Autumn is here again and I could not be any happier to see the Summer’s heat, humidity, and sweat roll out of south Florida. Many would argue that there are no seasonal changes in south Florida… but there really are seasonal changes. They are subtle and sometimes, if you blink, you might miss them. However, they are there and the most notable are the temperatures will drop a little and the time will change – the east coast will “fall” back on November 7, 2010 this year.
The time changes also usher in a need to sink into a more comforting food and those glorious Autumn root vegetables. I love them all – especially the beloved butternut squash which I honor with Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup and “First Day of Autumn Butternut Squash Risotto;” the later, which is a holiday in my home.
Autumn also means braising, stewing, and relishing in comforting foods that do not correlate with all the other seasons. Foods like Gnocchi, those lovely little dumpling pillows of culinary comfort and love that the Italians have so graciously perfected, correlate well with Autumn. I have always ordered them at finer Italian restaurants that advertised them as “housemade.” I envisioned that the owner’s very own nonni was in the kitchen rolling out the gnocchi to order and not some prep cook.
“Why all of the caution?” you wonder?
Because… I have had some bad gnocchi before. The kind that is doughy and glutinous. The kind that you force your molars through to break up and swallow only for it to reconnect and reconstitute midway down your esophagus and hit the bottom of your belly like a brick strapped to a lead pipe. Boom – thud!
Now I have never made gnocchi at home because I had always thought them to grand to attempt. I had always heard other cooks talk about having to have a deft hand and a certain finesse to produce airy, light gnocchi that were irresistible. All of which translated to time-consuming for me. But then again, I reasoned, isn’t that what my days off and early Sunday mornings were for… venturing into the time-consuming realm of culinary life? Yes. Yes it was. So I thought I would try it – gnocchi or bust!
My Recipe: POTATO GNOCCHI makes 64 gnocchi
2 # russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 whole eggs
¼ c Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese, finely grated
1 t kosher salt,
½ t ground white pepper
salted boiling water, for cooking gnocchi
Place potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with water; and boil until potatoes are very tender, approximately 20 – 22 minutes; drain well
Lightly flour a parchment-lined sheet pan; set aside
Lightly flour work surface; pass boiled potatoes through a ricer onto the work surface; sprinkle flour on top of potatoes; and make a small well in the center; add eggs, grated cheese, kosher salt, and ground white pepper
Gently mix ingredients together; by hand; and knead until dough is smooth, approximately 3 ½ minutes
DO NOT OVER KNEAD THE DOUGH or gnocchi will be tough
Cut dough into 8 equal pieces; roll each piece into a rope; and cut each rope into 8 equal pieces; set cut gnocchi on the reserved floured parchment-lined sheet pan
Optional: Take each gnocchi and run them along the back of the tines of a fork to produce ridges along one side; this step will give your gnocchi additional texture and will allow areas for sauce to collect on the gnocchi
To Cook: Bring a large pot of water to boil; add salt; and drop in a few gnocchi at a time; once the gnocchi float to the top of the water; take them out and place them in a colander; repeat until all of the gnocchi are cooked
To prevent the gnocchi from sticking, which they will, toss them with a little bit of olive oil until ready to eat
I did not make the ridges on my gnocchi; I prefer that they look like little pillows. Using potato is also optional in making gnocchi. Substituting roasted butternut or acorn squash for the potato will yield brilliantly orange gnocchi, which will be a nice addition to the Autumn dinner table. At my current appointment, the executive chef is making gnocchi with sweet potato and espresso – very nice.
Making gnocchi is a little more time time-consuming than opening a package, ordering them in a restaurant, or just deciding to have pasta. However, you can make a big batch and they freeze really well. After rolling them out, dust with flour, lay them out on a sheet pan, single file, and set the pan in the freezer. Allow the gnocchi to freeze solid before placing them in a plastic freezer bag for long-term storage. They will store for three months. To cook from the frozen state, simply boil salted water, add gnocchi; cook until they float; drain well; and enjoy.
Welcome back Autumn with a low, slow braise of beef short ribs, patiently reducing the cooking liquid to create a lavish sauce to enjoy with your own homemade gnocchi… then go for a nice brisk walk in the cool Autumn evening.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!