Barely fall and I’m already hitting the cream sauce? Not totally since I used milk instead of cream for this dish. I was also able to sneak in whole wheat flour for the gnocchi, instead of all-purpose white. Still, D proclaimed this dish to be exceptional, drinking up the leftover sauce on his plate. I guess gnocchi really is worth the effort.
The first time I made potato gnocchi was years ago. I was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at a friend’s apartment. These were the days before the world had heard about Williamsburg, when it was far less gentrified, and you could still see true locals mingling with the new batch of students and artists moving in. As far as I can remember the closest grocery store was a 20 minute walk.
My friend lived off the beaten track, at the time. Now two sparkling luxury buildings are within a block of her old apartment and my friend has since moved to Chicago. She probably wouldn’t be able to afford rent these days.
I got off the L train and walked the 12 frozen, wintered blocks to her apartment building nestled just under the Williamsburg Bridge. Up in her apartment, the table was dusted with flour and potatoes were rapidly boiling away.
“What are you doing?!”
“Making gnocchi. Help.”
It was not a question. I was soon ricing potatoes and elbow deep in flour. Rolling thumb sized dough balls measured to her specification and redone if not identical to the last one. Thumb indented and fork pressed, we lined them on a baking sheet to ready them for the boiling water.
I cannot remember what we ate with them– or whether I ate them at all. All I can honestly remember is flour and potatoes everywhere. I feel like we made hundreds of little gnocchi. Was there a party? We climbed outside the kitchen window to hang out on the roof of the adjoining car repair shop and watched the trains come over the bridge despite the cold. As many City folk know, outside access is not to be taken lightly and will be utilized in all weather conditions.
I thought those to be the last of my gnocchi days. Until I told D about them…
We were contemplating what to do with all our potatoes. “Gnocchi?” I suggested hesitantly to D.
“They’re like… little potato pasta dumplings. But they’re sort of a pain, forget it.”
“NO! Those sound good, let’s make them!”
“We don’t have a ricer, forget it. Why don’t we make the mushroom sauce and just fry the potatoes instead.” [I was sure I could win him over with “fry.”]
“No, that doesn’t sound good.”
[That still sounds good to me] “Well, I suppose we could use the box grater…”
“Perfect! Let’s do it.”
So there I was. Boiling potatoes, elbow deep in flour once again. This time, with D as my assistant peeling and grating away. Rolling, dividing, rolling, forming, thumb, fork, rest. Who would have guessed that our one little bag would make so many gnocchi– we had enough for 3 days, lunch and dinner. (So more gnocchi to come.)
Gnocchi w/ 3 Mushroom Cream Sauce & Peas
Serving Size=4 as main; 8 for starter
For the Gnocchi
1 pound russet potatoes, boiled whole w/ skins on
1-1/2 cup flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
1-2 teaspoons salt
For the Mushroom Cream Sauce w/ Peas
3-4 shiitake mushrooms
3-4 oyster mushrooms
1 large or 2 small/ medium sized portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (or whole milk)
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 pound beans, Romano, Green or Sugar Snap
1) Make the gnocchi: Boil potatoes whole w/ skin on, do not pierce. You do not want the potatoes to absorb water. Once done, using a towel to hold potatoes and pop them out of their skin. Grate them with the large-toothed box grater or ricer. Spread the shavings on a cookie sheet to keep them from sticking together.
2) Make a mound of the potato shavings and place the flour at the center of the mound. Make a moat and crack the egg inside. Roll dough together, incorporating all the potato and flour together. Add more flour if needed. Dough is finished when it no longer sticks to your fingers.
3) Divide dough into four sections. Roll until about 1 inch thick and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Indent one side with your thumb and the other side with a fork. This will help hold the sauce and cook them more evenly. Assemble on a cookie sheet to keep them from touching.
4) Make the sauce. Clean and slice mushrooms into 1/2 inch pieces. Heat the butter in a large skillet until the bubbles subside. Add mushrooms and saute, 4-5 minutes, until they reduce. Add white wine and cook until reduces slightly and the alcohol burns off, 2-3 minutes. If using milk, add peas at this point, heating until almost finished and darker green. Add milk and slowly heat until warm. If using cream, add cream and peas at the same time and cook until peas are dark green and done, 2-3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of parsley, reserving the rest to sprinkle on top. Keep warm while you finish the gnocchi
5) Finish gnocchi. Place gnocchi in rapidly boiling water. Gnocchi will float to the surface once cooked.
6) To serve, top gnocchi with sauce and sprinkle parsley.