My second class—and main course—was a pasta and gnocchi-making class from the amazing Michael Drazsnzak, executive chef at Colterra in Niwot, CO. Chef Michael is putting on a series of cooking demonstration classes throughout the summer, each with a different theme, but I was lucky to learn how to make pasta and gnocchi from the master.
I don’t have a pasta roller, and one of my dear foodie friends is gluten-free, so I decided that it would be much simpler to make a batch of gnocchi than pasta. In addition, gnocchi freeze beautifully, so I could make them several days in advance and then just plop them in the boiling water minutes before I was ready to serve.
A good plan, don’t you think?
And it absolutely was. Until I actually made the gnocchi.
On Sunday night, the weekend before the party, I baked up my potatoes, processed them through the food mill, added my eggs, and started adding Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour. I kneaded and mushed and pushed it all around until it got to the right consistency, added some salt, and then, just as I started shaping the gnocchi, I decided I ought to taste the dough, to make sure I had the right amount of salt.
Holy mother of YUCK.
I made a terrible face and nearly spat the whole thing out! It was AWFUL. That’s about when I noticed the smell, too…
Turns out, Bob’s Red Mill GF flour contains a large quantity of bean flour (garbanzo and fava), which gives it a very strange taste. I wouldn’t even call it “beany” as that would be too kind. NASTY is the first word that came to mind.
Horrified and dejected, I threw out the entire batch—five potatoes, five eggs, in the garbage.
I quickly contacted my gluten-free friend, and she suggested I use potato starch instead. Amazingly, I already had some in the cupboard. So, a couple of days later, I baked up some more potatoes, separated some more eggs, and mushed up another batch.
Thank goodness, this one tasted MUCH better.
The idea for the sauce came from a recipe for asparagus, mushrooms, and cream from Mark Bittman. I was able to use the very last of my wild asparagus as well as some dried wild porchinis from Wendy at Hunger and Thirst for Life. (Check out that link and judge for yourself the value of my friendship with Wendy!!)
|Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Asparagus and Mushroom Cream||
- 5 russet potatoes
- 5 egg yolks
- salt to taste
- 1 cup+ potato starch
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 ounce dried porcinis
- 1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
- 1 pound fresh white button mushrooms cleaned, trimmed and sliced
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 -inch lengths
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE GNOCCHI
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes and prick several times with the tines of a fork. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 hour or until soft. Allow to cool most of the way.
- Cut potatoes in half and scoop the potato out of the skins into a bowl. With a food mill, potato ricer, or potato masher, process the potatoes until very fine. Mound the potatoes up on a work surface and create a well in the middle. Pour the egg yolks into the well and begin mixing with your hands.
- As the egg becomes mixed into the potato, gradually add the potato starch and continue to mix until well combined. Add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Continue adding starch and mixing until you can easily shape the dough into a log without it sticking too much to your hands. You may need more than a cup of starch to achieve the proper consistency.
- Taste the dough to see if you need additional salt and add now if needed.
- Using a bench scraper, cut the dough into sixths. Take one piece and cover the rest with a towel to prevent it from drying. Using your hands, roll the dough into a rope about the width of a finger. Then, using the bench scraper, cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with all dough.
- To get the traditional marks on the gnocchi, roll each piece off the back of a fork (see photo).
- Place gnocchi on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper with no gnocchi touching and freeze for at least 2 hours before transferring to a zip-top freezer bag. Freeze until ready to use.
- FOR THE SAUCE
- Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl with the boiling water, cover, and let stand for about 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and reserve 1/2 cup of the mushroom water.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add shallots, fresh mushrooms, and dried mushrooms. Cook until the fresh mushrooms have released most of their liquid and the liquid has evaporated off, about 10 minutes.
- Add the asparagus and the mushroom water to the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook, covered, for about 4 minutes or until asparagus is crisp tender.
- Add cream, tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook for an additional 4–5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
- TO SERVE
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the frozen gnocchi to the pot and cook for about 3–5 minutes, or until the gnocchi float. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon and serve with asparagus sauce.
For a dinner party, I prepared and froze the gnocchi several days ahead. About half an hour before my guests arrived, I prepared the sauce, then turned off the heat. I also boiled a pot of water, then left it simmering on low heat. After the appetizer course, I turned the water back up to a boil, and turned the heat back on under the sauce. I boiled the gnocchi and dished them directly into bowls, topping with sauce and a sprig of fresh tarragon for serving.
My very kind friends said that my gnocchi was very good: light and fluffy without being gummy or gluey. I think the potato starch may be the reason for that, and I would suggest trying it even if you are not gluten-free.