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Gnocchi - what are the key differences between good and bad.post #1 of 179/27/09 at 10:55pmThread Starterpost #2 of 179/28/09 at 12:59amNonna Candelori used to say bad gnocci were "sinkers"; meaning they were so heavy and dense they would sink to the bottom of the gut. In my experience, after making gnocci for years (and in competition with my papa), the less flour used, the lighter the gnocci. The less one kneads, the better the texture. The smaller the gnocci, the better the mouth feel. Rolling on a gnocci board or "digging out" with the finger is essential, IMO.
Idaho bakers are best as they are dry enough to keep the little pillows light. Ricotta in place of potato, or along with potato makes an excellent product. I've made them with butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc. They're all excellent if you heed the rule of less flour, less kneading, less sauce.post #3 of 179/28/09 at 5:14am
GnocchiThe type of potato you use in gnocchi makes a big difference. Potatoes are either "waxy" or "mealy". Mealy potatoes (like bakers, yukon, etc) are higher in starch and dry, so they work best for gnocchi. Waxy potatoes are like red potatoes or white chef potatoes. These are best for boiling or potato salad because they hold their shape a little better. But, holding shape gives lumps in your gnocchi.
The most important issue in making these potato dumplings is that the potatoes are AS DRY AS POSSIBLE after cooking. I read many gnocchi recipes that call for boiling the potatoes, then putting them in the oven to dry. I think this is one step too many.
I'd bake the potatoes, making them dry and fluffy, then continue with your gnocchi. I like to add a basil pesto to make them green, or a tomato paste to make them red. Then, you can have a tri-color gnocchi on you plate.
They're fun to make, and taste great with great texture. Make a whole bunch of them and freeze. They work great out of the freezer.
Chef Todd Mohrpost #4 of 179/28/09 at 6:45amSo far we seem to be assuming that you mean potato gnocchi and similar ones (chestnut, for example), not gnocchi alla Romano, the kind made with a semolina batter and baked with cheese. Working on that assumption, I will say that good gnocchi are ethereal -- light on the tongue and teeth, and while they hold together in the pot and on the plate, they melt in the mouth. Bad gnocchi are heavy, gummy, and stick to your teeth.
The best potato gnocchi I've had here in NYC are at Hearth. Chef Marco Canora uses just floury potatoes and barely enough flour for the heavenly little pillows to hold together. (Yeah, I know this sounds like shilling, but they are just wonderful! :D) And handles the dough as little as possible -- little if any gluten development. Overhandling the dough (as with piecrust) makes them gummy.
Marcella Hazan warns about adding eggs (the style is called alla parigina, "Paris-style"), saying that while they make the dough easier to handle, they yield a "tougher, more rubbery product." [As a side note: she says that the word "gnoccho" means "little lump." Not all that appetizing, is it? :lol:)
I'm ambivalent about sautéing gnocchi, as I used to do at Maritime restaurant. If you cook off a big batch and freeze them, that is an easy way to rewarm them for serving. And the browned crust can be tasty. But it can also mask the texture of the gnoccho itself, so you can get away with heavier gnocchi than if you were serving them freshly boiled."Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004post #5 of 179/28/09 at 7:00amThe comment on dry potatos is interesting to me.
Italy has a fairly low potato consumption rate compared to many countries. I've seen it theorized that this leads to potatos being "old" in Italian markets. At least in comparison to markets in countries with higher consumption. These older potatos have lost more moisture before being cooked. So gnocchi are easier to make well.
I've also seen people use baked potatos to make gnocchi outside of Italy. I haven't tried it yet personally but I like the idea as it eliminates lots of the water added if you boil the potato.
The gnocchi I've made from scratch have been pretty poor but then I've not been real impressed with the ones I've had in restaurants. The ones I've liked best have been the shelf stable ones from Target they sell in the pasta section. They are on the denser side of things though.
Sauce wise, my favorite gnocchi is with an al fredo type sauce with some gorgonzola crumbled on top.post #6 of 179/28/09 at 8:54amIn my experience the method of pre-cooking the potatoes is less important than the type of potato, and the manner in which it is subseqently handled.
Of the potatoes most common here in the States, Russets -- whether Washington, Idaho or what not -- are best. Yukons are intesting (and doable), but the spuds themselves are inherently moister than russets.
If you're not in a hurry, you can boil the potatoes and let them dry in a collander. In fact, cool potatoes are much easier to work with in terms of dough making and handling. You can also bake the potatoes whole and let them cool. The difference in ultimate moisture content between baking and boiling/draining is similar to the difference between Russet and Yukon Gold (or Yellow Finn for that matter).
If you want light gnocchi, you have to start with light potatoes. A ricer is best, and a mill is second. Anything else is problematic. I know you're sainted Nona used to mash the potatoes with a rock she brought from Naples and her gnocchi were like clouds, but that was Nona.
I like to use the volcano method for mixing. Light touch, light touch, light touch.
You've got to use a lot of bench flour when rolling out the snakes. Snakes which form quickly because they're not sticky are not overworked. Overworked = dense. Less is more.
Not to wander off on a cranky digression or harp or anything, but most people way overwork their mashed potatoes and end up with a sticky, starchy mess. Knock it off.
Hope this helps,
BDLpost #7 of 179/28/09 at 9:35amHaving made more than my share of Gnocci in the past I have found that if you use a mashed potato that is run thru a ricer and use riccota in place of cream and butter you get a nice light gnocci. I use a little flour, some beaten egg yolks and stock to make the dough. Starting cold seems to help as they tend to need to be worked less when cold as the starch in the potato has formed and is cooked this is good in helping to bind everything together. Mix only to get everything incorporated and then rollout into a log shape. Cut and form and right into either the fridge coated in corn starch or into the boiling water.Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.post #8 of 179/28/09 at 10:21ampost #9 of 179/28/09 at 10:27amif she was from Naples she'd probably be making Pasta e patate not gnocchi....no? Or is she living in Sorrento with day trips to Naples (which I would certainly feel sorry for her!)
haha.post #10 of 179/28/09 at 11:24amThread Starterpost #11 of 179/28/09 at 11:43amHi Andydude :)
This article, from SfGate has really helped me turn out some fantastic gnocchi.
The keys that helped me make the step up from mediocre gnocchi would be how I handled the dough. I use a ricer and handle as little as possible. Also using as little flour to get the job done helped too.
I hope the article could help...
danpost #12 of 179/28/09 at 8:54pmThread Starterpost #13 of 179/30/09 at 5:54pmIn her new book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (which technically won't be out for another two weeks, btw), Paula Wolfert relates how she recently spent a solid month experimenting how to consistently create great potato gnocchi that is "tender, ethereally light, and able to carry most any kind of sauce." She's boiled it down to a ten step method that's well worth reading by anyone interested in making gnocchi. I won't type the whole thing, but the steps she details are:
1 Choose the right variety of potato.
2. Don't boil the potates.
3 Dont mash or puree the potatoes; rice them.
4. use the correct type of flour.
5. Use the correct amount of flour.
6. Do not add any egg.
7. Combine the potato and flour properly.
8. Test the dough first.
9. Shape the gnocchi according to your whim.
10. Cook the gnocchi in batches as directed in the recipe you're following.post #14 of 179/30/09 at 5:56pm
And BTW:I'm a Paula Wolfert freak, considering her one of the best cookbook writers in the country. And I have to say if Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking isn't her best work it runs whatever is a very close second.post #15 of 179/30/09 at 10:00pmThread Starterpost #16 of 177/7/10 at 8:45ampost #17 of 177/9/10 at 10:41pm
we make it fresh at my job. they boil the potato and we use "00" flour. they always come out light and deliciouse. as most mentioned knwing how to make them well is sometimes hard for some but good practice will help. its not too bad after a while. i love to brown them in some brown butter(boile din water 1st) and get them crispy. sometimes ill throw in some cream and then some sage. to die for everytimeChef it up errrrday!!!Chef it up errrrday!!!
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- How To Make Pesto
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