Cook Something: Gnocchi

March 25, 2020

OK, today I’m trying something new. I call it Anatomy of a Failed Recipe. I think it’s good to admit that not every recipe we try is going to work out great, even if we have been cooking for a long time. It might be the recipe isn’t great. It might be that you are trying a new technique. It might be that you substituted ingredients that did not work out. And it might be that you didn’t have much patience, so you tried skipping a step or simplifying the recipe. The reason that this recipe didn’t work out is probably a combination of all the above.

So my youngest son Logan loves gnocchi. When I saw a recipe (that looked pretty simple) for homemade gnocchi in the Cook Something cookbook, I thought this would be a good project for Logan and I to work on together. It did turn out to be fun, and it was probably a good first step on the way to successfully making gnocchi. Unfortunately, the final dish wasn’t a huge success. My husband and I still ate it, but Logan didn’t (my older son is not a fan, although he was a sport and tried a bite). Anyway, here is the recipe, which will follow not with my usual notes, but with information about what I think broke down.

Gnocchi
Serves 6

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Butter, melted
  1. Bake 2 pounds russet potatoes in a 400 degrees until tender, about 1 hour.
  2. Scoop out the hot flesh of the potatoes and push it through a potato ricer on to a clean work surface. Spread out the potatoes to cool completely. Pile the potatoes into a mound and make a well in the center.
  3. Add 1 beaten egg and sift 3/4 cup flour over the mound.
  4. Use a pastry scraper to scrape and fold everything together to form a shaggy dough. Knead, adding more flour, until the dough is soft, smooth, and slightly tacky. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Using a light touch, roll the pieces of dough into 1/2-inch thick ropes. Cut the ropes into 3/4-inch pillow-shaped pieces.
  5. To shape the gnocchi, put the cut edge of a gnocco (love this word!) against the convex side of the tines of a fork. Using your index finger, gently roll the dough against the tines, making grooves on one side and a small dent from your finger on the other side. Dust the fork and your finger with flour as you work.
  6. Cook the gnocchi in batches, in a large pot of simmering salted water. Scoop out the gnocchi with a slotted spoon after they have floated on the surface for about 10 seconds. Transfer them to a warm bowl as they finish cooking and toss with melted butter. (We also added some grated Parmesan cheese.)

Ok, that all seems simple enough, right? Here is what went wrong.

  1. We used small yellow potatoes (Yukon gold?) instead of Russets because that’s what we had. I don’t know if that was part of the problem, but it might have been.
  2. OK, I think this may have been our biggest issues. We did not have a potato ricer (is this something other people have?), so we just sort of mashed the potatoes up with forks. I am going to see if the food processor would work, or if I need to buy a ricer. Our potatoes were definitely too lumpy.
  3. This step was fine.
  4. I don’t have a pastry scraper, so I used a rectangular pizza cutter thingy (technical term). I really think that was probably fine. This step went OK, but it was when I realized that the potatoes were too lumpy.
  5. This did not work. I think maybe we did not add enough flour as were kneading, etc. We kind of gave up, and just shaped them the best that we could.
  6. The first few gnocchi that I tried to cook just turned into blobs. That’s when I decided that the dough really needed more flour, so I rolled all of the gnocchi in flour. When I cooked this batch, it basically seemed to work.

I have to say they basically tasted OK, especially with the butter and Parmesan. Well, my husband and I thought so. Logan thought they were terrible.

I really think we just need to try again with a few tweaks. I’m going to check out some You Tube videos, and maybe buy a ricer. Let me know if you have any gnocchi-making tips!

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