Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Weekly Vegan: Potato Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce

Family meal night at the townhouse continued with yet another attempt to go around the world in 80 dishes. Following our delightful forays into Indian and Vietnamese food, we set off on a journey to Italy (and the mythical land of veganism). Would we be able to recreate one of my favorite dishes ever in a vegan friendly manner, or would Dennis' strange fascination with beets blow up our dinner plans?

Potato Gnocchi
Adapted from Branny Boils Over and Vegan With a Vengeance
Servings: 6
Time: 90 minutes

2 lbs russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Potato dough
  1. Poke holes in the potatoes and bake them. Either bake them in an oven at 400 F for 45 minutes until tender or wrap in a paper towel and microwave for about 5-7 minutes per potato.
  2. Remove the skins and weigh out the necessary amount. Laugh while your roommate burns his hands trying to peel them.
  3. Add olive oil and salt and mash well.
  4. Incorporate about one cup of the flour then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. Continue kneading in the remaining dough until you have a smooth, non-sticky and dry dough.
  5. Roll the dough into 1/2 inch thick ropes then slice into 3/4 inch long pieces.
  6. Use your thumb to press the gnocchi against the back of a fork to get both a notched and dimpled side.
  7. Bring water to a boil and add additional salt. 
  8. Drop in the gnocchi and let them rise to the surface. Continue cooking for about one minute once they rise.
  9. Drain well.
Put your dexterity to the test by hand forming the gnocchi. (Yet another time it's handy to have 2 roommates.)
First one to float wins. The same does not work for an underwater breath holding contest.
Cropped out: the super ugly gnocchi (yes, there were uglier ones).
Making gnocchi by hand is quite the undertaking, but the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finally bite into these delicious morsels can't be beat. Despite not having the egg or parmesan cheese typical of gnocchi dough, these potato dumplings had an incredibly smooth texture and awesomely spuddy taste. Just make sure you don't skimp on the salt.

Vegan Vodka Sauce
Sent to me by Courtney
Servings: Enough for 4 times the gnocchi
Time: 45 minutes

Olive oil
2-28 oz cans whole tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated
1/2 + 2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
1 block silken tofu, not drained
1 cup soy milk
3/4 cup vodka
Salt and pepper to taste

Carrots in marinara sauce? The Gods must be crazy!
Vegan Cream
  1. Sauté the garlic in some olive oil over medium-low heat until aromatic but not browned (about 60 seconds).
  2. Remove from heat and add tomatoes and their juices. Smash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the carrot, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes and herbs. 
  4. Simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce.
  5. While it's simmering, make the vegan cream by blending the tofu and soy milk together.
  6. Pour in the vegan cream, vodka, salt, pepper and remaining red pepper flakes then let simmer for another 10 minutes. 
  7. If the consistency is not to your liking, puree it in a blender until smooth. (It's important that you remember that the sauce is scolding hot at this point, so don't overfill the blender. This may have been my second attempt at the dish with the first ending with second degree burns that are still on my arm over a month later.).
After much pureeing, you'll have one mighty fine looking sauce.
Vodka sauce is by far the greatest of all alcoholic sauces (narrowly edging out beer spilled on potato chips). This veganfied version brings all the necessary flavor to the table and some newfound wonderful kick (compliments of the red pepper flakes). What's incredibly is that it manages to be both light and creamy tasting thanks to the vegan cream replacing the super fatty heavy cream.
I've been experimenting with slightly slanted "Batman Villain" angles for pictures.
Despite the great success that was the vegan gnocchi with vodka sauce, the true highlight of family meal night number 3 has yet to be explored. Dennis busted out some mad beets to create an incredibly delicious side that we won't soon forget (and not just because of the beet juice staining our clothes). The brilliance that was the beet side dish was more than deserving of its own guest post, so prepare yourselves for Dennis taking over the blog (may God help us all).
Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica. Stay tuned for Dennis' Beet Tutorial (Prepare to get schooled, Dr. Dre.)

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