Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Gnocchi

As we all know, I am useless in a kitchen. I am not a bad cook, I just lack experience in even the most basic culinary skills. Among other things, I've recently had to google how to boil eggs and brown hamburger meat - I already knew basically how to do it but I gather there's a technique to these things. And I decided a couple of months ago that this time in Turkey would be a good opportunity to figure out just what those techniques are. Julia Child didn't learn how to seriously cook until she was 37, right?

The main reason for this project is that when I feed myself in the USA, I tend to rely on packaged foods, like frozen pizza, maybe frozen waffles, macaroni and cheese, etc. And while there are amply stocked grocery stores here, they don't generally have that kind of stuff - rather, it's more focused on basic foodstuffs that you combine into other things. (Having said that, I've only been to our local grocery story, the double-M Migros...perhaps there's a world of packaged wonderland waiting at the larger triple-M stores.)

I'd already made other simple dinners like spaghetti or quesadillas, but I decided to make my first foray into "real" cooking last week with gnocchi. Which I know is supposed to be really hard to cook well but the instructions in The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, which I picked up in London some years ago, made it seem downright easy.

I had plugged some recipes into OneNote before coming here and as I got started, I realized that the cookbook actually had two different gnocchi recipes...one used egg and one used melted butter. I didn't know which way to go so I ended up consulting the doyenne of all things kitchen, Martha Stewart, who it turns out favors the egg route. Luckily I had some friends supervising my progress...

The recipe is pretty simple, however you do it. First you boil the unpeeled potatoes though I made a mistake by peeling them first. Not sure it made a difference. Then you mash the suckers. (Yes, I had to look this up.) The first real mistake I made was here, in not mashing them well enough - I used a fork and didn't crush every single chunk into smithereens...which I can see in retrospect was necessary to a smooth and fluffy final product. Then you plop the mashed potatoes onto a work surface and dump the flour and eggs into the middle to make a dough. I had no idea how messy it would all become; I felt like I was back in preschool playing with paste.

 Once you do that, you roll the dough into little logs and then cut them into pieces. I boiled them in groups so that I could adjust as I went along, if necessary.

It was necessary to adjust. My first batch surprised me, in the sense that they were edible; they weren't the greatest gnocchi ever but they still tasted like gnocchi. However, I hadn't used enough flour in the dough because it had just seemed like too much when I was mushing it all around; once I added the rest though, the gnocchi improved. Overall, I probably could have used more salt and next time I will definitely mash the potatoes better.

Final result...

So, anyone know how to do any/all of this better? Suggestions welcome! Pin It

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