I'm a huge fan of gnocchi. I have no specific expertise in the area, but after trying it in various locales it seems that its pronunciation is of endless variations (NYOH-kee according to the Food Lover's Companion), but its preparation options are even more endless.
I've had the opportunity to try gnocchi in a variety of cities recently: Stella Osteria in Ottawa; Weczaria in Saskatoon; Tulio in Seattle . . . and the list goes on. Having sampled all these various concoctions, I found that I truly had to separate the gnocchi from the sauce. Was it the little bundle of potato based flour that I was enjoying or the sauce.
Turns out it was both, however, upon breaking it down I did reach a conclusion. Of the actual gnocchi varietals, I truly adore the pillowy bundle that is tender and melting compared to its firmer cousins. So I began reviewing gnocchi recipes. As near as I could figure there are two schools of gnocchi (just like risotto) the French and the Italian. The French are based on a choux pastry recipe, whereas the French on more of a dough.
I've made the French style before, but it didn't have the pillowy substance that I was looking for. So this evening I opted to concoct a French variation (or at least that's what I call it). I started by baking some potatoes. Usually these recipes call for Yukon baking potatoes, but I didn't have any so I opted for teenie red potatoes (gasp from the crowd). I baked them at 400F until tender then riced them. I forgot to take a picture of the compilation of riced potatoes, but here's the remnants.
When my potatoes were nearing completion I started my choux pasty. It's a standard recipe that I've used for various things. You start by heating up butter and water. Then you quickly add flour and stir. Then you add eggs - one at a time - and stir in between. Any recipe I've seen says specirfically to use a wooden spoon for this - I'm not sure why, but am not one to mess with tradition. My arms were sore from stirring (perhaps my afternoon of raking leaves didn't help the cause). Once I finished this process I started it all over by adding my riced potatoes and some parmesan cheese and stirring more (it's even hard to type this my hands are sore from the stirring!). I now had my dough, which admittedly was much diffent, aka pasty, compared to other gnocchi doughs I've made.
I set up my own little gnocci production facility complete with a tea towel, flour, the dough, and a handy gnocchi roller. I dropped large teaspoons of the pastry onto the floured portion of my tea towel then rolled about, moving the nuggets to the other side of the tea towel in the process. I also cut them in half (or thirds) as requried to try ot maintain some uniformity of size. As for my gnocchi roller, purchased at an Italian grocery in Edmonton, I never realized its full potential until this cooking event.
After the little nuggets were all prepared, I put some water on to boil. Once boiling I added the gnocchi and lowered the heat to a simmer (boiling would obviously destroy them as they are so tender) for 15 minutes.
For serving I tried a parmesan cream sauce as well as a simple parmesan sprinkle with butter.
The verdict: my gnocchi had that pillowy soft texture that I love. But the sauce and finishing left a lot to be desired. I will have to try this again, hence the Trial #1 in the title - more experimenting to come.