Monday, October 18, 2010

Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms

According to the dictionary (and Wiki) gnocchi (N'YO-kee) are a small dumpling made from flour, bread, or potato. What an uninspiring definition of such a heavenly creation. Today I made potato gnocchi for my daughter's birthday--tender, feathery little puffs gently simmered in water and then briefly sauted in butter and olive oil with mushrooms and herbs. 
Many cookbooks (and Italian grandmothers) will tell you to start with russet potatoes, boil them in their jackets, allow to cool slightly, peel, dice, rice, mash..............I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Maybe Italian grandma can always get it right, but I've found that a potato isn't always a potato. Some are more or less starchy. And when are they properly "done"? A bit too firm, or cooked too long?.....well, you get the idea. 

So I use mashed potato flakes. They are consistent--always the same and my gnocchi turn out perfectly every time:

Potato Gnocchi
1 1/3 cups dry mashed potato flakes
1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Place the mashed potato flakes in a large mixing bowl and cover with the boiling water. Stir just to moisten and let sit for about 10 minutes. Add the salt and 2 eggs and beat on low speed with mixer until smooth. Add the flour and beat just until the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Don't overmix--this makes the gnocchi tough.

Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each one, one at a time, on a clean work surface* into a rope about the thickness of your thumb. Using a sharp knife cut 1/2-inch thick slices from the rope of dough. 

Next, roll each piece against the tines of a fork--this creates the characteristic grooves and help the sauce cling to gnocchi. To cook them, drop your gnocchi into simmering (not boiling) water--no more than about 20 at a time. They are done when they bob to the surface.
Remove the gnocchi with a skimmer and place on a clean towel.

     *I roll my gnocchi out on a large piece of freezer paper (waxed side  up) so that I don't have to use any additional flour to keep them from sticking to the work surface.

Gnocchi can be served with your favorite spaghetti or creamy alfredo sauce. Here's what I did:

Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chanterelles, sliced
1/4 pound cremini (button) mushrooms
1 batch cooked gnocchi (see above)
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream
2 tablespoons wild huckleberries (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Saute onion and hazelnuts in a large pan with butter and olive oil until the onions become translucent and hazelnuts begin to turn golder brown--careful, they burn easily. Remove from pan and set aside.

To same pan add chanterelles and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until mushrooms are tender--about 5 minutes. Add the cooked gnocchi and reserved onions and hazelnuts to the pan and continue to stir (gently) until the gnocchi are heated through and the juices from the mushrooms have reduced a bit. Stir in the heavy cream and continue to heat gently for another minute or two or until sauce thickens.

Sprinkle huckleberries and rosemary on top and serve.

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