thanksgiving dish re-invented: sweet potato goes gnocchi
I actually teach gnocchi-making, and sweet potato gnocchi is one of my favorite variations. The recipe is inspired by fellow Chef Iole. You pronounce it /ee oh lay/ and yes: she is Italian. You may or may not know this about me, but I have a great affinity for Italian food. It is one of my specialties; I like to tell people that living in Italy for a year taught me 'a thing or two about tiramisu and ragu.'
One of my favorite 'unnecessary' cooking tools is gnocchi paddles (see picture). They look like miniature cheese boards with little lines---they practically make the gnocchi for you. When I teach, I have everyone experiment using the paddle (because it's fun!) but become proficient with a fork. All you really need is a fork, and since you all have forks: you can easily make sweet potato gnocchi.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce serves 8.
2 1-pound red-skinned sweet potatoes 1 12-ounce container fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve 2 hours 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces) 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 2 3/4 cups (about) all purpose flour
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, place sweet potatoes on sheet and bake in 375 degree oven for 45 min - hour, depending on size. When cool enough to touch, peel off skins, then mash potatoes and place 3 cups of mashed potatoes into a large bowl. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 3 minutes; divide into 4- 6 equal pieces (or as many people as are making gnocchi...). Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a long rope (about 3/4 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky (but only as needed, don’t add too much flour!). Cut each rope into uniform pieces; I usually tell students to aim for ¾ inch pieces.
Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent---I use the back side of the fork. Lightly press gnocchi in middle of back of fork, with thumb pressing/angled toward tines. Flick gnocchi off end and onto counter. The best tip? Flick it like you mean it, pretend you have been doing it a million times... and your gnocchi will believe you.
Transfer to a baking sheet or tray and toss lightly with semolina, polenta or rice flour (no gluten) so they don’t stick to each other---no more than a single layer. Bring large pot of salted water to boil; have spider/mesh strainer nearby. Working in batches, add gnocchi to boiling water (don't overfill the pot---you will cool down the water too much and the gnocchi won't cook properly. Depending on size of pot, place only enough gnocchi to cover approximately 1/2 the surface, single layer).
Cook until gnocchi float and are tender, 2-3 minutes. Scoop the gnocchi out of the water and into colander. Once drained transfer gnocchi to brown butter sage sauce. Toss gnocchi in sauce being very carefully not to mash dumplings---don't over-mix! Divide gnocchi into shallow bowls and serve.
Sometimes instead of serving them with brown butter just out of the pot, I saute the just cooked gnocchi with bite-size, barely-blanched vegetables like beans, asparagus, edamame or chanterelles (I just cleaned and sauteed the mushrooms---they aren't blanched). The other day I topped gnocchi with roasted kale 'chips'.
For Thanksgiving---especially since I dare replace the 'sundae version of sweet potatoes' (marshmallow? brown sugar and pecans?)---I will be tossing my sweet potato gnocchi with candied bacon and maple-glazed pecans. Lest I get in trouble for removing a quintessential sweet potato staple.
A good fall-back for your gnocchi---whether using yellow wax potatoes or sweet potatoes---is to make a quick brown-butter and sage sauce:
Brown Butter Sage Sauce serves 6-8.
1/2 cup or 2/3 cup unsalted butter 1/2 bunch of sage leaves---approx 1/3 cup (left whole or sliced---I like to slice 'em) Freshly grated Parmesan Kosher Salt & Coarse Pepper (KS&CP)
Cook the butter with sage leaves and salt until the butter starts to brown, toss the cooked gnocchi with butter sage sauce. Garnish with grated Parmesan and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Sage and butter LOVE black pepper. And so do I.