Friday, March 21, 2008
Seeking Gnocchi Nirvana
My latest food obsession is gnocchi, and wow, is it ever hard to get just right. If you've ever tried to make it, then you probably know this to be true. There are so many factors that can go wrong. The dough can turn out to be too heavy or too sticky, or the gnocchi can fall apart when you cook them. And even if you avoid all this, the end result can still be heavy instead of fluffy and light as air.
I wish I could tell you what to do to achieve perfect results, but I'm still learning. I want the process to be scientific: measure out this much of this and that, do this to it, then do this to it, and gnocchi nirvana shall be yours. But I fear it's not going to be quite that simple.
Yesterday my lovely pal Sabine and I tested out a recipe we found in Food & Wine Magazine. And in fact, the gnocchi were quite good. Don't they look tasty in the picture? We followed the recipe to the letter, and the dough wasn't too sticky or heavy, and the gnocchi cooked up very nicely. But all three of us who enjoyed the meal agreed that while these gnocchi were good, we wanted them to be lighter and fluffier and a little more delicate. Gnocchi nirvana had not been achieved, but we were not exactly complaining as we enjoyed our feast. Sabine and I agreed to remain obsessed until we found the perfect recipe.
So today, I began looking (everywhere from The Silver Spoon to The Joy of Cooking and many random web sites and food blogs), and discovered that so many recipes offer different takes on the matter, with so much conflicting information. Some recipes say to use an egg in the dough, others don't. Some swear you must bake the potatoes while others say you must boil them. One recipe said you must work with the potatoes when they're hot, while other recipes said to cool completely first. Some say to always use a ricer and never mash the potatoes. And then, others say mash the potatoes! It's a little exasperating for someone like me who just wants to follow step-by-step instructions. And who's got the time to test out every single recipe out there?
For the record, I think the Food & Wine recipe has some very good techniques, such as baking the potatoes on a bed of coarse salt to draw out the moisture, and using yukon gold potatoes instead of russet. If this was the only recipe you had to work with, you would not be in bad shape.
But, I'm dearly hoping that someone out there reading this may be able to point me to a recipe that takes me one step closer to nirvana - the perfect recipe for light, fluffy, delicate gnocchi. Does it exist? Sabine and I sure hope so!