Thursday, January 18, 2007

A twist on gnocchi... or How to avoid being compared to your Italian grandma

gnocci-roller

One of the biggest traditions in my family is Sunday lunch at my grandma´s. My nonna, true to her Italian origin, always makes us some sort of pasta (with the exceptional rabbit dish, but no other deviations from the rule). She makes a killer lasagna, exceptional taggliatele, lovely canelloni... but the dish she is best known for is her potato gnocchi.
All of my closest friends have come to a Sunday lunch at some point to try a plate of Vanda´s famous gnocchi, and none has ever left disappointed... or hungry. Because my grandma is very Italian in that respect as well, her biggest concern is always that someone will end up hungry, she just wouldn´t be able to tolerate that. I mean, it is a very Italian frame of mind, but at least in her case, it also has to do with the hardships she suffered back in Italy, WWII and all.
She shouldn´t have anything to worry about because everyone ends up both well-fed and totally satisfied after a great meal every single time.
But her gnocchi fame can be overwhelming for the rest of us mortals. My mom never makes gnocchi, how could she bear to be measured up to my grandma´s legendary gnocchi-making abilities? And I certainly don´t blame her. Even though my grandma has always shared the secrets of gnocchi-making with us, it´s just hard to just go for it with such a legacy.
That´s why I hadn´t tried my hand at gnocchi before. But lately I´ve been thinking it was time. Besides, I got a brilliant idea: I would invite some friends over, friends who hadn´t tasted my grandma´s gnocchi, that way, they would love them whatever the results (I know, my intelligence is out of this world, ha!).
What also spurred me was another recipe by my beloved Narda Lepes. You see, hers were no regular potato gnocchi, but yam gnocchi with sage, which promised a whole new spectrum of taste experiences.

raw gnocci

I cannot begin to tell you how easy it was to make them and how lovely they turned out. The flavor of the yams is complemented exquisitely by the sage and the butter (and the parmessan of course). What I did add to the recipe was some echallotes (I had some dried ones I bought at ChinaTown) and some parmessan in the dough itself.
I might have overdone the not-too-much flour principle because they were a bit too soft to handle comfortably, but I cooked the second batch a little less and it was perfect (I didn´t use the full amount specified in the recipe, so I think using the full amount would be perfect).

gnocci

I´m certainly no expert on the matter, but here are some things I did that worked and might work as tips:
*Steam the potatoes/yams instead of boiling them, that way, they don´t have as much humidity and absorb less water.
*Mash the potatoes/yams as soon as you finish steaming them (I used an immersion blender)
*Incorporate the rest of the ingredients when the yams are still quite hot (that´s something my grandma does and it seems to work really well).
*Do not skip the rolling into gnocci-like shape step because it is precisely that shape which allows you to cook the gnocchi properly (otherwise, it´s very hard to cook the center).

Yams-sage gnocchi (adapted from a recipe by Narda Lepes)

yams (750 grams/1.6 pounds)
butter (30 grams/1 ounce)
egg yolk (1)
salt and pepper
all-purpose flour (225 grams/1/2 a pound)
grated parmessan cheese (1/2 a cup)
sauteed onions (1). I used a bit dried echalottes, dried onions could work as well.

For the sauce:
butter (around 30 grams/3 tablespoons, it really depends on what you want)
grated parmessan cheese (1/2 a cup)
fresh sage leaves (20 leaves), if you use dried sage leaves, you might need quite a bit more.
garlic (1 clove)

1. Peel and chop the yams into medium-size squares.
2. Steam them until they are tender and mash them right away, making sure they are no lumps.
3. Add the butter to the hot puree, then salt and pepper. Incorporate the yolk whisking fast so you don´t end up with scrambled eggs. Add the grated parmessan and the onion, dried echallotes or any other flavor you like at this point.
4. Mix well to incorporate all the ingredients. Then incorporate the flour slowly until you get a tender dough. Let the dough rest for a while. Do not overdo the kneading because you don´t want the gluten to develop.
5. Separate the dough in smaller balls and roll them into cylinders. Cut the gnocci in the desired size.
6. Shape the gnocchi by rolling them through a gnocchi-roller (or whatever you guys call it in English). You can also use a fork, but they don´t turn out as well.
7. Boil them in salted water until they rise to the surface.

For the sauce:
1. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the chopped garlic clove and the sage. Let everything cook for a while, but make sure the butter doesn´t burn. Tip: to prevent the butter from burning as easily, you can replace half the butter with olive oil, which will rise the burning temperature of the butter.
2. Add the gnocchi to the butter and mix everything for a little while (don´t let it there for over a minute or the gnocchi will start to break).
3. Serve it quickly with the grated parmessan sprinkled on top.

gnocci 2

This is my entry for Weekend herb blogging, hosted this week by Scott at The real epicurean.

Si alguien necesita la receta en español, escríbame a mi dirección de correo electrónico y yo se la mando.

14 comments:

Kristen said...

I've seen some beautiful gnocchi today! Looks lovely!

Seattle Tall Poppy said...

This looks awesome! I can't wait to try it.

If you baked the yams, would that work as well?

neil said...

Isn't it funny how some cultures put way too much food on the table. It's my wife's birthday tomorrow and it's all I can do to stop her buying more food. Your yam gnocchi look wonderful and I love the sauce too, light and tasty.

Marce said...

Kristen- Thanks!

Seattle tall poppy- I´d say baking the yams could make it difficult to smash them later on because it creates a crunchier coat, so you might end up with some lumps. If you don´t have a steamer, I´d suggest baking the yams wrapped in aluminum foil with a 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, which shouldn´t create that outer coat.

Neil- Definitely! Though I do defend such cultures, because you end up with marvelous leftovers and it forces you to get creative. I once made a tart with stew topped with cheese hahaha
And thanks for the comment about the gnocci, they are soft, yet tasty, definitely recommend them.

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Your "in progress" photographs of the Gnocci are great! I've never made Gnocci before but might just give it a try!

The Gourmet Peasant said...

I understand what you are saying about your grandmother's cooking. I put off learning how to bake until now because I've was fearful I would not live up to my mothers legendary baking. Of course I still can't bake as well as her, but I am learning. The gnocchi looks great! Definitely going to try it.

Marce said...

Scott- Thanks, I´m still getting a hang of food photography, especially since I usually cook at night and the light sucks, and my camera isn´t professional at all. Let me know how it went if you do give them a try.

Gourmet peasant- Yep, it´s definitely hard to start with such background, but genes do help, and so does the attitude in the kitchen that comes from watching your mom cook. Do tell me what happens when you make them.

Kalyn said...

Very impressive. The Gnocchi looks just awesome. I've never seen one of those gadgets that make the ridges before. It really makes the finished product look perfect.

sherry said...

I love gnocchi and I really commend you on making a gorgeous dish! Sage is perfect with it too.

Marce said...

Kalyn- Thanks. That little gnocchi gadget was actually dead cheap, so I decided to buy it. Besides, it doesn´t take up space so it´s perfect for my tiny kitchen :)

Sherry- Thanks. I really did love the combination of yams and sage. I had never eaten or seen yam gnocchi before, so it was also great because of that.

Katie said...

This sounds and looks like heaven! I love anything with sage. An interesting twist to use yams....must try!

Andrea said...

HI, my family also make them and they are so wonderful.

However, we used an item that looked like a big flat basket to the roll gnochhi into shape but alas I can not one find to continue the tradition.

THe item you used, where did you get it and did it work well?

well keep you fingers crossed that I do indeed find what I need cause I really want some gnocchi noe

Marce said...

Andrea,

You didn´t leave an email address, so I can´t email you with this info. As for the item I used, you can see what it looks like in the first photo. I live in Argentina and you can get it for 2 pesos at the supermarket here, but I don´t know where you live so I don´t know where you can get it (maybe try Amazon, they have tons of stuff there).
By the way, this blog has moved to http://pipinthecity.wordpress.com so be sure to check there for new entries.

Anonymous said...

Hi in looking for a board came upon your blog, it's great....please where can I buy your style of gnocchi board...looking online but haven't found one like this one...

Thanks so much

Sia
Malatacuisine@gmail.com