Gno-Thank You

Monday, March 22, 2010

As my readers, I asked and you told me what to make next. You all voted for gnocchi and I enthusiastically said "yes!"

I started out doing relatively extensive research on how to make gnocchi and found most recipes to be quite similar: boiled baking potatoes, flour, egg, salt. And that's it. Sounds easy enough, right?


What came forth was a disaster of culinary proportions, an embarrassment to the Italian cuisine. I, of all people, managed to make not the pillowy goodness that is The Gnocchi, but rather one of two items: mush or rock.

Impressive, isn't it?

Let me explain...

I settled on two recipes for gnocchi that I thought would be full-proof. One, from Bon Apetit magazine and the other, from Italian Culinary God Mario Batali. I mean, how you could go wrong with Batali? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Or at least I did.

Despite the minimal ingredients, the two recipes varied drastically in their preparations. BA said to bake the potatoes while Mario said to boil them whole. Since it was already 7:00 when I started making this dinner, I went with boiling. Because, after all, it's Mario frickin Batali. I boiled them and peeled them just as he said and ran them through a potato ricer with surprising ease and in 30 seconds I had potato fluffiness.

I was giddy with optimism.

Then add the flour. Both said to use all-purpose -- check!

Then another variation: BA said to use 1 egg yolk while Batali said to use a whole egg. So I erred on the side of Batali again. Because he wears orange clogs and any man of that size who wears orange clogs is secure in himself. And therefore in his cooking. And henceforth am I secure in him.

Then a pinch of salt, make the well in the middle, mix with fork and voila a dough has been made.

BA said to add a pinch of nutmeg which I also omitted because that sounded just weird.

At this point my trusty sous-chef Andrew (aka The Eye-Talian) came over to help me with the boiling process. As I divided the large ball of dough into 4 small balls, then rolled them out one by one into the rope and cut them into gnocchi-sized pieces, I'd hand off and he'd boil. I thought he could handle that.

Wrong again.

Apparently my dough was too warm as the pieces couldn't even keep the fork ridges. After you cut the rope into the little pieces you're supposed to roll them on the back end of a fork to get those little lines we all know are gnocchi. I got so frustrated I just cut and threw them at Andrew. And he cooked them...

...into oblivion.

The raw dough when added to a pot of salted boiling water sinks to the bottom like boulder, then rises to the top when done. Yet another variation on the cooking process between my two sources: BA said to cook them an additional 4 minutes after they rose to the top while Mario said to pull them out and into an ice bath right as they reach the top. Um....huge discrepancy there guys!! Thanks for that! Didn't matter anyway...

Me: "Hey, so how's it going there?"

Andrew: "Good."

Me: "Are they done yet?"

Andrew: "No."

(long pause)

Andrew: "How do you know when they're done?"

Me: "When they rise to the surface. Or 4 mintues after. Depends on who you're asking."

Andrew: "Oh."

(another long pause)

Andrew: "'Cuz these have been cooking for like 7 minutes."

Me: "OH MY GOD!!!! GET THEM OUT!!!!!"

No bueno.

Ended up being a sticky, globular mess of epic proportions. Extremely unappetizing.

Luckily I had literally pounds of extra gnocchi dough so we tried again, this time pulling them as they rose to the top like Batali said.


I made a wild mushroom ragu to go along with them and topped with shaved Parmesano-Reggiano.

Unfortunately, I'm embarrassed to say it looks a lot better than it tasted. It was horrible. The gnocchi were "weird", the ragu was "meh" and the whole dish needed a saltier Pecornio instead of the Parmesan that seemed pathetic in comparison to the monstrous disaster it sat upon. The gnocchi this time around held their shape...enough...but still tasted "gooey." Gnocchi shouldn't taste gooey.
So here's my conclusion:
Despite the minimal ingredients and overall inexpensiveness of the whole gnocchi thing, it's far too much trouble than it's worth. Find a good restaurant that make gnocchi and just get them to do it for you. This was a pain in the ass that made a huge mess and in the end pissed me off.
And pillowy yum yums shouldn't piss one off.
So the final verdict is...
The Great Gnocchi Experiment: EPIC FAIL

1 comment:

emenbensma said...

I have only had good gnocchi once. And what is the big deal with polenta? Yecch, and I am someone who loves all (or almost all) Italian food. I'd say stick with pasta and risotto!