You snooze, you lose
Well I have snost and lost
I’m pushing through
I’ll disregard the cost
– Mike Doughty
If you asked me where my ancestors are from, and often you don’t even have to ask, I will say loud and proud, NORWAY! I will probably also find a way to mention that one of the things that makes my ancestry so awesome is that we have a pavilion in Epcot. Not only do we have one, but it is by far the best one ! I will accept Mexico as a tie. The next thing out of my mouth will either be that the perfume I wear is the very essence of Norway, Layla, or that the Minnesota Vikings are the most superior NFL team in all the land. I can’t guarantee the order of the last two, but I will promise that they will be said.
Viking Museum at WDW
St. Patty’s day, however, is the day that I proudly reclaim my Scotch/Irish side! I think the main reason why I obsess over Norway is that my grandparents are first generation American, so the connection is closer. Also, my very first memory is of me in the kitchen with my grandmother and great grandmother making rice crispy treats and hearing Great Grandma Hagen tell me “watch your head dearie” in her lovely Norwegian accent. I also might be a little bit more jazzed about the Scotch/Irish side if they had a World Showcase pavilion, until then St. Patty’s day will most likely be the one day a year I focus on it.
This St. Patty’s day I knew I had a potato recipe that needed to be made for the “Better Recipes 2011 Semi-Annual Recipe Contest”, and figured what better day then today to get my potato on! I thought of several options, but everything seemed fairly ordinary and overdone. After pondering a bit I decided to take a big risk and try something I have never made before, let alone even tried, Potato Gnocchi.
So Many Possibilities
As a long time Top Chef aficionado I watched Fabio make gnocchi time and time again, each time thinking that his dishes looked like perfect pillowy dreams of a potato/pasta love child. Gnocchi not only looks good on a plate, but it looks like a lot of effort and work went into creating the little nuggets of deliciousness.
King of Gnocchi
Turns out I was right, in my case a little know how and dumb luck resulted in an eventually scrumptious dish any potato loving Leprechaun would adore.
I did a lot of research as to what ingredients resulted in the perfect potato gnocchi. I discovered there are three key components; starchy potatoes, flour, and a liquid, be it water or egg. Pretty much everything I read recommended egg over water as it provides more stability to the precious puffs of pasta.
My recipe calls for four medium sized Gold potatoes that must be halved and cooked till tender all the way through in salted boiling water.
Make sure when the potatoes are done to keep the starchy water, as it will be perfect for cooking your gnocchi later. Once you pull the potatoes out peal them as fast as your fingers will allow you to. I found that sticking a fork prong under the skin and pulling it away it made it pretty easy to peel with out getting 1st degree burns.
No fancy tools are needed to mash the potatoes, mash really isn’t the right term, its more like fluffing the potatoes. I found that using the fork from earlier kind of like a knife to cut the potatoes created a nice fluffed effect.
Once the potatoes are fluffed and no visible lumps remain, create a little mound of potato. Do not pack the potatoes down, simply just gather them into one general place so you can mix in the remaining ingredients.
It's Dough Time!
In a small bowl I beat the egg and drizzled it over the potatoes. On a side note, make sure to let the potatoes cool enough so the egg doesn’t cook on contact. Finally, I added 1/2 cup of flour on top and combined with a pastry spatula. I found the spatula was handy, as it gave when pushed down so everything wasn’t pulverized and it covered a long surface area that was convenient for the combining technique of making one long stroke, pulling the spatula from one end of the mound to the other to incorporate. Make sure to get the underside of the dough so everything is evenly distributed.
From Potato to Dough
I added more flour to the mix as it was a bit to tacky to work with. In all I used approximately 3/4 of a cup of flour. Once everything was mixed in I folded the dough into a ball and cut it into 8 equally sized pieces to be rolled out. I rolled the dough until it was the thickness of my thumb, this step took me back to the good ole’ days of playing with a play-dough, only I could legitimately eat the end results of this craft project.
Once the log was rolled I cut it into little 3/4 inch sized bits and dusted them with flour to keep them from sticking in my hand.
I think the most frustrating part about my first attempt at gnocchi is getting the technique down for scoring. You kind of have to use the Caesar technique with the pasta, and no I am not referring to the salad. For those of you who are not familiar with Caesar Millian, he is skilled at teaching people how to interact with there troublesome dogs just by getting the humans to change their behavior and attituted. Caesar’s catch phase is “calm, assertive”.
Sad Sally Gnocchi
When I first started scoring the gnocchi I put on a brave face and went for the kill, unfortunately this resulted in a lot of flatish gnocchi with prong poke marks, not attractive. When I realized I was not a natural I lost my faith and the gnocchi started looking worse. Eventually, I think when I got bored of screwing up gnocchi I calmed down and went for the kill. Wouldn’t you know, but they started turning out awesome. Unfortunately, at that point I only had about 4 left.
End of the Line
The main thing I learned is that as opposed to rolling the fork so that each cut mark is on either side of the fork prongs, simply rotate the dough 90° so that one cut mark is up and one is down and then drag from top to bottom with your thumb where the top of the prongs meets the handle. Gnocchi magic!
Calm and Assertive Grooves
Once everything was rolled out, about 10 at a time got thrown into the pot of potato water that had been brought back to a boil.
Boiling Gnocchi is Not Attractive
The gnocchi does a pretty good job of letting you know when it is done, it floats back to the top of the water. Once they were on the surface I let them continue to cook before pulling them out with a strainer to get rid of excess water. I then threw them into a dish with olive oil, balsamic and pepper.
Ready for Gnocchi
Once they were all done I tossed them in the oil and vinager and added red pepper flakes because they just seemed like they were missing something.
Soaking it Up
The red pepper flakes did magic, but the consistency was still a bit on the doughy side, however, having never tried gnocchi before it was a bit hard to judge. I decided I had to find a way to make the pasta taste better after having spent so much time on it. As any good Southern, Norwegian Scotch, Irish would, I fried them in butter.
In a hot pan I melted the butter and emptied the contents of the serving dish in and let the gnocchi sit undisturbed for about 2 minutes before filliping them for another 2 minutes. The results were AMAZING! Yummy little puffs of potato pasta, some with crunchy edges and rich in flavor.
Now I just want to try a professional’s version of fresh gnocchi and see how close I was to hitting the mark.
St. Patty’s Day Potato Gnocchi
A nice pesto would really amp up the St. Patty’s day aspect and would be a yummy addition!
4 gold potatoes
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
3 tablespoons butter
Boil halved potatoes in salted water. Cook until tender all the way through, approx. 25 minutes.
Remove from water and as soon as you can peel the potatoes.
Slice peeled potatoes with a fork to flake the potato. Fluff the potato with a fork until there are no visible lumps, but do not mash. When they reach the appropriate texture create a pound of potato.
Drizzle the egg over the potato and add 1/2 cup of flour on top. Using a pastry spatula incorporate all flour and egg. Sprinkle on additional flour a little at a time till the mixture is no longer tacky.
Cut the dough into eight equal sized chunks.
Roll out each segment into a log about the width of a woman’s thumb and cut into 3/4 inch sized pieces. Sprinkle flour onto dough.
Using a fork score gnocchi with ridges in a calm assertive manner.
Reheat the water used for boiling potatoes back to boiling. Dump 10-15 gnocchi in at a time, when it is cooked they will rise back up to the surface. Once they rise wait an additional minute and remove with a strainer to remove excess water.
As soon as gnocchi are done add sauce of choice, in this case a mix of olive oil, balsamic, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook for 2 minutes on each side.