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Dark Days Challenge Week 1: How to Make Potato Gnocchi

Little pillows of potato gnocchi

To motivate ourselves through the winter, we have joined the Dark Days Challenge, which asks that we cook one meal a week focused on SOLE ingredients (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical). Right up our alley! Each blogger gets to set their own parameters within these guidelines. We’ll be sticking to the following rules for our Dark Days recipes:

  • Our primary sources for ingredients will be our CSA through Red Fire Farm, the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, and our canned/dried/frozen stores from the summer.
  • If we need to supplement, we’ll use ingredients from within 150 miles of home or those that we get from the NYC Greenmarket system while visiting friends and family there.
  • Salt, dried herbs and spices, baking soda/powder, and vinegar are fair game, but we’ll try to find local sources.

I sort of feel like relying on the Greenmarket is cheating, but we’re still figuring things out here and will be spending a time in NYC for holidays, so I’m giving us a pass. :) On to the recipe!

This is actually two recipes, one for the gnocchi and another for the sauce. Both are variations on recipes from Lidia’s Family Table, which is a phenomenal resource.


Potato Gnocchi

Makes 4 servings

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
1.5 lbs Potatoes Red Fire Farm CSA
1 Egg Beaten Red Fire Farm CSA
2 cups All purpose flour Cayuga Pure Organics (NYC Greenmarket)
0.75 TBsp Salt

Directions

  1. Clean the whole potatoes and place them in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover the potatoes plus a little headroom. Place on high heat, cover, and allow to boil for about 45 minutes, or until they are tender when poked with a fork but not yet falling apart. Drain the potatoes and let them cool enough to handle.
  2. Rice the potatoes. This can be done either by peeling them and using a potato ricer, or by using a food mill (which will automatically remove and separate the skins). We used the attachment to our Kitchenaid stand mixer, which is actually two attachments, both the food mill attachmentand parts from the meat grinder attachment. It’s kind of complicated to put together, but it’s a real labor and time-saver. I wish we had taken pictures of the milling process (and construction), but we had just gotten back from Thanksgiving and were cooking for company coming over, so we were in a bit of a time pinch. Next time!
  3. Rice / mill the potatoes on a sheet pan. Using a rubber spatula, mush and spread them out over the pan. Sprinkle the salt over the layer of potato. Let it cool and dry for lat least 20 minutes (up to however long you feel like it!).
  4. Pour the beaten egg over the potato and then layer on the flour. [At this point in our timeline I finished the unpacking and cleaning up and made it to the kitchen to help, with the camera!] Start with about 1 cup of flour.

    Spread the riced / milled gnocchi over a sheet pan and add the egg.Add a layer of flour.

  5. Using the rubber spatula, fold the bottom layer of the potato over the top around the edges. Repeat (gently) a few times until it begins to resemble a loose dough. Gradually add more flour until you have a kneadable dough. If you don’t add enough flough, the gnocchi will fall apart when cooked…but they’ll still be tasty!

    Fold the potato, egg, and flour into a loose dough.This is your target consistency.

  6. Using your hands, finish the kneading process by making the dough slightly more consistent. Sprinkle on more flour if necessary and knead it in. It should feel more like a dough than mashed potatoes. Shape it into a ball and cut it into quarters.

    Finish kneading with your hands and shape it into a ball.Cut the dough ball into quarters.

  7. Clean and lightly flour a work surface. (Up until now you could do it all on the sheet pan.) Roll out each quarter of the dough in an 18 inch rope. Cut each rope in half to make them easier to work with.

    Roll each quarter into an 18 inch rope.Slice each rope in half.

  8. Cut each portion into pieces between 2/3 of an inch to 1 inch. Have a floury sheet pan nearby to start collecting the shaped gnocchi.

    Slice the rope sections into gnocchi pillows.Have a sheet pan ready.

  9. To give the gnocchi its classic shape, hold a fork so that the tines are facing downwards and push each piece onto the fork near where the tines join. The tines will make an impression on the one side and your finger will create a slight indentation on the other side. Then, roll the gnocchi off the end of the fork to make it more cylindrical and to create the tine impressions all around. Rumor is that eventually you can do this in one motion. I’m not there yet.

    Gently press the gnocchi onto the back side of a fork's tines...... and then roll the gnocchi off the end of the fork.

  10. Once all of the gnocchi are shaped and on the sheet pan, toss lightly in the flour to avoid sticking and cover them with a towel. They should be boiled immediately at this point or frozen. They don’t sit around well in this form. Bring a large pot of water to boil (get this started in advance if you remember).
  11. Using a kitchen skimmer / spider or slotted spoon, drop 5 or 6 gnocchi in the boiling water at a time. This is important because the water needs to be at the boiling temperature to form the “skin” that will hold the gnocchi together. The more gnocchi pieces are added to the water at one time, the more the temperature will drop and the longer it will take to recover. Limiting the number of pieces is annoying but in the end it will be easier and you will get better results.
  12. Leave each batch in the water for 2 – 3 minutes, until they plump up a bit a float to the surface. Fish them out with your skimmer, but be gentle with them! Cooking for too long will lead to mush, so don’t be afraid to pull them out a few at a time as they float.



Simple Tomato Sauce

Makes a lot

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
2 quarts San Marzano / plum tomatoes Previously canned (2 quart jars) Cherry Lane Farms
1 Large onion Diced (about 1.5 – 2 cups) Red Fire Farm CSA
1 Medium celeriac Diced (about 1.5 – 2 cups) Enterprise Farm (Somerville Winter Farmers Market)
3 TBsp Olive oil
2 cups Water
2 Dried bay leaves
1 Dried chile Crumbled (substitute 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes) Northshire Farm chiles dried last summer
1 tsp Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Place the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, add the diced onion and celeriac (or you can substitute carrot, celery, etc.). Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 mintes. You want them to soften but not brown. [Note: we made this sauce using our own canned tomotoes. You can use store-bought canned San Marzanos, if you must.]

    Soften the onion and celeriac.These are our home-canned tomatoes and dried chilis.

  2. Add the tomatoes, salt, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Swish the water around the tomato jar or can to get out the last bits and dump it into the pot. Turn up the heat, cover, and bring the sauce to a boil. Check on it and stir frequently.
  3. Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium / medium-high to maintain a bubbling simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can continue simmering and cooking down for as long as you like, up to an hour. When the sauce is as thick as you want, remove the bay leaves, blend with a hand mixer to your desired consistency, and add salt to taste

We served our gnocchi and sauce with another round of our arugula, beet, and peach salad. We quenched our thirst with some delicious cider from Eve’s Cidery and capped it off with little parfaits of home-canned cherries in wine and whipped cream. Yum! Nothing better than an impromptu Sunday dinner with good friends.

Potato gnocchi covered in home made tomato sauce.Arugula, peach, and beet salad

Our "tablescape" (bleh!)

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