Often, when we get back from a trip, there’s little food in the house. We like to eat up as much fresh food as we can before we go; that way, it won’t spoil, leaving us with those long-lasting staples, such as potatoes and carrots. With that in mind, you might imagine that the first couple of days back, our meals aren’t anything to write home about, much less write up for you, dear scratcher. We like to think that you’re wrong, as today’s post shows.
As soon as we can after returning home, we have to feed our bread starter, and, from the excess starter, we often make a single pizza crust (that’s what we had for our first dinner back), leaving us with tomato sauce. With the tomato sauce and a few potatoes in the cupboard, an egg, and bit of flour, we made these Rosemary Gnocchi for our second night. All from basic staples. Keep these in mind when it seems as if the cupboard is bare.
These are really nothing other than Potato Gnocchi with rosemary added. Feel free to use any type of potato, but russets work well because of all the starch, and, they tend to have a drier texture. Use good eggs, from free-ranging hens. They taste better, and the hens are better off, too, so everyone wins.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Clean and bake potatoes. Scrub the potatoes and cut out any bad spots that occur where the potatoes have been damaged by mechanical harvesting. Using a paring knife, pierce the potatoes in several places to let steam escape. If you don’t do this, your potatoes might explode while baking, and, trust us on this, once a potato explodes in your oven and you have to clean it up, you’ll never forget. Of course, if you’re using an oven that doesn’t belong to you, it might not matter. We like to season the potatoes before baking. If you don’t, then just go ahead and bake ’em up. But, if you like, rub the potatoes with a bit of olive oil, enough to make them shiny, place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder. Turn over and season the other side in the same way. Bake until a sharp knife easily pierces the center of each potato, 45 to 60 minutes.
Chop rosemary. While the potatoes are baking, rather than twiddling your thumbs, strip off the rosemary leaves and chop them finely. We’d been grinding salt (to make popcorn salt) in our spice grinder, so we used that to chop the rosemary. Otherwise, we’d have simply chopped it all with a chef’s knife, or even our kitchen shears. Place the chopped rosemary in a medium bowl. While you’re at it, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat; this will hold the gnocchi as you make them.
Scrape potato. As soon as the potatoes are baked through, remove them from the oven and slice them in half to let steam escape and start the potatoes on their way to drying. Once you can handle the potatoes without getting burned, scrape the flesh away from the skins using a fork (if you have a ricer, you can use that, and make fun of us while we’re scraping away with a fork. Later, we’ll make fun of you cleaning the ricer, while we wash a fork). Place the potato flesh in the bowl with the rosemary and toss to mix. Use the potato skins for something else, perhaps filling them with cheese and heating until melted.
Cool. Let the potato cool completely. This will give the potato time to dry out a bit more for even fluffier gnocchi. It shouldn’t take but 15 minutes to cool, enough time to make a sandwich for lunch, if it’s that time of day.
Add egg. Crack an egg into the potato mixture and use the fork to mix it in lightly. Don’t mash it in; instead, try to use an upward motion of the fork to lift the potato and fold it into the egg. If you mash, you’ll release starch from the potatoes, making them gummy. The lifting and folding prevents that.
Add flour. We can’t tell you exactly how much flour you’ll need, but it’ll be about 1/2 cup in total. You’ll see the mixture starting to behave like a dough, and that’ll be the signal that you’ve added enough. Start by sprinkling about 1/4 cup of flour over the mixture. Now, use the fork to fold and work that into the potatoes. Add a bit more flour, and work it in the same way. When it seems like a soft dough, you’ve added enough, and, as we say, about 1/2 cup total should be perfect. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead gently for about 30 seconds, adding more flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and pliable. We did about 50 strokes and that seemed fine. Much more than that and you run the risk of developing the gluten and making gnocchi that are rubbery instead of light, puffy pillows of deliciousness.
Shape. Divide the dough in half, and, working with half at a time, roll it out into a long rope about the diameter of your finger. Use a bench knife (or regular knife) to cut the rope into 1/- inch long pieces. If you want to be fancy, and more traditional, you can roll each piece of dough over a ridged board (a gnocchi board) or the tines of a fork; otherwise, simply give them a light squeeze to narrow the middle so they resemble small bones. Place the completed gnocchi on the lined baking sheet, making sure they don’t touch.
Freeze. If you wish, these gnocchi can be cooked immediately, but we like to freeze them first for two reasons. One, it makes them easier to handle, and two, we don’t eat all the gnocchi we make in one meal. Having frozen gnocchi on hand for a quick meal is a great time saver. To freeze, place the baking sheet full of gnocchi in a freezer for about 30 minutes, or until solid, and transfer to a freezer bag for longer term storage.
Simmer. To cook these gnocchi (do not thaw), simply bring a large kettle of salted water to a low boil. Add the frozen gnocchi and stir gently. As the water comes back to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer — a full boil will break apart the gnocchi — the gnocchi will float. Once they do, simmer for an additional minute before removing with a slotted spoon.
Serve. Place the drained gnocchi in a warmed bowl and serve with your favorite sauce. Or, add the drained gnocchi to a skillet of sauce that’s already simmering, and serve from there.
These are perfect, light and fluffy, provided you use a light hand when making them, and full of rosemary flavor. We had ours with a red sauce, but would probably suggest something lighter in flavor, such as a light cream sauce, or even a browned-butter sauce. However you serve them, it’ll be a five-star Italian dinner. Prego.