This week, I needed to make gnocchi for a project that I cannot tell you about. Do I have your interest yet? EXCITED? MOTIVATED? Good! I’ve made gnocchi before, but these gnocchi needed to be REALLY good. They needed to be STUNNING. THE most AMAZING gnocchi ANYWHERE… no pressure Alvin.
So I started with a good recipe- Thomas Keller’s gnocchi recipe from the French Laundry cookbook. I had previously converted this recipe to grams, so I used it as a starting point. I wanted to find the best way to prepare the potatoes… I’ve seen many recipes for gnocchi, some call for baked, others call for boiled, and others call for steamed potato.
Most recipes (And Chef Keller’s) call for baked potato. I assume that the dry heat from the oven helps evaporate some of the moisture in the potato… but just to be safe, I tried baked, boiled, and steamed…
Inspired by watching Decoding Ferran Adria with Anthony Bourdain I decided to turn my kitchen into a temporary El Bulli style Taller (pronounced “Ta-Yer”). El Bulli’s “El Taller” is Ferran Adria’s secret laboratory. A kitchen -completely seperate from the restaurant- where Adria[s] and a select team of kitchen operators can explore new techniques, document every conceivable recipe variation, and generally make culinary magic.
In my hole “Taller” I tested three gnocchi recipes (starting with baked, boiled, and steamed potato). Once the potato dumplings were formed and textured, I tried each one both blanched and sautee’d in brown butter.
I used blue painter’s tape to record both the recipe variations (some potatoes were smaller than other so I kept the % flour the same across the variations) and tasting notes… Wanna know which one “won”?
Drum roll please…
Then it occured to me… a few days ago I had the most potatoe-ey tasting potato ever in my vegetarian bone marrow. Why not cook the potatoes sous vide? So I gave it a go…**
**This particular recipe needed to be very accessible to “Suzy Homemaker and Joe Six-pack”. Unfortunately, despite their awesomeness, Immersion Circulators have not yet found their way into Suzy and Joe’s homes yet… Even though they can be made easily with parts from Amazon. Until Mrs. Homemaker and Mr. Six-pack discover the wonders of precision heating via water bath I needed to find a work around.
Some late night brainstorming… I wonder what the terminal temperature of a crock pot set to low (or high) is… turns out my crock pot holds 180F (82.2C) for quite a while… After experimenting, It does get up to boiling (212F/100C) after about 6-7 hours… but this was looking like a viable option for Suzy and Joe No-Circulator (they’re recently married… and decided to change both of their names).
I seasoned and vacuum sealed a peeled russet potato that I cut into 1″ slices.
I dropped it into the crockpot, covered it with water and used a plate to weigh down the vaccum bag. (Next time I will try weighting down with cans of sweetened condensed milk to make Dulce De Leche simultaneously)
The next morning (about 8.5hrs) the potatoes were slightly brown – I think partially due to oxidation, but mostly the fact that the water temp got up to boiling… this worked out because when I tasted the potato, it was slightly roasted tasting, but completely tender as if steamed. At the same time it was intensely potatoe-y like the original sous vide preperation… I quickly knocked out a batch of gnocchi and I knew I had my winner!
Ultimate Gnocchi Recipe (Serves 2)
350g Potato, seasoned & cooked sous vide 85C 6-8hrs, pushed through china cap or food mill.
50g AP flour
1 Egg yolk.
Gently mix all ingredients until the dough forms a ball (be careful not to over work the dough). Transfer dough to floured work surface. Do not knead dough.
Roll out into about 1/2″ diameter “snakes”.
Cut the dough into 1″ pieces.
Here’s the painstaking part… take each piece of dough, press [with your thumb] against the back of a fork. Then gently roll the dough back on itself to create the gnocchi shape.
At this point, you can do whatever you want with them… They’re like perfect little potato pillows. The ridges formed with the fork hold on to hearty sauces. Here are a few service ideas, but the sky’s the limit…
They’re great sauteed in a little brown butter and topped with parmesan cheese.
Or you could whip up a little white cheese sauce (try blu cheese or parm)… (1tblspn butter, 1 tblspn flour, 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup melty cheese) then blanch the gnocchi in salted water (~1minute or just until they float) toss in the cream sauce, transfer to a ramekin top with grated cheese and broil or torch…
I paired this “adult mac and cheese” Gnocchi with a simple salad:
Bitter Spinach Salad with Basil and Cocoa Nibs:
1/2 pound Fresh baby spinach.
1 handful Furple basil leaves.
5 Small Easter Egg raddishes, thinly sliced.
2 tblspn Coca Nibs.
Blood Orange Vinagrette:
Juice of 1 blood orange.
1/4 Cup Olive Oil.
1 tblspn rice wine vinegar.
Salt to taste.
Or you could sautee- in spicy italian sausage drippings, add some seasonal mushrooms, smoked tomatoes, and the sausage that made the drippings. Then top with shaved parmesean and micro broccoli greens.
Boom. Ultimate Gnocchi.