Thursday, February 16, 2012

Godmothers and Gnocchi

While not everyone has a fairy godmother—or even a godmother, for that matter—I am one of the fortunate few. (You may remember me recounting the many joys of my extraordinary godparents in my post “Counting My Blessings.” 

The home in which my godmother currently resides is in the California desert—one of my favorite “happy places.” I love to spend lazy days by the pool, basking in the sun’s rays, no matter what month it is. Looking out the back door at the expanse of green (the home sits on a golf course), I can always be sure that I will not only be warm, but warmly received with open arms. 

On my recent trip, I requested that we make gnocchi, a dish that my godmother’s family had experience in, and that I have been unable to master. The twist was the recipe, which  my godmother had sent only weeks earlier: sweet potato gnocchi. I thought it would pair magnificently with a brown butter-sage sauce. And so we embarked on the adventure, donning aprons and assembling ingredients. 

We baked the sweet and russet potatoes, peeled and mashed them, and then went about preparing the dough. There is an art to the doughmaking; under-knead and you have a lumpy sticky mess; over-knead and you have tough gnocchi, an absolute no-no. 

During the process we looked at each other and found that we were in the middle of an “I Love Lucy” episode gone wrong. We had flour on the counter, on the floor, covering the aprons, on our arms and on our sleeves. Thankfully our hair and faces escaped the white powder, and in the end we were rewarded with two trays of yummy gnocchi waiting to be cooked.

I was happy with the consistency of the dough, and my godmother showed me how to take the little pillows and roll them down a cheese grater to produce a more cylindrical gnocchi. I didn’t quite grasp the technique, but I have a point of reference for the next time, and as we all know, practice makes perfect.
Fancy Stove-side Pot Filler
The gnocchi turned out wonderfully, light and airy, pairing perfectly with the nutty brown butter and crispy sage, with a hint of grated parmesan. I heartily recommend this Italian favorite, which was actually quite simple to make and doesn’t really take any fancy ingredients. (The only hard part is shaping the gnocchi, but leaving them in little pillows works just as well and takes half the time!)

An added bonus is that the gnocchi can easily be frozen for later use. Just pop the cookie tray in the freezer and once they are firm, transfer to plastic container or Ziploc bag. Cook as directed, allowing for an extra few minutes to cook. 

 Recipe on  next page

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
1 pound russet potatoes
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Extra flour for dusting and rolling

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and pierce potatoes and place in heated oven for one hour, or until center is soft. Cool for 15 minutes while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Peel and mash potatoes with a standard masher or put through a ricer. Let cool slightly, so as not to cook the egg when added.

Line two baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle with flour.

When potatoes have cooled down but still slightly warm, add in flour, salt and parmesan cheese. Stir thoroughly with rubber spatula. Add the four and stir to incorporate. Once most of the flour is mixed in, pour dough out onto floured surface. 

Knead the dough, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth but slightly sticky dough.
Cut dough into six pieces and roll each out into a long snake, no more than one inch in diameter. Cut into 1-inch pillows with a sharp knife and place onto floured cookie sheet. 

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

To cook, bring large pot of salted water to boil and add in gnocchi. Boil until pillows float to the surface, about 3 minutes or so. 

Serve with Brown Butter-Sage Sauce.

Brown Butter-Sage Sauce
3/4 cup salted butter
¼ cup sage leaves*
Parmesan cheese for topping

In large skillet, melt butter over medium high heat, stirring occassionally.  It will begin to foam and will take about 3-4 minutes to start turning brown at the bottom. As soon as you see the color turn, add in your sage leaves and continue to stir. The idea is to get the leaves crispy and a dark brown speckled (but not burnt) liquid base. Add in the cooked gnocchi, toss, and plate. Top with parmesan cheese. 

*It’s best to use small individual sage leaves, but if large leaves are only available, cut into thirds.

Serves 4 as main dish, 8 for side dish

1 comment:

The Godmother said...

i can attest that they are wonderful,light and really not starchie, as the ones that I used to make with my mother (who is now 94) and my grandmother. Think the secret is the baking of the potatoes-as we used to boil them first Loved having my God Daughter at my house and cooking with her. She's my love. The Godmother