Sunday, March 28, 2010

Passover 2010 -- Potato Gnocchi

Passover cooking doesn’t really faze me. I do a lot of cooking from scratch anyway. It is the sheer amount of cooking that gets to me. I’m not referring to the Seder meals, that I can handle. It’s the day in and day out needing to prepare every bite my family and I eat that wears me down. The only short cuts are expensive packaged foods of dubitable taste and quality. Every meal requires lots of planning and cooking.

That’s why when my sons were young I came up with my Passover Potato Gnocchi recipe. I could bake extra potatoes one night, turn them in an easy- to-use dish the next night and even make extras to use for a quick meal or side dish later. This recipe is parve (meaning there are no meat or milk ingredients), so it is very versatile. My sons loved helping to make the gnocchi as well as eating it, preferably smothered in tomato or pesto sauce.

Passover Potato Gnocchi

Makes about 80 gnocchi

Gnocchi are small Italian dumplings served as pasta. These use matzoh cake meal instead of flour, which give them a nutty, almost whole wheat taste. I’ve simplified their shaping to make forming the dumplings fairly quick and easy.

Use the gnocchi with your sauce of choice or just toss them with butter or cheese. You can also play with the flavor by adding additional seasonings or a few tablespoons of chopped or pureed herbs to the batter. This makes enough for 4-5 as a main course (with a hearty sauce) and about 6-8 as a side dish. The recipe can be doubled if you want to make extra. See the notes at the end of the recipe for storage tips.

Be sure to use potatoes that are steamed or baked, not boiled. Soggy potatoes absorb more of the cake meal and result in a doughy tasting gnocchi. Exactly how much matzoh cake meal you’ll need will depend on the moisture in your potatoes.

2 lbs. russet potatoes, baked, or cut in large chunks and steamed until just soft.
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp. and ¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
About ¾ to 1 cup of matzoh cake meal flour, plus additional as needed

Allow potatoes to cool. Remove skins. Rice or mash potatoes thoroughly in large bowl until smooth. Mix in eggs, ½ tsp. salt and pepper. Add ¼ cup of matzoh cake meal, stir until absorbed. Add ¼ cup more and stir until absorbed. Add additional ¼ cup of matzoh cake meal and stir again. Begin to mix and knead the potato mixture with your hands until the matzoh meal is well combined and has formed a soft dough. Knead in more matzoh meal as needed until the dough’s surface is fairly dry. You should be able to roll a bit of the dough into a ball in your hands and not have it be sticky.

Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Dust a clean, dry work surface with some of the matzoh cake meal. Roll out one part at a time into a log about ½” wide and 12” long. Cut into 10 pieces and roll by hand into small ovals. Keep the ovals about the same width and length to make sure they cook evenly. (Optional, press the back of a fork into each oval to create “ridges” to catch the sauce.) Place gnocchi in single layers on baking tray or plates. Repeat until all the gnocchi have been rolled out and shaped.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ¼ tsp. salt. Add about a fourth (20 or so) of the gnocchi at a time to the pot. The gnocchi will float to the top fairly quickly. Cook for an additional 2 minutes and scoop out with a slotted spoon. Toss the gnocchi in oil, butter or sauce to prevent them from sticking and keep warm. Return the water to a boil and repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.

To make ahead, shape all the gnocchi and place in single layers on baking trays. The dumplings should not be touching. Cover with wax paper and then place a very slightly dampened tea towel on top. Store at room temperature for up to an hour or two and then boil as directed. If you need to keep them longer than that follow the directions for freezing.

To freeze uncooked gnocchi for later use, set dumplings in a single layer on baking tray. Place in freezer. Once individually frozen, remove from tray and store in plastic freezer bag. Do not defrost. Cook in boiling, salted water as above until cooked through.

To store leftover cooked gnocchi, toss in olive or other oil to coat and store covered in the refrigerator. Gently reheat in sauce, in steamer or in microwave.

(Originally published in the Temple Beth Abraham Omer)

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