Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Tropical Storm And How I Saved my Gnocchi

Tropical storm Danny was howling along the east coast as my son was packing his last belongings to go back to college. I did last minute laundry and planned my son's farewell dinner. One of his favorites is homemade potato gnocchi. I make it a few times a year and combine recipes while trying to find the ultimate one. This time I was using Thomas Keller's recipe from "The French Laundry" cookbook. I put the potatoes into the oven to bake, and since he prefers his gnocchi with just butter, basil and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, it all seemed easy. After the potatoes were done, I hastily scooped out the inside and continued with the recipe that called for the addition of 2 tablespoons salt. That seemed like a lot, so I only put in a tablespoon plus a little more. I added the flour and eggs and quickly kneaded the dough. A taste proved my salt theory right. The dough was already really salty, and I hoped the boiling water would leach out some of the salt. I put water on to boil and went out to the rainy garden to snip some basil for the gnocchi. When I walked back in the house, the lights were out. We had lost our power! We lit a few candles, but cooking by candlelight started to lose its romanticism as the darkness grew. We chatted and lit more candles until we had about 6 lined up on the counter. Draining the gnocchi in the dim light, I was hoping they would be edible. My son politely ate 2 bites and we decided they were just way too salty. Disappointed, I made some packaged gnocchi for him, trying to salvage dinner. Sometimes things just don't go as planned. We had just finished eating when the lights came back on. The kitchen was a mess, but at least I could see to clean up!!

I then had a large batch of salty gnocchi that I didn't want to just throw out. I thought maybe if I made a sauce of fresh tomatoes and didn't add any salt to it, that it may all even out. So, the following day I persevered, made the sauce and was glad I did.
Finally success! They were absolutely delicious with a freshly made sauce of tomatoes, garlic, shallots and basil. Next time I'll make the same combination with less salt in the gnocchi and some salt in the sauce. I am going to stick with my final adapted recipe and have it just right for my son's first visit back for a home cooked meal....barring anymore tropical storms!
Potato Gnocchi

2 pounds large baking potatoes (about 1 pound each)
2 eggs, or 3 egg yolks,* slightly beaten
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

Wash potatoes and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until done. Cool slightly, scoop out the insides and put them through a ricer. Put riced potatoes into a medium bowl and make a well in the center. Add 1/2 cup flour, the slightly beaten eggs and then another 1/2 cup flour and salt into the center. Quickly and gently mix together with your hands, adding more flour if needed, while forming into a ball. The dough should be barely sticky. The less flour used and the less handling will produce a lighter gnocchi. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut dough into 1/2 inch logs. Cut the logs into 1/2 inch pieces.** Using a generous amount of flour, press each piece against your thumb tip to make a dent or roll it over the back and off the tip of floured fork tines to make a ridged shape. Placed the shaped gnocchi on a lightly floured sheet pan. When finished shaping, cook them in lightly salted boiling water.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and until they rise to the top. Let them boil for a minute or 2 more and remove with a slotted spoon. Continue cooking all of them, and place on a parchment lined sheet until all are done. Serve right away with desired sauce or butter and cheese.

If you aren't going to be cooking all of them right away, they may be frozen. Freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan and then place in a sealed container to store in the freezer. Do not thaw them before cooking or they will stick together. To cook them, put the frozen gnocchi directly into the boiling water. The cooking time of the frozen gnocchi will be slightly longer.

Makes about 10 dozen small gnocchi.

*many recipes call for either just egg yolks or some use whole egg plus egg yolk. Just using egg yolk makes them much more delicate, but just a little harder to work with.
**I often don't roll them on the fork to make the ridges and they are just as good, if not traditionally shaped. The ridges help sauce cling to the gnocchi.

Tomato Pasta Sauce

1 large shallot, chopped into small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 fresh basil leaves, sliced
6 medium tomatoes, 8 if using plum tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet over medium heat, saute shallot and garlic in the olive oil until just soft. Coarsely dice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the shallot garlic mixture. Toss in basil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens and is no longer watery, about 40 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 1/2-2 cups sauce.

Potato Gnocchi recipe (pdf)
Tomato Pasta Sauce recipe (pdf)

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Pearl said...

so glad you were able to salvage the gnocchi! but that's so weird - calling for 2 Tbs of salt? maybe it was a print error in the cookbook?

Mari @ Once Upon a Plate said...

Oh Pam, what a time first the recipe error, then the power (I'm a little too familiar with power outtages here...grrr.)

Brilliant way to salvage the gnocchi! I'm proud of you. :)

I'm sending your son my best wishes for a fabulous year!

xo ~m

P.S. Your photos are perfection... but then yours always make me swoon. GREAT job!

2 Stews said...

Pearl...yeah, red flags should have sprung out all over with the salt measurement and even though I added less, it was still way too much. I "googled" the recipe afterward and saw other similar comments...a good lesson!

Mari...thanks for the well wishes for my son...we lost our power twice this summer. Once on his birthday and then on his last night home!! We're starting to get better with the candles ;-)

xo Diane

La Table De Nana said...

Oh you made me smile and brought back memeories! The first time one of my DDs had gnocchi..she a resto..I made the 2 girls a nice big batch(at least 15 yrs ago..
I was so proud..They could not even swallow the gnocchis..and said they looked like Army food (We used to watch M.A.S.H.) that's probably where they saw Army food:)

I have not tried again! And buy pre-made..good for you for persevering.
I was crushed:)

Kate at Serendipity said...

I love it that you could salvage them. Gnocchi are so good! Thanks for the tip about the egg yolks as well.

Ry @ Sotto Il Monte Vineyards said...

I have that cookbook - but haven't tried to make the gnocchi - thanks for the tip on the salt. Beautiful photos.