Monday, June 24, 2013

Toasted Sage Gnocchi with Sautéed Asparagus & Caramelized Shallots



I didn't encounter gnocchi for the first time until I left for college and found them in the aisles of the nearby Trader Joe's. I immediately fell in love with their plump texture and warm potato-y flavor, and was particularly excited about their versatility (being able to use a wide variety of simple sauces on an inexpensive dish was particularly helpful when my budget was strapped). I didn't have gnocchi that was made from scratch until about a year ago at an authentic Italian restaurant, and was blown away by the difference in texture. Instead of slightly rubbery, the texture of the gnochhi were soft and fluffy, like little balls of mashed potatoes.


I tried making my own at home, but they always turned out too rubbery and the flavor just wasn't quite right. It wasn't until I went to the King Arthur Flour Blog & Bake in Vermont that I learned what I was doing wrong. We had a demonstration in gnochhi-making from a chef at the Simon Pearce restaurant, and when he was rolling the potato dough into logs for cutting he invited us up to poke it, because texture is the key factor in determining how much flour you need to add. I went up, gave it a solid poke, and instead of the firm play-dough-like state of the gnocchi I'd tried to make, I encountered a texture only slightly firmer than whipped mashed potatoes. And thus came the realization that I was putting waaaaay too much flour in my gnocchi dough. I have flour measurements in the recipe below, but it is still best to go by the texture of your dough. If you find that at 3/4 cup of flour you have a dough that isn't falling apart and is soft yet solid, than feel free to cut out the remaining 1/4 cup. On the other hand, if you've added 1 cup of flour and still can't roll out a log on  a well-floured surface without it disintegrating, add an extra tablespoon or two until the proper texture is reached.


For this recipe I decided to try something a little different, however. At first I boiled the dumplings the traditional way, but was put off by the texture when mixed together with the olive oil from the pan-fried asparagus and caramelized shallots. It just got a bit...slimey. I was incredibly frustrated because I finally got the flavor and texture right, but didn't like how it combined with the olive oil-based sauce I'd made. I'd also spent 3 hours making them (it won't take you as long, I cut the recipe in half below because I made twice as much and it took forever to cut all those tiny gnocchi pieces). Jeremy, sensing my impending meltdown, then made a simple and logical suggestion. "Why don't you toast them in the oven?"

....YES!

So that is what I did. Lined with a sheet of parchment paper to keep them from sticking to the pan, I popped them in the oven and what happened next was near-magic (to me, anyway). They got nice and dry and crispy on the outside, but the inside was perfectly soft and fluffy and moist, like an encapsulated mashed potato bite. When I tossed the toasted ones with the olive oil-based toppings, the texture was perfect and the dish couldn't have been tastier. The crunchy caramelized shallots paired perfectly with the salty fluffy gnochhi and the snappy freshness of the asparagus. And the Parmesan topping rounded off the dish with a wonderful creaminess. Making gnocchi is a good amount of work, but it is worth it. And if you find that you have made too much dough and don't have enough time in the present moment to make all the gnocchi pieces, it freezes quite well in a large freezer-safe ziploc bag (this I learned firsthand).



Ingredients

Sautéed Asparagus

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch long pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Caramelized Shallots

3 ounces shallots (about 4 small shallots), finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Yukon Gold Gnocchi

1 and 1/3 lb yukon gold potatoes
4 egg yolks, whisked
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely grated asiago cheese
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup flour, plus more for dough/sprinkling


First, start caramelizing the shallots. Heat the olive oil and shallots in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sugar after 5 minutes and stir to coat. Lower the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep the shallots from burning to the bottom of the pan. They are done when they have turned golden. Remove from heat and set aside.


Now start making the gnocchi. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Puncture the potatoes in several places with a fork. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with salt and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely before handling. The skins should easily peel off. Remove and discard the skins. Grate or rice the potatoes over a large bowl with the large hole setting of a grater. Mix together with your hands until the grated bits stick together.


Turn the potato mixture out onto a flat well-floured surface and make a little well in the middle. Add the egg yolks, parmesan, asiago, dried sage, salt, and pepper to the well and fold the potato mixture over it. Continue folding the mixture until everything has been incorporated and the dough has smoothed out. Now begin to add the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and continue folding the dough onto itself. Be careful not to over work the dough, only fold until it is just incorporated.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the flour is added, test the texture by grabbing a piece of dough and rolling it out on a well-floured surface until it is a 1/2 inch thick rope. It should be soft, and almost like mashed potatoes when you poke it, but firm enough that it holds itself together. If it keeps falling apart, add a little more flour, but only until it just holds together. You do not want to add to much flour. Cut the gnocchi into 1/2 inch thick rounds and then take a fork to the top of each round and gently press down horizontally to leave an imprint. Very lightly dust them with flour as you make them and place them on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, ridged side up. Please note that the dough will be sticky and that you should use a dough scraper to continually scrape off any dough that has become stuck to the work surface. Keep your hands floured while you work with the dough as well, but be careful not to incorporate too much flour as you don't want to ruin the flavor of the potatoes. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the gnocchi begin to turn gold at the corners.


While the gnocchi is baking, prepare the asparagus. Heat the olive oil and garlic in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus, sage, and salt and sauté until bright green but still crunchy, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Toss together the gnocchi, caramelized shallots, and asparagus (including the pan drippings). Sprinkle with the desired amount of parmesan and serve.



40 comments:

  1. Oh my, I could eat up that whole plate without even a blink. I so love gnocchi and your recipe and pics are beautifully done.
    My best friend growing up was from Argentina and she and her family would roll homemade gnocchis at the kitchen table off forks like this at least once a month. It was a real family tradition that I benefited from when we got to cook them up. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much! And I admire the dedication of her family, making each little gnocchi was so tedious! But I will readily admit that their delicious flavor makes it worth the extra effort. So awesome that you were able to have some made so well!

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  2. Holy schmoly, this dish honestly sounds perfect! And TOASTING the gnocchi!? Such a good idea. I need to try that out, I've had a few gnocchi bad-times in the past, and always envy the super pillowy ones that I get at fancy restaurants. Awesommeeee :)

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    1. It's strange how tricky it is to make a solid gnocchi even though the ingredients are so simple. It's just that darn excess flour that tips the balance to rubbery! Usually I adore flour, but in this case it definitely becomes my foe. And I always order gnocchi if I see that it's homemade on the menu, you just can't beat gnocchi made from scratch. So. Incredibly. Good.

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  3. Toasted gnocchi? Good gracious, girl, that is GENIUS. I've got to get this into my life (and therefore my belly) as soon as humanly possible.

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  4. Are you kidding me? Can I please come eat at your house? I'll bring the wine.
    I made gnocchi once, years ago. But not with potatoes. With ricotta. And you formed it with two spoons. It was amazing. And rich. And cheesy. And I seem to recall eating enough to make me sick. Which may be why I haven't made it again since. :)

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    1. Anybody who brings a bottle of wine with them is welcome in my house :)

      And gnudi! Gnocchi made with ricotta is called gnudi, and I did not know that until April when I went out to eat with Carey from Reclaiming Provincial in Vermont and she ordered some for us to eat. I had never even heard of gnudi before, but holy moly it completely blew my socks off. They served it with a lamb ragout and it was AMAZING. I am going to try and recreate it in the fall for a nice warm cold-weather dish. The portions at the restaurant were small, but if the plate was larger I definitely would have eaten enough to make me sick as well haha. They just taste so darn good!

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  5. I enjoy my gnocchi lightly sautéed in a frying pan, but baked in an oven would be equally delicious I am sure.

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    1. I love gnocchi that way too, any way to get it nice and crispy on the outside really makes the fluffy inside taste even better!

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  6. I love making gnocci at home! This looks so lovely!

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  7. I love sage and gnocchi and caramelized shallots and everythingggg about this. The first time I made gnocchi, I had the rubbery/firm/weird thing going on too. I will definitely have to try to hold back on the flour next time, as I'm certain I did the same thing! Thanks for this recipe--it sounds perfect!

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    1. Thanks Natasha! Yeah the flour balance is really tricky, it varies depending on the kind of potatoes you use and how you cook the potatoes, too. If the potatoes are boiled they will retain a lot more moisture than baked, so you end up needing to put in more flour to help absorb the water and can accidentally create a more floury tasting gnocchi. Such a theoretically simple dish, but there are so many factors that can tilt the scale on the flour-potato balance. It's best just to poke! And the poking is weirdly enjoyable, especially since the dough is so soft and fluffy :)

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  8. When you get that combination of fluffy, pillowy insides, and slightly crisp flavourful outsides, you know your onto a good thing. Sounds delicious!

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    1. Thank you so much Sarah! I was so happy when I finally got them to turn out the way I wanted :)

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  9. This dish looks absolutely amazing!

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  10. The homemade gnocchi looks like absolute perfection!

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  11. this looks so gourmet and divinely delicious!
    xx

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    1. Thank you! It was a super tasty dish :)

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  12. I love that you put them in the oven! We've made Carey's cauliflower gnocchi with great success; the guy is a huge gnocchi fan. We'll have to try the oven-toasting technique next time we make them. I can't remember the first time I had gnocchi...I have a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch friends who talked about making gnocchi at home, and that was the first I'd heard of them. I think we bought a few bags at the store before making them ourselves. They are so much work, but so worth it! And they freeze so well for quick dinners, too. Yum!

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    1. I've been wanting to try her cauliflower gnocchi recipe since I laid eyes on it, it looked so good! And definitely healthier than potatoes, but for my attempt at traditional gnocchis I had to use potatoes. But once I have time to make them again I am definitely trying Carey's recipe. I've had mashed cauliflower before and was shocked at how much it tasted like mashed potatoes. The texture was so light and fluffy! I think Jeremy made them for us for my 21st birthday dinner along with a nice steak on the bbq :)

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  13. Hello there! Just found your lovely little space on the interweb and am completely smitten. Love your food, your photos and your dream cows. Pinning/adding to my reader right now!

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    1. Thank you so much Em! That is so kind of you to say and I am so happy to hear it! I hope you continue to enjoy what you find here in my little space :)

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  14. A gourmet dish that looks absolutely yummy!

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  15. i've had some good gnocchi and buddy, i've had some bad gnocchi. when it's bad, it's BAD. this is a super classy dish, eva, and i might feel the need to dress up just to eat it. :)

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    1. Haha, thanks Grace! Yeah bad gnocchi is pretty terrible. Just gummy and slimy and flavorless...such a waste of tasty potatoes! But when you get it right....it's like magic!

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  16. That is SO what I did to gnocchi the first few times I attempted to make them. Way too much flour, and they just tasted like cooked paste blobs. Ick! It's definitely one of those dishes where practice makes perfect. Once you get to know the proper texture of the dough, it makes such a difference.

    And I am SO curious about the straight-up baking process! I love crispy gnocchi, but I've always achieved that by boiling and then pan-frying them. Two pots, lots of spatters when water meets oil, big mess. The thought of just being able to put them on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven is kind of blowing my mind. Ahh!!! I am dying to try it! (I just got totally worked up on curiosity vibes there.) :)

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    1. Haha, I actually tried frying them after I boiled them to make the texture crisper but the oil was spattering EVERYWHERE and I don't have a splatter screen (registered for one though! haha) so I was even more overwhelmed by the hot oil shooting out at my face. I am so glad Jerm suggested to bake them, otherwise I probably would've started to cry. You know when you've just worked so hard at something for so long and you have an idea in your head of how you want it to come out and everything seems to go wrong? That was me and gnochhi for a looooooooong time. So happy this finally came together, though. I am not going to give up on gnocchi, yet! :)

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  17. I have had some BAD luck with homemade gnocchi! However, I love it and don't want my bad experiences to shy me away from trying this! This looks awesome! Thanks for the tips.

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  18. I've been looking for a gnocchi recipe ever since having the most divine dish at Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto in NYC. He sautes the gnocchi I believe, giving it a nice golden brown exterior while maintaining a creamy soft interior. I'm sure toasting it like your method will yield a similar result! Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the inspiration :)

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  19. This gnocchi looks amazing! I've never made gnocchi at home but have always wanted to. I'm going to give your recipe a try. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. these are the cutest gnocchi i've ever seen! <3 <3

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  21. Looks so good! Maybe I just missed it, but how many servings is this for?

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    1. It makes about 4 servings, depending on how hungry everyone is :)

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  22. This looks so delicious. I loved sage a lot and this might be a nice recipe to try.

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