a personal challenge: potato gnocchi

I have always been intimidated by the kitchen. Even now, at times, I’ll see a recipe and feel a queasy sensation starting in the pit of my stomach if it looks a bit too long, a tad too complicated. You know the recipes I’m talking about – the ones that are so long that they carry over to the next page, or the ones labeled “intermediate” on the Food Network website.  Thoughts of “I can’t do that” start creeping back in my mind.

I have to confess – it wasn’t until recently that I’ve started learning my place in the kitchen. It doesn’t seem to come naturally to me the way it does for a lot of people. Over time, though, things are starting to make sense. It’s hard to explain how liberating it felt the first time I took the risk of not following a recipe exactly the way it was written…and it turned out fine! That was a great discovery, and I’m continuing to work on being more creative with my cooking. It’s a journey, but an exciting one to take.

Along this path to culinary wisdom, I’ve set some little challenges for myself. Making potato gnocchi was one of these hurdles that I was determined to overcome.  So, one day when I had an entire Saturday afternoon to myself, I did it. I made gnocchi. As it turns out, the process wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as I had built it up to be. In fact, it was a lot of fun. My technique could seriously be improved, but those gnocchi tasted darn good. I felt pretty proud of myself.

One challenge down, many more to go.

P.S. Shortly after making the gnocchi, I read about my friend Jennie’s experience making gnocchi. After reading her post, I almost couldn’t write this. Her little gnocchi were just so beautiful and perfect. She is definitely my pasta hero.

Yield: Serves 6.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients:

2 pounds whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cup flour
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet and cool slightly.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a work area and dust it with flour.

Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add the flour, toss to coat. Form a well in the center of the potato mixture. Add the egg yolks, salt, and nutmeg. Stir with fork until the mixture is evenly moistened and mixture looks shaggy.

Turn the mixture out onto the lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until it comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press lightly into each gnocchi, making an indentation in the pasta.

At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi by placing them into the freezer spread out on a baking sheet dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. Once frozen, place the gnocchi in a freezer bag. To cook them, place the frozen gnocchi into simmering water (next step).
Working in batches, cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, until they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl. Serve with your favorite warm pasta sauce.

Recipe blended and adapted from Elise Bauer's recipe here on Simply Recipes and from the Bon Apètit recipe from February 2010.


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