Friday, March 30, 2012

Gnocchi di Patate

One random Thursday evening in Rome, Justin and I meandered into a little restaurant down the street called Lo Spuntino. We waited until we couldn't wait any more to eat dinner, and got our table at 8:30pm. The restaurant was totally empty, making us think maybe it wasn't any good, but at that point we just wanted a plate of pasta.

Only one little old man worked in the restaurant. He waited tables, bussed, and cooked all with some sort of supersonic energy. While we perused the menu, we struggled over what to order. It all looked amazing, as usual. When the little old man made it our way, Justin asked him in Italian what he recommended. The man looked amused, and replied:

"E giovedi. Gnocchi di patate!" As if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Thursday is gnocchi day in Italy, and I suspect it has something to do with why all of Rome takes a half day on Thursdays. Try to go anywhere on Thursday afternoon in Rome — it's a ghost town.

They're all home, rolling little potato dumplings. What else?

I tried making gnocchi once before to an enormous failure (think gloppy, sticky mess). Now, with a little time and a little more experience, I tried it again. This time, it worked.

It may not be Thursday, but in my opinion, every day should be gnocchi day.

Ingredients (adapted from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook)
{Printable recipe}
1 lb russet potatoes
2/3 cup flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Peel, cube, and boil your potatoes until they are fork-tender. Drain them, let them dry off, then pass them through a potato ricer or a food mill that feeds into a large bowl:

Mash up the potatoes.

Fluffy stuff. This is a good way to start creamy mashed potatoes, too.

Kind of like homemade pasta, make a well in the middle of the potatoes.

Dust with the flour, and add the egg into the well.

Mix with a fork, slowly incorporating the potato and flour into the egg.

Take a handful of dough, roll into a ball, and dust with some flour. Place on a lightly floured surface.

Channeling your inner four-year-old, roll the ball out into a long snake 
about the thickness of your thumb.

Apparently my inner child is alive and well.
Cut the length of dough into 1/2 - inch pieces. You can stop here and boil them off, 
or you can continue on to the next step.

You can roll the gnocchi dough across the back of a fork to make little ridges on them. This helps any sauce cling to the dumpling later on.

Or you can lightly press the dough with the fork like this:

Look at all my beautiful little gnocchi! 

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Blanch the gnocchi for a minute, then toss in sauce.

I tossed the gnocchi in a mixture of homemade chicken broth (see below), lemon juice, and butter.

Top with Parmesan cheese. These things melt in your mouth, they are so tender.

Happy Thursday. Um, Friday.

Now, if only I could master gelato.


Homemade Stock
{Printable Recipe}
3 chicken carcasses (no chicken carcasses? Roast a few chickens), salted and roasted at 425 degrees for 45 min-1 hour.
1 lb carrots
1 lb celery
1 lb turnip
1 lb large onion
1 1/2 heads of garlic, split crosswise
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 bay leaves

Salt and roast the chicken carcasses at 425 for 45 minutes to an hour. Roast vegetables at 425 degrees for an hour as well (you can do all this at the same time if your oven is big enough). Combine in a large stock pot. Add garlic, tomato paste, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt. Fill the pot with water. Simmer for several hours or until the stock is reduced by half. Refill with more water, and reduce again by half.

Strain. Makes about a half gallon of stock.

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