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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14 Responses to “comfort food: four cheese macaroni and cheese”

  1. 1
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    DessertForTwo — May 5, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    Such a classic! Love the way you write about the South. How cool he grew up in a bbq restaurant! I had a similar experience as a kid that I recently wrote about on my About page. I was a little sheepish to share it because this foodie world is very gourmet and chic and homegrown family restaurants aren’t very, you know, gourmet. So, long way of saying, thanks for sharing your story 🙂

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    Courtney — May 5, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

    It looks delicious! I love homemade macaroni and cheese. I love how it’s crunchy and has texture.

  3. 3
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    Oh. My. Gosh. I love mac and cheese, and this looks to die for! 2 cups of cream, 2.5 cups of whole milk and 3.5 cups of cheese?!? Count me in! Do you prescribe this to your patients? 🙂

  4. 4
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    These are four of my very favorite cheeses. It’s been rainy here in Massachusetts for a couple of days and I’m dying for some good, warm comfort food. Putting this on the list for the weekend!

  5. 5
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    Sanjeeta kk — May 5, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    Granny’s food could be so comforting! Love this simple, creamy and cheesy macaroni.

  6. 6
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    Such wonderful comfort food… Doesn’t get much better than mac and cheese!

  7. 7
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    Paula - bell'alimento — May 6, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

    4 cheeses are way better than one ; ) Love it!

  8. 8
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    Mac and cheese is one of my hubby’s favorite foods, too… He constantly asks for it and then gets upset with me when I make my healthy whole wheat and butternut squash version. I think I’ll have to make this version next time as a peace offering… I have to admit (but don’t tell my hubby), I think your mac and cheese looks MUCH better than the one I usually make. 🙂

  9. 9
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    I didn’t grow up eating mac-n-cheese, a shame I know, but I do love it now. Maybe it’s my maternal grandfather’s southern roots? 🙂 Love your version. Can’t ever go wrong adding extra cheese. Yum!

  10. 10
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    MJ this looks absolutely sinfully good. The only way to eat mac and cheese – I say if you’re going to eat it, you might as well go all out.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — May 10th, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

      That’s my philosophy, Mardi. 🙂

  11. 11
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    Tina @ My Life as a Mrs — May 9, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    mmm this mac n’ cheese looks fab! 🙂

  12. 12
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    Sasa — May 10, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    I have a very similar situation with my partner although living with me for 5 years has definitely increased the amount of things he enjoys eating. I do love me some mac and cheese too though.

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