Gnocch' Out

In the spirit of continuing my culinary education, my mom asked me what I wanted to learn to make next. Although I'd made them with her before, I asked if we could make gnocchi to jog my memory since the last time had probably been over five years ago. After weighing out the ingredients we already had and the amount of time left until dinner, my mom proposed that we make potato gnocchi with a mixed mushroom sauce. I enthusiastically agreed and my stomach gurgled in assent.

For the gnocchi, we boiled the whole russet potatoes- about 2 kg- with salt in order to make the skin easier to peel and to prevent the potatoes from absorbing too much water, as this would make the dumpling dough harder to stick together. The potatoes were peeled while still warm and mashed in a strainer, after which they were left to cool completely.

In the meantime, we got the sauce ready. We chopped a mix of mushrooms- cremini, shiitake, and dried porcini (soaked beforehand)- and sauteed them in a pan with butter, oil, garlic and parsley. My mom added a touch of cream at the end.

Once the potato pulp had cooled, my mom poured it onto the floured counter, where she gradually mixed in the flour (400 g) and 2 eggs until the mixture began to stick together and take the consistency of a dough. Once amalgamated, the dough was then parsed into smaller pieces, rolled out into thick snakes, and cut into 1-inch pieces that resembled tiny pillows.

Then came the fun part! With a fork in one hand, each gnocco was given its grooves. This happened by taking one gnocco at a time and running it down the tines of a fork with the quick roll of an index finger. In this way, each dumpling was marked not only with beehive ridges on one side, but the indentation of the cook's finger on the other- a dimple and literal mark of the handmade. As each gnocco completed this initiation, ending its journey down the tines transformed, it was dropped on a floured kitchen towel lining a tray to await the boiling pot.

Minutes before dinner time, they were plopped a few at a time into the bubbling water, to prevent them from sticking together, and cooked for a few minutes each. My mom had propped a ceramic baking dish on top of another boiling pot of water in order to keep it warm, and transferred the cooked dumplings to this dish, where they would be kept warm while the rest also cooked.

Finally, it was time to eat. The sauce was mixed in and the fruits of our labors divided into three bowls. The servings were abundant and topped with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. The humble and plain potato gnocco, dressed in creamy and flavorful mushrooms, turned out to be anything but.

*The proportions from this recipe produced enough for three heaping bowls and we froze the rest to be used another time.


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