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.
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3/4 cup flour
- Butter, melted
- Bake 2 pounds russet potatoes in a 400 degrees until tender, about 1 hour.
- 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.
- Add 1 beaten egg and sift 3/4 cup flour over the mound.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- This step was fine.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!