Oh, the joys of being a Minnesotan.
We were lucky enough to be treated to an unseasonably warm Saturday this past weekend. It was in the upper sixties. In November. It felt balmy, it felt springlike, it felt…
…especially cold Sunday when the temperauture dropped forty degrees and snow flurries started falling.
But it’s November, it’s Minnesota, and millions of people in less land-locked parts of our country have far worse weather related woes right now. So I won’t complain; I’ll cope.
My coping mechanism: potatoes, butter, cheese. Sage and chestnuts will help, too.
We’re going to make chestnut gnocchi with sage brown butter and cover it with flurries of Parmesan. Those are flurries I can handle.
Boil potatoes, assemble equipment and strategy. Baking sheet or two, ricer, mesh sieve, fork. Matt should be in this picture, too. He’s my secret gnocchi-rolling machine.
To make the dough, we’re going to press peeled, boiled Russet potatoes through a ricer. My ricer looks like a giant garlic press, maybe you have the kind that looks more like a colander with a hand-crank on top. Either will do the trick.
Spread out the little potato worms, sprinkle them with a bit of salt, and let them dry out for half an hour or so. Take this opportunity to set the table, open a bottle of wine, rinse some greens for a salad. Things are going to move kind of fast after this.
Pour an egg over the cooled, riced potatoes, incorporate with a fork. Sift flour over the egg-y potatoes. I’m using a mix of chestnut flour and all-purpose. The chestnut flour is going to give the gnocchi an extra delicious, sweet, nutty taste. It is also responsible for the kind of weird color.
How much flour should you add? Well, I recall my Italian grandmother relaying her gnocchi recipe to my dad, telling him to add flour until the dough feels “right”, as if that were some sort of scientific measure. In other words, it’s a delicate balance. You have to be in touch with the size of your potatoes and their moisture level. You add enough flour so everything comes together but not so much that you end up with potato glue. My advice, don’t judge your first few batches of gnocchi too harshly; it takes practice. And even if the texture is a little off, don’t sweat it. Sage brown butter makes everything taste good.
After you’ve added what you’ve deemed the right amount of flour (it was about 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups for my 4 medium potatoes) combine everything with a fork and knead it briefly, until it is a workable dough.
Now, divide the dough into a couple managable pieces and roll into long “snakes”. Cut the long pieces into half inch lengths. You can roll these pieces along the back of a floured fork to make little sauce-grabbing ridges but I don’t think it is necessary for what we’re doing tonight. Plus, I lack the patience needed for that sort of thing.
Okay, the hard part is over. Our sauce will only take about as long as the gnocchi take to boil. Just toast some chopped chestnuts, melt and brown some butter, toss in some sage leaves. Bathe the gnocchi in the fragrant, nutty butter, sprinkle generously with black pepper and shower with grated Parmesan.
Okay, Winter. I can deal.
- For the Gnocchi
- 2 # Russet Potatoes (about 4 medium)
- ½ tsp. Salt
- 1 Egg
- ½ c. Chestnut Flour
- ½- 1 c. All-Purpose Flour
For the Sauce
- 6 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- ⅓ c. Cooked Chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage Leaves (I used the lower, small leaves and left them whole. If using larger leaves, you may want to chop them a bit)
- Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
- Freshly Grated Parmesan
- Boil potatoes until just tender (before the peels start splitting), about 20 minutes, and drain. Allow to cool slightly, then peel.
- Press peeled potatoes through a ricer and spread on a baking sheet or clean countertop. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and allow potatoes to cool and dry for 30 minutes.
- When potatoes are cool, whisk an egg in a small bowl, and drizzle over the potatoes. Use a fork to gently combine. Sift chestnut flour over mixture, using fork to incorporate. Sift all-purpose flour, starting with ½ c., over mixture and continue mixing with the fork and adding additional flour until a soft dough is formed. Knead the dough a couple times until it is a workable texture.
- Divide the dough in quarters and roll each piece into a long snake, about ¾ in. in diameter. Cut the snake into ½ inch lengths and place each individual gnoccho on a lightly floured, towel-covered baking sheet.
- To make the sauce, heat the butter and chestnuts in a wide saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Toss in the sage leaves and let the butter bubble until it takes on a golden color, 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drop the gnocchi into a large pot of boiling, salted water. Cook the gnocchi in two batches so they won't crowd and stick to each other. Using a large slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi when they float to the top (about 2 minutes) and add them directly to the butter sauce. You may need to add a little of the gnocchi cooking water to stretch the sauce and help it evenly coat the gnocchi. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- Divide gnocchi between warm plates and shower with freshly grated Parmesan.