Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Potato Gnocchi

We are a gnocchi-loving household, and back in the days before we had to stick to a budget for our food, we bought them often.  Now, of course, I'm appalled at the notion of spending $4 or more for a tiny package that will make three servings at best.

I saw some homemade gnocchi at r/food over the weekend, realized I still had several pounds of russet potatoes from the huge bag that was on sale last week, and promptly decided it was time to be a gnocchi-loving household once more.

Gnocchi novices are often discouraged (myself included) by the flour/potato ratio problem:  no one set of numbers is correct, depending on how you cooked the potatoes, the moisture content of your flour, the humidity that day, etc.  Too much flour and the dough is hard to work and the gnocchi are dense and unappetizing; too little, and they disintegrate when you cook them.  Add to that the relatively labor-intensive process of forming them, and I'm not surprised more cooks don't make their own.

But it's totally worth it, when it works.  And practice does make perfect.

I'm giving the basic ratio that I've had the best luck with, per pound of potatoes.  But by all means, scale up to make a bigger batch depending on how many potatoes you have.  I made a two-pound batch, and because it is such an involved process, I recommend making at least that much and freezing what you don't need right away.

Potato Gnocchi
  • 1 pound russet or other starchy potatoes, whole and unpeeled
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender, 25-30 minutes depending on size.  (If you have any really giant potatoes, halve or quarter them first so they're all done at the same time.)

Drain and let cool just long enough to handle safely.  Peel and pass through a ricer or food mill.  (Don't have one?  Mash them, but don't over-mash or they'll go gummy on you.)

Beat the egg well and mix into the potato.  Add the flour and salt gradually, gently mixing it in with your hands, and stopping just as soon as the dough holds together well; you'll have some flour left to use for kneading and rolling.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board or countertop and knead just until smooth, 1-2 minutes; don't over-knead!  Cut the dough in half (or in larger batches, into quarters) and, working with one piece at a time, roll into a rope about 1/2" in diameter.  With scissors or a sharp knife, cut the rope into 3/4" pieces.  If desired (and I do recommend it) gently roll each piece against the board with a floured fork, to form ridges.

To cook immediately, drop the gnocchi in batches into boiling, salted water.  They're done about when they float to the surface and stay there, usually about 2 minutes.  Fish out each batch with a slotted spoon or a wire spider before adding more.  Serve immediately, or, alternately, drain and saute in butter to brown before adding a sauce.

To save for later, lay out the gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, making sure they don't touch.  Freeze just until firm (too long and they'd over-dry) before transferring to freezer bags or containers.  Boil them straight from frozen--they'll only take a minute or so longer.

I didn't start taking pictures until I had my first few all done.  Oops!  You don't need pictures to know how to boil potatoes, right?
Laid out for freezing.
All ready for quick meals in the future!
The ones we ate: cooked, drained, sauted in butter, topped with slow-cooker marinara and grated Romano cheese.

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