Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce and White Truffle Oil

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. They are petite pillows of potato dumplings. I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and had to try for myself. This was not necessarily a difficult recipe but it does take time, patience, and practice as you roll, cut, and shape your gnocchi.

Be sure to cook the potatoes unpeeled—this was an important detail I missed in my first attempt. This helps the russet potatoes hold their shape and limit the amount of water they absorb.
When you drop these babies into the boiling water to cook, they will let you know they’re done by floating to the top. It really doesn’t take very long, either, which is good so that you get busy eating! I made a gorgonzola cheese sauce to serve with the gnocchi and drizzled white truffle oil on top—so delicious!

Source: How to Make Gnocchi Like an Italian Grandmother, 101 Cookbooks

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Scant 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
Fine grain sea salt

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water, then cut potatoes in half and place them in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, this takes roughly 40-50 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the water one at a time with a slotted spoon. Place each potato piece on a large cutting board and peel it before moving on to the next potato. Also, peel each potato as soon as possible after removing from the water (without burning yourself). Be mindful that you want to work relatively quickly so you can mash the potatoes when they are hot. To do this you can either push the potatoes through a ricer or food mill or simply with a fork. You want a nice fluffy potato base to work with. Don't over-mash—you are simply after an even consistency with no noticeable lumps.

Let the potatoes cool spread out across the cutting board—10-15 minutes or long enough that the egg won't cook when it is incorporated into the potatoes. When you are ready, pull the potatoes into a soft mound. Drizzle with the beaten egg and sprinkle ¾ cup of the flour across the top. With a pastry scraper, scrape underneath and fold, scrape and fold until the mixture is a light crumble. Very gently, with a feathery touch knead the dough. This is also the point you can add more flour (a sprinkle at a time) if the dough is too tacky. The dough should be moist but not sticky.

It should feel almost billowy. Cut it into 8 pieces. Now gently roll each ⅛th of dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife to cut pieces every ¾-inch. Dust with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi hold a fork in one hand and place a gnocchi pillow against the tines of the fork, cut ends out. With confidence and an assertive (but light) touch, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight "C" shape, their backs will capture the impression of the tines as tiny ridges (good for catching sauce later). Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them. This step takes some practice; don't get discouraged.

Now that you are on the final stretch, bring a fresh pot of (salted) water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time. They will let you know when they are cooked because they will pop back up to the top. Fish them out of the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon ten seconds or so after they've surfaced. Gently toss with sauce or pesto of your choice (don't overdo it, it should be a light dressing), and serve immediately, family-style with a drizzle of good olive oil or truffle oil on top.

Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
This cheese sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. Gorgonzola cheese is an Italian blue cheese but has a softer, creamier flavor than traditional blue cheese. This sauce is easy to make and hardly takes any time to come together. Since gorgonzola can be a little salty on its own, I’d advise using very little, if any, salt. Very rich and full of flavor!

1 ½ cup heavy cream
¾ pound gorgonzola
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until just tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream but do not boil. Add the gorgonzola and stir until melted and smooth. Whisk in flour, one tablespoon at a time and allow the sauce to thicken. Stir in the mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste.

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