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Sweet potato gnocchi

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sweet potato gnocchi

We made these delicious delights way back in October, but I was lazy about blogging back then. (Yeah, I know, I’m still pretty lazy about blogging.) This definitely falls into the “afternoon project” category of recipes – that is, you’re going to need a lot of dishes, a bit of time, and an extra bit of ambition if you want to crank these out. The actual process isn’t all that difficult, but as for the steps – there are many. Luckily, this recipe lends itself wonderfully to batch cooking – make a boatload during the next ice storm, freeze ’em, and you’ll be good for a month.

Sweet potato gnocchi

Gnocchi literally means “lumps” or “knots,” and can be made from just about any starch – potatoes, bread crumbs, semolina or just plain old flour. (Kind of an anti-climactic name – like going to IKEA for the first time and finding out that they have cleverly named all of their products with the Swedish word that describes the item.) These gnocchi are made with a combination of sweet potatoes and Russet potatoes – the sweet potatoes give color and flavor, and the Russets have enough starch to ensure that the dumplings don’t fall apart when boiled. The potatoes are roasted first, riced, and combined with egg, Parmesan cheese and pepper.

Sweet potato gnocchi Sweet potato gnocchi Sweet potato gnocchi

Forming the gnocchi is actually pretty quick, but the dumplings are so tiny that you have to do this many, many times. The dough is cut into tiny cubes, rolled into balls, and then pressed against the backside of a fork to get the characteristic ridges. You can cook the gnocchi when they are still in ball form rather than ridged form, but I think the ridges are fairly easy to make, and their purpose is to trap some sauce against the dumpling when all is said and done. Plus they look awesome and will impress Italian grandmothers around the world. Here are the gnocchi in ball form, and here is a close-up of the ridging process:

IMG_6642

After roasting, ricing, mixing, cutting, and gnocchi-ing, we’re almost there. This being a recipe from dearly departed Gourmet, you of course need to fry some sage and chestnuts to go along with your gnocchis. Gourmet assured me that I would be able to find bottled roasted chestnuts at the supermarket, but there were none to be had. Thank goodness I live in a town with at least five Asian grocery stores – I went across the supermarket parking lot and wandered around my nearest Asian market for about 10 minutes before finally finding some raw chestnuts and asking the cashier if they stocked any that were pre-roasted. Why yes, she said, they had three varieties. I asked if she had a favorite, and she recommended some that were vacuum-sealed (pictured here) rather than bottled, because they had less sodium. Thanks, Ames Asian Market!

Sweet potato gnocchi Sweet potato gnocchi

Finally, the gnocchis are boiled briefly, until they gracefully drift to the surface of the water, at which point we skimmed them off and dropped them into the fat that had been used to fry the sage and chestnuts. We kept them in there for a few minutes until they got a little brown on the edges. Then everything is tossed together in a big bowl, and served hot. I had only eaten gnocchi once before, at a restaurant, and these surpassed the restaurant gnocchi in flavor and texture. Creamy orange pillows of nutmeg-scented potatoes, slightly salty from the parmesan cheese. These take a little courage and a little time, but the end result is worth the effort.

Sweet potato gnocchi

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Adapted from Gourmet

Makes ~3-4 cups cooked gnocchi.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish, or 4 generously as a main.

Gnocchis can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated until ready for cooking. Chestnuts can be sliced up to one day in advance and sealed in an airtight container in the fridge.

Uncooked gnocchi can be frozen individually on a sheet pan, and then sealed in a ziploc bag once the gnocchis are frozen solid. Do not thaw before cooking. Gourmet says you can freeze up to 1 month, but I think you could probably push it to 2-3 months. When I make these again I will report back on longer-term freezability.

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Ingredients

1.25 lbs (0.5 kg) Russet potatoes

0.75 lbs (0.33 kg) sweet potatoes, about 1 large

1 large egg

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1.5 to 2 cups (200-250 g) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 – 3/4 cup sage leaves

1/3 cup roasted chestnuts, (these come bottled or vacuum sealed, check your Asian grocery store) sliced thinly with a paring knife, sharp vegetable peeler or mandoline

2 Tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter

Make the Gnocchis

1. Preheat the oven to 450° with the rack in the center position.

2. Stab potatoes with a knife or fork several times, and place on a roasting pan. Roast until just tender, 45-60 minutes.

3. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove peels and push potatoes through a ricer or food mill onto a sheet pan or flexible cutting mat.

4. Whisk egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Measure out cheese and flour, and make sure you have then nearby.

5. Form riced potatoes into a mound, and make depression in the center. Pour egg mixture into the well in the center of the potatoes, and knead everything together. Knead in cheese and 1.5 cups of the flour. Continue to knead potato mixture, adding more flour as neccessary, until the dough comes together and is smooth and slightly sticky.

6. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces, and dust each piece with flour. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rope that is 1/2 inch in diameter. Repeat each subsequent piece.

7. Cut each rope into 1/2 inch pieces, and gently roll each piece into a ball place on a sheet pan or cutting mat lightly dusted with flour.

8. Using the back side of a fork held at approximately a 45° angle with respect to the counter, roll each ball on the back of the tines. (See photo above) Basically the gnocchi is pressed against the fork and then quickly flicked off and away from the fork. Place formed gnocchis on a sheet pan covered in parchment or a silpat, separated slightly so they do not stick together.

Fry Sage Leaves and Chestnuts

1. Start a large pot of water to boil the gnocchis, and salt it well.

2. Heat olive oil in a 10-12″ skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in 2-3 batches, stirring them around just for 30 seconds or so, or until the green color lightens a shade. Remove with a spider or a slotted spoon, and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

3. Fry sliced chestnuts in batches, again about 30 seconds for each batch, stirring slightly while cooking. Fry just until chestnut slices turn golden brown and crispy. Transfer to paper towel to drain, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Turn heat to medium low, and leave remaining oil in skillet.

Cook Gnocchi

1. Add the butter and a pinch of salt to the skillet with the residual frying oil and cook over medium low heat until the butter is just melted.

2. Once water has reached a gentle boil, cook the gnocchis in 2-3 batches. The gnocchis will rise to the top as they cook, after about 3 minutes. Skim the gnocchis off the top of the water as they are finished cooking.

3. Turn up the heat in the skillet to medium, or slightly higher if needed. Place the cooked gnocchis into the skillet with the butter and the oil, and fry for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchis are slightly brown on the edges. Be careful not to overheat the butter/oil mixture and burn the butter solids at this point. Remove the browned gnocchis to a serving bowl and toss with fried sage and chestnuts.

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