Friday, September 24, 2010

Parmesan Gnocchi

One of foods on my list of recipes to try is gnocchi. But, I haven't set aside the hours needed to make it. With boiling potatoes, mashing said potatoes, then making the dough, shaping it, freezing it, etc., that's just a lot of work for someone who doesn't have a lot of time. So, when I read about a flour-based version  in the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, I couldn't wait to try it. I was on a plane when I read about this version or else I would have tried it that very night. (By the way, Ratio totally rocks my culinary universe!)
The concept of Ratio is that most successful cooking (be it baking, sauces, soups, etc.) happens in weighted ratios. Master the ratios and you'll never need to depend on a recipe again. It really is quite liberating. The gnocchi recipe below is my adaptation using that theory. It pairs exquisitely with cherry tomato sauce recipe I created to use up all the extra tomatoes from my home garden.
If only my math teachers had made numbers, weights, ratios and fractions about food, I would have enjoyed math a whole lot more!

Parmesan Gnocchi
6 oz liquid (water, milk, stock, etc.)
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 tsp salt
5-6 oz flour (a little more than a cup)
4 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano, grated
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine (optional)

1. Combine liquid, butter and salt in sauce pan. Bring to boil. Quickly stir in flour. The flour will quickly absorb the flour and form a ball. Keep stirring over medium heat to cook off more of the liquid. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
2. While mixture is still very warm, stir in eggs, one at a time. Each egg needs to be fully incorporated before the next one is added. It will be slippery at first, but with enough stirring, each egg will mix into the dough.
3. Once the eggs have been added, stir in Parmesan, mustard and garlic.
4. Boil a large pot of lightly salted water.
5. Spoon dough into a large piping with a tip or zip-top bag. If using zip-top bag, cut small corner from one corner.
6. Pipe dough into boiling water, cutting it every inch. When the gnocchi floats, it's done. Remove to a baking sheet lined with a towel to drain. Gnocchi should be soft but hold its shape.
7. Once the gnocchi is cooked, heat olive oil and butter in saute pan. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add gnocchi and toss to coat. Allow gnocchi to brown lightly. Optional: Add white wine to deglace the pan. Serve hot with cherry tomato sauce.

Substitution Suggestions: If you don't have Parmesan, no worries. The author suggested Comte cheese, which is equally delicious. And, you can add finely chopped fresh herbs to the dough without compromising the structure. I usually use milk since it adds more flavor and body than water. Cream will also work, as will broth and stock. You could probably puree spinach, basil or squash with broth or water for the liquid as well.
This dough is pretty soft, even after the dough is poached. If you like a stiffer dumpling, increase the flour or cheese. Or, decrease the liquid. Don't increase the cheese too much or the dough will be gummy.

Lessons Learned: If this recipe looks similar to the recipe for cream puffs, you're right. It's the same recipe, except the water has been decreased by 25% and I've added savory flavors into the dough.
The ratios above are enough to feed four adults. I've successfully halved and doubled it. It really helps to have a kitchen scale since not all cups of flour are created equal. The gnocchi is delicious with the white wine added in at the end of the sauteing process. When sauteed, the gnocchi forms a light brown crust that adds interest to the texture and flavor of the dumplings. I dare you to not pop them into your mouth like potato chips. They are addicting!
The dough can be piped into long strips on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then frozen. Once the gnocchi are frozen, they can be cut into 1-inch pieces, then stored in a freezer bag and refrozen. You can cook them straight from the freezer to the pot of boiling water. Like above, when they float, they're done. You must work quickly when cutting the frozen gnocchi. They will thaw quickly and you'll end up with a gummy mess. So, work in batches and get them back in the freezer as fast as you can.
The beauty of this recipe is that in the time it takes to boil the pot of water, you can make the dough and have it ready to go.