Monday, March 1, 2010

The most delicious dinner

Weekends need to be at least 50% longer.  I spend half the weekend trying to catch up on sleep, and the other being completely lazy and doing nothing.  Usually, around Sunday night, I realize that the weekend is almost over and have to rush to do the reading I was supposed to do for Monday, and then I end up getting no sleep.  Yet again.  This weekend was no exception.  On Saturday, I actually didn't budge until about 5pm, when I showered, got dressed, went to an a cappella concert (which was a lot of fun!) and then went back home to continue being a bum.  On Sunday, all I got accomplished was my laundry.  Before I knew it, it was time to go to the Duke vs VA bball game (where we were crushed), th  en went to Kroger, read a paper for journal club....

To make a long story short, and to reiterate what I said in my previous post, I didn't cook anything over the weekend.  Remember all of those things I mentioned I was going to try to make?  Didn't even make an attempt.  But that all changed tonight!  I decided that I HAD to try making homemade gnocchi.  I've heard about so many disastrous attempts that I wasn't expecting anything spectacular.  All I can say is OMG....they were so amazing!  I can now tell you that making gnocchi = not hard!  Time consuming, yes. I actually gave up halfway through, and put the rest of the dough in the fridge.  I'll have to make the rest tomorrow.  I cooked all of the gnocchi I formed tonight, I think I may freeze the rest uncooked.

I was very excited to use my food mill.  It worked pretty well, actually.

I attempted to make more gnocchi with the rest of the dough, and it was definitely not a success.  First, the refrigerated dough was extremely sticky - I kept on adding more and more flour and it would just eat it up.  By the time the dough was manageable, I had both overworked it and added way too much flour.  I cooked a few to test it, before spending too much time on it, and I was glad I did.  They were dense and flavorless - exactly what I was afraid of.  So be careful when you are working with the dough - less is more in this case.  Use as little flour as possible, and don't overwork it.  Trust me!

Gnocchi in Pesto Sauce
2 lbs russet potatoes
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 - 1 1/2 cups flour

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used frozen cubes)
3 tsp basil, chopped (I used frozen cubes)
Parmesan, grated

Throughly wash and scrub the potatoes.  Prick them all over with a fork, and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Cook at 400 degrees for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until tender.
Cool for a few minutes, and then put through food mill on fine setting, or through a potato ricer, or grate if you don't have either of those.  If you use a food mill you don't need to peel - otherwise remove the peel before processing.

Let cool in a bowl for a few minutes, then mix in the egg and salt with a wooden spoon.  (You don't want them to be too hot or you'll cook the egg!)  Add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.  Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, just like a regular bread/pasta dough.
Taking a small amount at a time, roll to about 3/4 inch wide and cut into 1 inch strips.  Take each piece and gently roll against the tines of a fork to give that typical gnocchi appearance.  Place each formed gnocchi on a lightly floured or parchment-paper lined dish.

You can either freeze or cook at this point.  To freeze, place in a single layer on a sheet, with none of them touching each other.  When frozen, remove and place in a freezer bag.  To cook, drop a few at a time in a pot of salted boiling water.  They will float to the surface after a few minutes.  Once they reach the surface, let them cook for another 30 seconds, and then remove from water and place on a dish.  Serve with your favorite sauce, or the one below.

To make sauce:
Heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add in garlic and basil, until everything is melted.  Add several (cooked) gnocchi, not too many to crowd the pan.  Cook, flipping them every once in a while, until they are golden brown and toasted.
Serve hot with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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