Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Favorite Dishes: Potato Gnocchi

Consequences of having too much free time can include deliciousness and The Price is Rightitis.
Unfortunately, I forgot my cord to connect my camera to my computer at my friend's house, so you'll have to wait to find out about the incredible shrimp tacos I made. In their place, I present my favorite Italian dish ever: potato gnocchi.

Back when I was at UCLA, I frequented this amazing little Italian restaurant in Westwood called Angelino's Cafe. It's run by Archie, the kindest man who everyone should want to be their grandfather. When I say he runs the place, I mean he runs it. He takes your order, makes it and serves it all by himself. It was there that I fell in love with the unconventional potato pasta.  The only problem was that he always wanted you to try something new, and you didn't want to disappoint your hopeful grandfather, meaning you were forced to comply.

Potato Gnocchi
Servings: 4
Time: 2-3 hours (depending on shaping skills)

Coarse sea salt
1 pound russet potatoes
3-4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour

Basic concept behind the pasta well.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and a layer of coarse sea salt (to allow even heating) and bake for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove the skins and grate the potatoes.
  4. Form a mound with a well in the center. Place three of the egg yolks, the parmesan, salt, nutmeg and black pepper in the well.
  5. Mix well with your hands.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup of the flour onto the potato mixture and press it into the potatoes with your knuckles. 
  7. Fold the mixture onto itself and press down. Continue adding small amounts of flour, folding and pressing until you can roll the dough into a 1/2 inch rope. It should be somewhat firm but still give when you push on it. If you add too much flour and the mixture dries up, add the extra egg yolk or some water until the right consistency is achieved.
  8. On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a 1/2 inch thick rope. Cut into 1/2 inch long pieces.
  9. Now time to test your dexterity and patience! Take each piece of gnocchi and press it against the back of a fork with your thumb. This indentation will help the gnocchi cook faster and take in more delicious sauce.
  10. Stop halfway through and curse yourself for not having an actual pasta shaper or a sous chef.
  11. Lightly flour the gnocchi and place on top of baking sheets covered in parchment or wax paper.
  12. Set the gnocchi aside to cool for half an hour (flipping halfway through). You can use a fan or lightly fan them by hand.
  13. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt. 
  14. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, allow them to cook for an additional 90 seconds then remove and drain.
  15. Top with sauce and grated cheese.
An hour later, I had the "prettiest" gnocchi ever that lost their shape once cooked.
While these didn't quite reach the epic level that Archie can achieve, the gnocchi came in a not too distant second.  Having the parmesan in the dough itself helps make them practically melt in your mouth.  Top them with your favorite sauce and enjoy. As usual, I recommend vodka sauce (just go light on the cream). Now, I know it says it makes 4 servings, but really consider it only enough for 2 people, as you will undoubtedly be going back for seconds.

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