Last week, our CSA share had a bunch of carrots. Since it’s close to the end of the carrot season, these carrots aren’t as good as those earlier in the year. They tend to be tougher and perhaps a bit stringier, but they aren’t to the point where they’ve bolted (at that point, they’re so tough, the only thing we’d consider using them for would be stock), but tough enough that we wanted to cook them in some way that would use the flavor, while minimizing that woodiness.
More or less, on a whim, we decided to go with carrot gnocchi. We’ve never made it, never had it, and, to be completely honest, not even sure that it would work. So, a quick check on the Internet revealed a huge variety of recipes, most mixing carrots with potatoes. Well, no potatoes in the house, so they were out. We did find one we looked at, but only sort of followed the recipe. You can see it here, but it’s significantly different.
Organic carrots are inexpensive enough that, if we have to buy some, that’s how we go. Even though the carrots are organic, we’d peel them for this recipe, as sometimes the peels are slightly bitter. For eggs, we use those that have been laid by truly free-range hens. It’s simple: healthy hens will lay healthy eggs.
Procedure in detail:
Boil carrots. Place the carrots in a saucepan and cover with about an inch of water. Add salt, enough to make the water taste salty, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes.
Dry carrots. Drain the carrots, then place them on a clean cutting board or towel to cool and dry, about 10 minutes. You want some of the moisture to come out of the carrots; otherwise, you’ll have something more akin to carrot soup than gnocchi.
Blend carrots. Place the carrots in the bowl of a food processor along with the caraway seeds. Pulse and scrape down the sides of the bowl until you have a carrot paste. It’s okay if the caraway seeds don’t get blended or if there are small carrot pieces left. Once blended, transfer to a bowl.
Simmer water. You’ll need some simmering water to test the gnocchi dough as you make it, so place a saucepan of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. We used the pan we cooked the carrots in rather than getting out a clean pan.
Make dough. Add the egg and about 1/4 cup of flour to the carrot mixture and work it in gently. Work in another 1/4 cup of flour. Continue adding flour until you have a very soft, even sticky, dough. The less flour you add, the lighter the gnocchi will be.
Test dough. Scrape away a small amount of dough and drop it into the simmering water. It should sink at first, but, after a minute, float to the surface. If it falls apart, you need to add more flour to the dough and try again. What you want is to add just enough flour to hold everything together while it simmers.
Season. Once you’ve adjusted the flour properly, add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. If you worry about raw eggs, feel free to cook up little pieces in your simmering water to taste. It only takes a minute, so it’s not a big deal.
Chill. Cover the dough and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 to 30 minutes. This chilling will make the dough easier to handle, although it’ll still be sticky. It also gives you an opportunity to do a little clean-up. Remember: a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen.
Line sheet. While it’s by no means necessary, we like to freeze our gnocchi before cooking; they’re so much easier to handle frozen. So, we line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Parchment or waxed paper will work, too.
Shape. Generously flour a work surface, and, working with about a quarter of the dough at a time, roll, or somehow shape the dough into a rope about 1/2 inch in diameter. It will very soft and sticky, so do the best you can, and dust with flour as needed. Once you have a rope, cut off 3/4 inch lengths and place on your prepared baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough.
Freeze. Place the gnocchi in the freezer until solid, about an hour. Longer is fine, too. Once frozen, you can transfer them to freezer bags and save for a later meal.
Cook. To cook gnocchi, bring a large kettle of salted water to a simmer. A full boil would break up the gnocchi, resulting in a mess. Once simmering, add gnocchi, about 30 at a time, and simmer until they float to the surface. Once floating, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to warmed bowls, or to your choice of sauce that’s simmering on the stove.
We had our gnocchi with a white wine mushroom sauce (basically, a small amount of onions and garlic cooked along with the mushrooms in butter, a splash of wine, salt and pepper to taste), and thought they were outstanding. Light as clouds, not rubbery as poor gnocchi tend to be, and the caraway a perfect match for the carrots, although we might just grind the caraway seeds next time. Even so, these were as close to perfect gnocchi as we’ll probably get. Five stars.