Monday, January 4, 2010

Rhymes with pokey

We’re heading into the bleak season for locavores. The PSU Farmers’ Market is closed until spring and opportunities for getting local food are fewer and far between. But I’m thankful for two things. 1. The Hillsdale Farmers’ Market is open two Sundays a month until May and 2. Trevor’s early Christmas present to me: a burlap sack filled with Persephone Farm potatoes, onions, shallots and a few winter squash.

We will be eating a lot of potatoes this winter. But when it’s cold and gray outside, steaming potatoes in just about any presentation are so filling and warm. One of the best uses for all these potatoes is gnocchi. We get our Potato Gnocchi recipe from Lidia Bastianch’s Lidia’s Italian-American Cookbook. I think I’ve mentioned how Trevor and I had a love-hate relationship with this book when we first started cooking with it. Well it’s now changed to a walking-around-in-a-daze, almost-too-infatuated-to-eat, straight-up love relationship.

But the first time we made gnocchi, I think I was cursing Lidia’s name. Our first ill-fated, gnocchi-making adventure lasted about six hours. By the time we were finished, the kitchen was covered in tomato sauce, and Trevor had sustained a deep gash in his hand and had bled all over his shoes. It’s really a testament to the strength of our relationship that we remained married after that ordeal. And somehow we decided it’d be a good idea to make gnocchi again.

To be fair, our main frustration in making the recipe that first time is that we didn’t know what was (or have) a potato ricer. I had a vague idea, and Trevor attempted to fashion one from a can — hence blood-covered shoes. A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press. Peeled, hot boiled potatoes are squished through it and fluffy little strands of potatoes come out. Another key to good gnocchi is making sure the potatoes are completely cool after they are riced.

And getting the right amount of flour can be tricky. I’ve learned with this recipe to measure out 2 cups of flour, set a timer for 10 minutes and then slowly fold/knead in the flour a little at a time until the time is up or almost up. The dough shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry. The only way to really learn how to get it right is to make the gnocchi a few times.

Happily, today we are gnocchi pros. It’s still time-consuming (more like two hours instead of six), but we put the extra gnocchi in the freezer and have many more meals that take only as long as it takes to boil water and heat up sauce.
Usually we have Lidia’s tomato sauce with the gnocchi, but a few weeks ago we decided to try her Gorgonzola Sauce, also in her Italian-American cookbook. It took our gnocchi to a whole new level. Of course, how could a sauce with butter, two cheeses and cream not be heavenly? Especially with Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola cheese. It was like the best mac and cheese you’ve ever had in your life. I highly recommend it for your must-try list.

Lidia’s Italian-American Cookbook
Oregonzola cheese

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