Last year I finally splurged and bought myself a pasta maker and although I do still use dried (store bought) pasta, nothing can compare to the ritual and rewarding meal one has with making and eating pasta.
Another food journey has taken me to making my own bread. I’ve become kind of a bread snob, raising my nose up at inferior bread served to me on the occasions when I do venture out of the home for a meal. You can thank Zoe and Jeff for creating this bread snob clique, mea culpa.
Their book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes is already one of the most used & cherished cookbooks in my collection I make bread 2-3 times a week because it’s easy, it’s cheaper than buying from outside and it’s delicious! Again, I encourage you to go out and buy the book (if you haven’t already). In the meantime, have a look at Zoe and Jeff in this Youtube clip, where they lay out, plain & simply their method for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.
I know, now you’re going to buy the book and make some bread? I thought so!
The main topic of today’s post is making Gnocchi. Gnocchi are something which straddle dumplings and pasta, as potatoes and flour (and egg) are all in the ingredients list here.
Gnocchi were another first for me but I was sure to consult two trusted friends in the food blogging world, Mike of Mike’s Table and Stephane of Zen Can Cook. Both of their posts on making gnocchi were inspiration and they definitely boosted my confidence.
Another source I consulted (all good things come in threes) was a favoured Italian chef and food personality, Antonio Carluccio. I have his book, An Invitation to Italian Cooking and I’ve found it to be a wonderful resource to consult to for wonderful, diverse and basic Italian recipes. A keeper in the book collection.
What have I learned from Gnocchi making?
- Use starchy potatoes, a Russet or other baking potato. Bake or boil them with their skins on (to retain starches and nutrients)
- Use a potato ricer. The key to making good gnocchi or gnocchi that are NOT heavy and dense is to carefully peel the skins off the potatoes and pass them through the ricer while still hot. Then, you may commence making homemade gnocchi
- After gleaning several gnocchi recipes, again ratios come into play and I’m reminded that I need to buy Michael Ruhlman’s latest book, Ratios. To make potato gnocchi, one need only heed the general rule of approx. 2 parts potato and 1 part flour. The “in between” are your eggs, seasonings and flavourings. Stick to this general ratio and your gnocchi should turn out fine.
Today, the meat component of the dish is actually taking a back seat (okay, riding shotgun) as the star here is the gnocchi. For this recipe, I again referred to and used Carluccio’s Milanese recipe, which could be applied to paillards of chicken or veal – your choice.
The meal was rounded out with a basic marinara sauce of hand-crushed tomatoes, some onions, garlic, salt and pepper and a chiffonade of fresh basil.
Making gnocchi is a fun, weekend adventure and if you have children, they can definitely join in on the fun. Make a big batch, lay them out on a parchment or wax paper covered baking tray and freeze them. The next day, you can plop them in a large zip lock bag andcook to order…like for a weeknight meal.
Gnocchi with a side of Veal Milanese
2 lbs. of Russet or other starchy baking potatoes
approx. 1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
- Fill a large pot with some cold water. Add some salt to the water along with the potatoes (whole). Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until fork-tender 30-40 minutes.
- Carefully remove the potatoes from the water and allow to cool a bit until you can safely handle the still warm potatoes (use gloves if needed). Using the back of a knife, carefully peel away the skins of the potatoes and discard them.
- Pass each potato through your ricer directly onto your work surface. Sprinkle some egg over top of the potatoes along with some flour and begin working the egg and flour into the potatoes gently with your hands. A metal pastry scraper comes in handy here to pull in all your mixture back into your pile.
- Continue repeating the process of sprinkling egg and flour over your mixture, scraping underneath and folding until you get a light crumble.
- When your egg and flour have been incorporated with the potatoes, gently knead your mixture. If the mixture is still too sticky, add some more flour and knead (gently). Your dough should be moist but not sticky and formed into a ball
- Cut your dough in half, then half again and again into half until you have eight equal pieces.
- Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and using your hands, roll each piece into a long, thin log – about the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife or your pastry scraper to cut into 3/4 inch pieces that look like “pillows”. Dust the pieces with some more flour.
- To shape your gnocchi, you need a regular fork. Place your “pillows” against the tines of the fork and with a gentle confidence, press and roll the gnocchi down the fork. The motion should that of the pillow rolling down the fork, like a slide. The gnocchi should curl into a slight “C” formation with grooves created on one side from the fork and small hole created on the inside from this same procedure.
- Set each Gnocchi aside, dust with flour and keep on practicing. After about 6 or 7, you’ll get the hang of making Gnocchi and they will easily roll off the fork and form beautiful, homemade gnocchi.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a some salt. Drop your Gnocchi into the boiling water in batches and you will know they are ready when they float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a platter. Gently toss your favourite sauce and serve immediately with the rest of your dinner.
4 veal or chicken paillards (cutlets)
60 gr. of bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan
5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
oil for frying
lemon slices for garnish
- Flatten the meat using a meat pounder/tenderizer. Beat the egg and add your chopped basil, grated cheese and some salt and pepper.
- Dip each of the cutlets in the egg mixture and then roll them in the bread crumbs.
- Heat some olive oil in a large pan and fry over medium-high heat, about 2-3 minutes a side or until the breading has turned a golden brown. Cook in batches and reserve/keep warm until the rest of your dinner courses are ready.
- Serve with a slice of lemon
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