Thursday, January 27, 2011

8) Butternut Gnocchi (Giada eat your heart out!)

I) Gnocchi are potato dumplings that are generally thought to be hard to make. That’s why Italian restaurants can get away with charging $15 for mashed potatoes mixed with flour. But gnocchi are really not that hard. All they require is some patience and a little restraint.

The problem with writing a recipe for gnocchi is that water content will vary from potato to potato. This presents many problems since you may need to use more or less potatoes or more or less flour. Making gnocchi requires confidence and absolute understanding of what you are doing. I have neither of these things.

II) Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage and Brown Butter

Materials: (I’m hesitant to give an actual recipe… there are many different variables that may change the quantity of an ingredient. Adjust as you see necessary; don’t be afraid to deviate from the recipe)

· 2 large russet potatoes (about 10 ounces cooked)

· 1 small butternut squash (about 20 ounces cooked)

· 1 egg

· Flour (start at 1.5 cups and check the texture, you’ll probably need more…)

· Nutmeg and salt to taste

For Brown Butter:

· 1 bunch sage leaves

· Butter (as much as you want)

· Parmesan cheese


1. Bake the potatoes and squash (halved and de-seeded) at 350 degrees until soft, about an hour. While still warm, remove the meat of the potatoes and squash and mash. Add the egg, nutmeg, and salt. Slowly incorporate the flour. Add enough flour so that the dough comes together. The dough will be able to hold its shape, while still soft. Try not to overwork the dough as this will lead to tough gnocchi.

2. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and form into ropes. Cut the ropes into small lumps. Size doesn’t need to be exact. Place cut gnocchi onto a floured sheet pan and store until ready to cook.

3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce to a simmer (I feel that a gentler simmer helps to keep the gnocchi intact). Add the gnocchi, taking care not to overcrowd the pot. Once the gnocchi float, they’re done. Shock the gnocchi in an ice bath to stop cooking and transfer to a bowl for holding (a coat of oil will prevent them from sticking to each other and from drying out).

4. Melt the butter in a separate pan and lightly brown over medium heat. Add the sage and fry them to release their flavor into the butter. Add a cup or so of the gnocchi and fry them in the butter until warmed through. Transfer to a plate and garnish with parmesan.

III) Results and Discussion

Gnocchi was surprisingly easy and came out great. The butternut squash adds a subtle sweetness that is pleasant against the brown butter. The nutmeg is crucial; it adds a spice not unlike that in pumpkin pie. This recipe tested my troubleshooting skills, since the moisture content will vary among vegetables, the amount of flour you will need will vary.

IV) Sources:

Brown, Alton. Good Eats: the Early Years. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009. 304. Print.

V) Pictures!

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