasks to make this recipe together — not only was it so much more fun to have a helping hand, but also a good laugh to enjoy the nuances of trying a recipe for the first time, and, of course the inherent triumph in making something delicious. I cannot wait to get this guy in the kitchen again, and to finagle a date out of him where just plain dinner used to be.

*note: the potatoes can be boiled and mashed the night before you want to make the gnocchi, or can be done immediately before you intend to assemble and cook them. If you choose the former, place the mashed potatoes in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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