Sometimes, you start out with the best intentions. The weather’s finally back down into the double digits, and then you happen upon such recipes like sweet potato gnocchi with fried sage and chestnuts. I mean come on, seriously? How can you not want that in your mouth right now? If my overuse of italics hasn’t clued you in by now, I wanted this in a bad sort of way.
Alas, I am not the most organized cook. I have a tendency to skim through ingredient lists before heading to the store, and end up at home, kitchen ready, two eggs and a stick of butter short. (I am getting better, okay?) Let’s just say there’s a lot of improvisation around these parts. Normally, subbing yogurt for sour cream or one cheese for another is not a big deal at all, but when you start messing around with weights and measurements, well…
Despite my math geniosity (I’m Asian, I can’t help it), I am unfortunately not a human scale, nor do I have the kitchen varitey on my shelves. (And Lord knows the last thing I need is one taunting me in the bathroom.) So when the recipe calls for 1 1/4 baking potatoes and 1 (3/4 pound) sweet potato, I pick up some potatoes and think to myself “Huh, well, this looks good!” and go with it. The sweet potatoes I had were smaller than the ones I normally have, so I used two, and three russets simply because it looked good. Potatoes issues aside, another requisite kitchen gadget I am afraid I don’ t have is a potato ricer. But Deb said I could grate them, so grated I did.
I knew as I was grating them things weren’t going well. The white potato was a gluey, sticky mess. I don’t know if I baked them too long or what, but fluffy grains of potato were not magically appearing on the underside of my grater. The sweet potato just kind of mushed up and I kinda just pushed it through like a ghetto-rigged sort of ricer. Yet I persevered.
Despite the root issues, the rest of the dough came together drama free. Even the cutting and shaping was a breeze. (I’ve got all that cavatelli practice under my belt.) I plopped those little pillows into it’s simmering bath, lubed them up after with some thyme-brown butter, and sprinkled with Parm and walnuts. (More of that aforemention improvisation. No sage or chestnuts, you see.)
That first bite? Meh. Perhaps it was my over-anticipation, or that I just didn’t follow the instructions, but the gnocchi of my dreams these were not. Heavy, gummy lumps of dough that tasted overwhelmingly like nutmeg rather than sweet potato? Check. So what did I do with all my less than stellar dumplings? I ate them. And then froze the rest, and have been giving them to Parker for various school lunches. (Trust me, the kid ain’t picky.) Because really, if you were going to describe me, “complete lack of self control” and “often lazy when feeding her kid” are two phrases that come to mind.
But fear not, my friends–Thanksgiving’s coming up, and I’m hosting this year. You know, cause I’m some kind(s) of crazy. So despite our 90-degree desert heat, you can expect lots of seasonal goodness as I prep to impress the boything’s family. (Cranberries, anyone?) Ugh, stress. I love you.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi*
adapted from Gourmet (You shouldn’t adapt. You should follow directions.)
1 1/4 russet (baking) potatoes
1 (3/4 pound) sweet potato
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon (freshly) grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano
1 1/2-2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Preheat your oven to 450. Prick your potatoes all over with a fork, then throw ‘em in your oven on the middle rack (no sheet pan necessary). Bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until tender all the way through. Remove from the oven with tongs, and let cool slightly on your countertop.
If you are using a ricer, simply push your potatoes through, no peeling necessary, onto a baking sheet**. I believe you don’t need to peel them for a food mill either, but I don’t have one, so peel them or not, that’s up to you. If you are grating, as I did, you will need to peel the skins off (you can do this with your fingers). Let the potatoes cool completely before you finish your dough. This is important, as the trick to light gnocchi is using as little flour as possible. Warm potatoes will absorb more flour. Lightly flour another couple of baking sheets with flour.
Once cooled, mound your potatoes up and form a well in the center. Crack your egg, grate your cheese and nutmeg, and sprinkle some salt and pepper into this well. Using a fork, whisk together the egg mixture until combined. Slowly, begin to bring in the potatoes until incorporated with the egg. Start with the 1 1/2 cups of flour and knead together with the potato mixture until it forms a cohesive, but still slightly sticky dough, adding up to another 1/2 cup of flour if needed.
Cut your dough ball in half, then each half into three pieces (that’s six total). Take one section of the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a 1/2 inch thick snake. Cut the snake into 1/2 inch pieces. Take each 1/2 inch piece of dough and simultanseously push and roll it with your thumb down either the back of a fork or a gnocchi board. Toss your finished dumpling onto your floured baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of your dough until finished.
To cook your gnocchi, bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Salt the water, add half of your gnocchi, and slightly reduce the heat so that the water still bubbles, but not so vigorously as to break up your hopefully tender little morsels. Cook for about three minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander, and repeat with remaining gnocchi.
*I normally included links to orginal recipes, but Gourmet’s website won’t be around for much longer, so I opted not to this time.
**As you can see in my pictures, I used a bowl. I clearly don’t follow directions well. Anyway, a bowl will work fine, but the potato will cool faster spread out on a baking sheet.