Monday, February 16, 2009

Gnocchi Impossible

Gnocchi Impossible (or “The Never Ending Gnocchi Story…”)

Sometimes in your life something happens, something that hits you so hard, it changes you, makes you consider doing something you would never otherwise do. Well, this weekend, the Great Gnocchi Quest has driven me to the unthinkable. My search to make the perfect Gnocchi was so frightful, so mind wrecking, that it has driven me to blogging!
So welcome friends, to the deep dark recess’s of my mind. Here you will find blogs about food, wine and art. Perhaps, if you read deep enough, you might even discover some secrets of how my mind works. If you do, I ask you, keep them to yourself. My mind is a dark scary subject, and there are some things about it I would rather not know.

It all began last Thursday, as I sat and read Shane’s blog posts (Culinary Alchemy) about Gnocchi and the wonders of his Gnocchi board. I saw the pics of fresh made Gnocchi, my stomach grumbled, and it was over. I MUST have home made Gnocchi this weekend. How difficult could it be, anyways?

Anyone accustomed to the desert southwest knows that Yuma is not the place for the culinary advanced. It isn’t for a lack of interest, I know many here who like to cook. Nor is it for a lack of exposure, one need only turn to the culinary bliss at Carla Rene’s, Ciao Bella, or River City Grill to taste culinary masterpieces. No, Yuma’s greatest culinary downfall is the lack of supplies! Both in ingredients and tools, if you want to venture too far away from flash frozen, pre made meals, this is not a place for you. Now, I have ran into this multiple times, in my hunt for Pancetta, Prosciutto, and TRUE Parmigiano Reggiano. The first two are an impossible task guaranteed to set your mind spinning, the last, good cheese, is achievable, but at ridiculously high prices. Now I know Parmigiano Reggiano is no cheap venture where every you are, but here it is almost twice as expensive as it is in the big city.

Well, the hard to find ingredients would not deter me from my Gnocchi, after all, Gnocchi is just potato, egg and flour, right? How hard can that be? Simple tools, simple ingredients, and I’m set for culinary bliss. Friday night! Date set, shopping list made, I was ready.

So Friday comes and I head to the local Super Wally World. They have EVERYTHING right?? I get my potatoes, eggs, bread flour, garlic, butter, mace, and salt. Head to produce for fresh sage and the troubles begin. They ARE OUT OF fresh sage! Ok, deep breath, no big deal. I’ll just swing by Fry’s on the way home, be all set. So now, I push my cart to the kitchen gadgets section. Cheesecloth and a Potato Ricer on my mind. Quick scan and I don’t see anything that looks like what I need. A double check and my pulse begins to rise. I flag down a clerk and first ask about cheesecloth. She informs me she “knows” they have it. Forty Five minutes later, with FOUR Walmart employees in the search, we have turned up NOTHING. No cheesecloth in kitchen gadgets, no cheesecloth in grocery, no cheesecloth in crafts, the cheesecloth has disappeared. I sigh, ok I can get cheesecloth elsewhere, right? Well, that comes in latter down, but for now, I thank the search party, turn to the leader, “Sergeant Kitchen Gadget Stock Boy”. I ask about the one last missing tool, the Potato Ricer. He looks at me dumbfounded, cocking his head slightly as I have apparently turned into a giant spinning purple baboon.

“What in the world is THAT?” he asks.

“Never mind…” I head to checkout, dejected. There will be no Gnocchi tonight. Maybe tomorrow will be a better.

Saturday comes, and me and my roommate have garage sales and thrift stores on our great “to do” list. I find some great beading items, but kitchen gear, not a one. No potato ricer to be seen. Second hand Gnocchi salvation will not be mine!

That evening, wanting a new outfit for the bar, I hit up Ross. Ross has a fun kitchen section, and you never know what you will find. Alas, no potato ricer. Not even and extra large garlic press to substitute. Not even a single strand of cheesecloth. Well, everyone counting? That’s two stores down.

Sunday, and I will not be denied any longer! First I hit Target to no avail, then Marshalls. Well, at Marshalls I SCORE!!!! No, no potato ricer, no cheesecloth, but I do find a BEECH WOOD HACHOIR BOWL AND MEZZALUNA!!!! I have wanted a mezzaluna for a long time, and with a matching hachoir bowl, made just for it!! Did I say SCORE!!?? Ok, this is too nice a set, its got to be out of my price range, and my Gnocchi budget is already blown, I turn the box over and see the price, $6.99. OMG, DOUBLE SCORE. I scan the shelf, nope, not another to be seen, I have gotten the last one, and at a price I can’t believe!!! My garlic sage gnocchi sauce is going to take on a whole new dimension!

Ok, off to Kohl’s. They are going out of business here, and everything is on sale. Keep in mind, this is store number FIVE. I search and search and search some more, and finally find an employee. Most have jumped from the sinking ship, knowing their jobs were quickly ending. This guy is not the kitchen gadget guy, but I ask anyways. Yep, he KNOWS what a potato ricer is!! He just sold one yesterday. Ohh joy of joys as he takes me to the display shelf that had them. It’s empty!! Don’t give up, he encourages me as he calls up to the warehouse, to the kitchen gadget stocker, for help. The stock guy searches and searches and searches. Twenty minutes of searching, with my heart frozen in time, the helpful clerk and me breathless with anticipation, pacing like we were waiting on news from a doctor in surgery, and finally, after a LIFETIME we get the bad news. They are out of all potato ricer’s! Not a one to be found, and with the store closing, not a one to be re-ordered.

This leaves me one, last, desperate hope. Blood, Bath and Beyond. I didn’t want to go there, they are always way overpriced, no matter what city you are in, but it must be. I walk in the door, kitchen gadget section ahead, and see it. From the front door I CAN SEE A POTATO RICER!!! I am overcome with joy, almost crying as I run to the BLESSED potato ricer!!

Nearly in tears as I check out, I remember the cheesecloth. I ask the clerk and here we go again. A frantic search of kitchen gadgets and kitchen basics. No cheesecloth! Store SIX and still not enough. Then I am hit with an epiphany! Joanne’s Fabrics is right around the corner. Not only do they have it, but they have A LOT OF IT, at dirt cheap prices. I can buy it pre-packed or by the yard. I grab the smallest pack they have, SIX Yards of food grade cheesecloth for five bucks!!

Know, I forgot to hit up Fry’s for sage, so a quick, exuberant gaunt into the grocery store, grab the sage (which is on sale), and I have enough in change to cover it. EIGHT stores total, THREE days, but THERE WILL BE GNOCCHI!

Ok, I made the gnocchi and sauce prepping at the same time, working together, but I will separate them here. The gnocchi I adapted from Shane’s recipe, which he adapted from Joy’s recipe (another member of BakeSpace). The sauce I completely adapted/changed from Shane’s simple browned butter sauce. No, I can not leave good enough alone, even on my first time. And yes, I have committed what many in San Diego would call “Culinary Blasphemy” by CHANGING one of Shane’s recipes. Shane is often referred to in reverence, and his culinary masterpieces are considered by many to be perfection. Even so, we all have different tastes, different styles, and any good cook takes a recipe and adapts it, makes it there own. Shane would understand. I mean, after all, its not like I changed his PASTA CARBONARA recipe, now THAT would be true blasphemy!!

Gnocchi Recipe:

1 ½ lb potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic
2 ¼ tsp kosher salt
2 Tb unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, and 1 extra egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp White Pepper, finely ground
1/8 tsp nutmeg or mace
1 cup + bread flour

Boil potatoes and garlic as if for mashed potatoes.
Rice potatoes and garlic together.
Place riced potatoes in pile on cutting board.

Make a well in center of potatoes.
Add egg, melted butter, salt, pepper, and ½ cup bread flour.
Knead into mass, adding more flour ¼ cup a time, until soft dough is formed.
If dough still EXTREAMLY sticky, add more flour 2 Tb at a time.
Dough should still be a little sticky.
Divide into 8 pieces.
Re-flour board and hands.
Roll rope approx ½ to ¾ inch thick.

Slice rope into ¾ inch long pieces.
Roll on Gnocchi board or fork design.
Freeze on cookie sheets or cook immediately.

Browned butter garlic sage sauce

2 cloves garlic
5 TB butter
5 leaves sage
6 leave clusters Italian parsley

Melt butter over low heat until it starts to brown.
Remove from heat and let sit five minutes.
Butter will continue to brown while it sits.
While butter sits to brown, gather herbs and garlic into your hachoir bowl.

Mince herbs with mezzaluna until fine.

After butter is browned, strain through cheesecloth.
Add minced herbs and simmer over low heat while gnocchi cooks, stirring constantly.
The little pieces of garlic will brown and take on a nutty texture and flavor. Stirring keeps them from burning. Nutty garlic crispies, yum!
After garlic had browned, add Gnocchi, toss with sauce, and pan seer.

Gnocchi heaven, well worth the wait and trauma of the weekend!!