I spent a big chunk of Monday evening making these gnocchi after studying most of the weekend for an exam at school. The recipe comes from the September issue of Cook’s Illustrated, and since it’s full of useful cooking science advice, I thought I’d have plenty to share about my experience making the gnocchi. Like gluten development when kneading the potato-flour mixture and starch granules within the potatoes themselves. But then I tried to modify the sauce recipe (taking out the heavy cream and replacing it with half-and-half) and it all fell apart on me. Literally. First, I combined the wine and heavy cream in a skillet, turned on the heat, and it curdled. Thinking that the heat was on too high too soon, I started over with the heat way down and just the cream.
And it curdled. Curious about what I was doing wrong, I turned to Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise book, a reference I used during my food science class last year. I was doing most everything wrong, it turns out, because I was making a reduction sauce. Shirley lists a few reasons for what happened to my sauce:
– The wine: If it isn’t boiled before adding the dairy element, the milk or cream can curdle. Alcohol and other compounds need to undergo chemical changes (caused by heat) before adding the cream.
– Using lower-fat dairy: By not using cream, there wasn’t enough fat in my sauce to coat the milk proteins. Heat and acid (like the wine) can cause these proteins to unwind and reform as coagulated masses. Adding a starch element can help with this issue.
After two attempts, I switched to heavy cream and followed the recipe as outlined in the recipe. Both the gnocchi and the sauce turned out wonderfully. Having spent time in the Cook’s Illustrated offices, I knew the recipe was a winner, but I was trying to lighten it up a bit. Guess I’ll save that project for another time.
Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Blue Cheese Sauce
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine
For the gnocchi:
2 pounds russet potatoes, about 3 large
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading (about 3/4 cups)
1 teaspoon + 1 Tablespoon salt
For the sauce:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 ounces blue cheese, like Gorgonzola (I used Whole Food’s brand blue cheese)
2 Tablespoons chives, minced
1) Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat to 450-degrees. Poke each potato about 8 times with a paring knife over the entire surface. Place potatoes directly on the oven rake and bake until a fork slides easily through the potatoes, about 40 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and peel with the paring knife (hold potatoes in a towel or pot holder). Process the potatoes through a potato masher or ricer onto a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
2) Transfer 3 cups warm potatoes to a bowl. Using a fork, gently stir in the egg until just combined. Sprinkle flour and 1 teaspoon salt over potato mixture. Using a fork, gently combine until no pockets of flour remain. Press the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead until smooth but still slightly sticky, about 1 minute.
3) Cut the dough into 8 pieces. On the floured counter top (add more flour as needed), roll each piece of dough into 1/4-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch long pieces. Using a fork with the tines pointed down, press each of the dough pieces against the tines with your thumb to create indentations. Dust with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
4) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon salt. As the water comes to a boil, prepare the sauce.
For the sauce:
5) Bring wine to a simmer in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cream. Gradually add the blue cheese while whisking constantly until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chives and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cover to keep warm.
Putting it all together:
6) Gently add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until firm and just cooked through, about 90 seconds. The gnocchi will float to the surface after about 1 minute: allow to cook 30 more seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi to the skillet with sauce. Gently toss the gnocchi and pasta to coat. Serve immediately.