Oh, what a day.
Today is Caitie's birthday! How on earth did the last TWENTY-ONE YEARS fly by so fast?!!
.........is all grown up, in little more than the blink of an eye.
Erin and I spent the better part of today making a birthday cake.
My first attempt at making fondant. Nothing I've ever made has even come close to frustrating me as much as making this fondant. At this moment, I can politely say I am not fond of fondant.
Yesterday, when I made the fondant (or Saturday, when I made my first batch of fondant that was so cement-like all I could do was chuck it into the trash), I had nothing polite to say about fondant.
It even gave me second thoughts about the dinner I was planning on making tonight. Another attempt at something I had never made before. Gnocchi!
Last summer, my son went on a trip to Italy and came home raving about gnocchi. It was sort of surprising to me, because other than potato chips and french fries, he just doesn't like potatoes.
So here we are, 8 months later, I finally decide that today is the day I'm going to make gnocchi. After the frustration of making the fondant, I can't believe that I still wanted to take on a recipe that by all accounts, takes lots of practice to perfect. And a recipe that is hard to use exact measurements for ingredients because it all depends upon the starchiness of the potatoes and the level of humidity and--for all I know--which side of your head your hair is parted and whether or not you listen to music while you cook.
I'm just kidding about that last part. Sort of.
Oh, what the heck. I told Sean that today was gnocchi day and I wasn't going to wimp out on him.
I had researched gnocchi recipes on the Internet, and sort of morphed all the recipes together and came up with this one. The only thing the recipes agreed on was potatoes, eggs and flour. All of the measurements were different. All of the methods were different. In a nutshell, this is how I came up with the recipe:
1. Out of the six recipes I looked at, five boiled the potatoes and one baked them. Yet they all agreed that moisture is not your friend--so I went with the lone rebel and decided that baking was best. (I mean, the water that you would use for boiling is moisture, right? And moisture is not good? So why would I boil? Am I not a logical thinker? Should I continue to ponder this? Why ponder, when baking makes sense?)
2. Though all of the recipes were made with at least one egg, four of the recipes said that authentic gnocchi should not have eggs. However, since it is very hard to get the dough to bind without eggs, it's best to use eggs, just use as little as possible. The recipe that used one egg used two potatoes. Since I'm so competitive, I decided that I was going to try to see if I could manage four potatoes with one egg.
3. Three of the recipes only suggested an amount of flour, and said to add it a little at a time, until the dough "felt right." Too much flour makes the dough heavy. The recipe that used the least amount of flour suggested 3/4 cup for 2 lbs. of potatoes. My four potatoes weighed almost three pounds, so I decided I would try to use about a cup of flour.
- "There Goes My Baby".......The Drifters
- "Musica Bella"......Lou Monte
- "Beyond The Sea"........Bobby Caldwell
- "All Of Me"........John Stevens
- "Come And Go With Me".....The Dell Vikings
- "Almost Like Being In Love"......Nat King Cole
- "That's Amore".......Dean Martin
- "Sway".......Ben E. King
Gnocchi, with Sage & Garlic Butter Sauce (4 large servings)
- 4 large russet potatoes, baked
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
Butter Sauce Ingredients
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scrub your potatoes. With a fork, prick each potato in several places, then rub with olive oil.
Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for one hour in your pre-heated oven.
Remove the potatoes from the oven. You need to scoop out the insides while they are still warm, but please wait until the potatoes are cool enough to handle before you do so.
When the potatoes have cooled a bit, cut them in half and scoop out the warm innards into a bowl.
I used an electric mixer and mixed until they were just broken up and fluffed a bit.
Crack the egg into a small bowl, lightly beat with a fork.
Your potatoes should still be warm, yet not hot enough to allow the egg to cook. Add the egg to the potatoes and mix in with your fork, not your mixer.
Stir until the egg is just incorporated.
Mix in enough flour until the dough is no longer sticky. I mixed in approximately 1/2 cup. But as I mentioned before, this depends upon the moisture, the amount of starch in your potatoes, the weather, and anything else the potato gods throw at you.
When the dough started to hold together and pull away from the side of the bowl, I took this as a sign that it was time to move on to the next step.
Dump the dough out of the bowl onto a smooth surface. Lightly knead the dough until it is one big, soft, puff of a potato pillow.
You will need to add more flour as you do this.
This is how much flour I had left in the one cup that I started with at the beginning. I would estimate that I used about 7/8 of the cup in total.
And this is my lovely, soft, fluffy potato pillow.
I started cutting the pillow into smaller sections, for rolling.
I used the remaining flour as I was rolling the dough, to prevent it from sticking to the board and my fingers.
No, those are not my fingers. Erin was helping me roll the dough. I took a picture so that you can see how the dough is rolled, but I also wanted to take a picture of her vibrant nails.
Here are the rolls of dough, they are about 3/4 of an inch thick.
Use a sharp knife to cut the rolls of dough into little chunks about 3/4" square.
Here is where the fun part starts. Rolling the little chunks so that they have the traditional grooves on them.
My son has informed me, however, that the gnocchi he ate in Italy did not have grooves in it, and was shaped like round little balls. But I digress.
Place one of the little chunks of dough onto the base of a fork, with the tines of the fork facing away from you.
Put your thumb right in the middle of the gnocchi and push it toward the end of the fork. It will just start to curl.
Roll the edge that is closest to you up and over.
Really, it's quick and surprisingly easy. I was shocked and amazed when my first attempt came out perfectly.
Erin and I rolled all the little chunks, and in a matter of minutes we had groovy gnocchi covering our counter.
Bring a large (six to eight quart) pot of salted water to a boil.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, start preparing your sauce. Gather your ingredients.
Thanks to the mild, mild winter, I still have fresh sage growing in my herb garden!!!!
If my teenage self had known how exciting it would be for my grown-up self to pick fresh herbs from my garden in the dead of winter, she would have gagged. (That is the thought that I'm thinking at the moment. Just thought I'd share.)
Chop your sage.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Crush the garlic directly into the melted butter. It should be sizzling, but not so hot that it burns.
Add the sage and salt. Stir it up and let it simmer while you cook the gnocchi.
By now, your water should be boiling. Cook the gnocchi in small batches (about 30 gnocchi at a time. The only reason I know how many gnocchi is in a batch is because I just counted the gnocchi in the picture).
It only takes a couple of minutes to cook each batch of gnocchi. When the gnocchi floats to the top of the boiling water, it is done cooking. Remove it with a slotted spoon and drain it in a strainer. Add the next batch of gnocchi to the boiling water and repeat.
After draining, brown the gnocchi in the skillet with the sage/garlic butter.
Do it in small batches, just like you boiled it. This also only takes a couple of minutes.
Remove to a serving plate.
Sprinkle with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano.