Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gnocchi, what are you supposed to be?

I've had a lot of gnocchi in my life thus far. I love the little things! But there have been times when I've enjoyed them more than others. I wondered if there was a certain texture or recipe that defined what a good gnocco (the singular term for gnocchi) should be.

In Venice (My first gnocchi experience) is where I fell in love. The little dumplings possessed the floury goodness of pasta, but were more substantial and held up well in any sauce. If I remember right the dishes I had in Venice were pretty basic, but amazing. The gnocchi were not too soft, not too chewy, almost creamy in texture. Since that trip there have been few dishes that live up to the Venice gnocchi.

The gnocchi at Broders' Pasta Bar is definitely one that stands out to me, the gnocchi at the Bluefin Grille was unfortunately on the lower end and the gnocchi at Toscana was right in the middle.

What made the good dishes good was favor and texture. How well did the dumplings stand up to and/or mix with the sauce. Was the dumpling too hard, too soft? At Broders' there was the right mix of hearty gnocchi, a little bit chewy with a good homemade texture that allowed the sauce to incorporate and cover the gnocchi instead of it sliding around in a saucy mess. At Toscana the flavors were there, but the texture seemed a little off to me and the rest of the diners. The gnocci was certainly fresh, but the sautee made them a little too soft. Dave, who is a somewhat fincky eater, agreed that the gnocchi tasted good, but expected them to be a little more dense when he ate them.

On the bad end was the basil tomato gnocchi we had in Tofte, MN at the Bluefin Grille. Usually this place is great, so it made the experience even more disappointing when the gnocchi wasn't on. There were a number of things wrong with the dish. The gnocchi were rather large and I think it was because of this that they were almost too dense. There was too much dough going on. Secondly, the sauce, well, there wasn't much of a sauce. It seemed as though the dumplings were 'sauteed' with fresh tomatoes and basil, but there were not crispy brown spots to indicate they had been cooked with the rest of the ingredients. The 'sauce' was simply olive oil, and while I love olive oil, too much can be a bad thing. The oil covered the dense gnocchi making them slippery and slimy on the outside. Because of their bigness and the bigness of the tomatoes there was no way to eat a bite of veg and a bite of gnocchi at the same time.

I've found you need to get them fresh, don't over or undercook, make sure the sauce is worthy of covering something as wonderful as gnocchi, think bitesized and don't over oil.

This looks like a good recipe from About.com

Basic Potato Gnocchi
2 1/4 pounds, mealy potatoes, peeled
About 1 1/2 cups flour (see note below)
A pinch of salt
In making gnocchi you should steam the potatoes rather than boil them. If you do not have a steamer, put the potatoes in a metal colander, set the colander in a spaghetti pot, fill the pot with water to just below the colander, and set the pot, covered, to boil. The potatoes will be done in 30-45 minutes, when a skewer penetrates but they are still firm. Peel them and mash them while they’re still hot (a potato ricer works very well here). Season the potatoes with a pinch of salt and slowly knead in enough flour to obtain a fairly firm, smooth, non-sticky dough -- exactly how much flour will depend upon how moist the potatoes are.

Roll the dough out into snakes about as thick as your finger, cut the snakes into one-inch pieces, and gently score the pieces crosswise with a fork. As an alternative to scoring with a fork, Bugialli suggests you gently press them against the inside of a curved cheese grater, to obtain a curved shape with a depression on one side. The choice is up to you.

Cook the gnocchi in abundant salted boiling water, removing them with a slotted spoon a minute or two after they rise to the surface. Drain them well and serve them with a few leaves of sage, melted unsalted butter and Parmigiano, or meat sauce, or pomarola, or pesto.

The quantities above will make gnocchi sufficient for four as a main corse, or 6-8 as a first course in an Italian meal.

I'll be trying this sometime soon. Tonight I'm going with a ricotta gnocchi. A little less time consuming as it does not contain potatoes. You can check out this recipe too, just click here: Quick Ricotta Gnocchi. From here on I'll be continuing my gnocchi education.



Melpy said...

I am trying to figure this out myself. I know that the store bought gnocchi is way to hard and I've had very gummy chewy gnocchi but the gnocchi I made last night were very soft (not so soft that they broke). I wish I knew what "perfect" gnocchi should be.

Adriyaya said...

Perfect gnocchi should be fluffy in the mouth, like eating air. You need floury potatoes.