It's a snow day for many after a windy, brisk storm dropped 6+ inches of snow over our concrete city. The sun is shining, but the temps outside are in the teens, making me want to stay inside and be productive. Unfortunately I've got to head out later and face the cold to trek to work.
If I could get out of it I would hunker down with a book, my journal, and a tea for a few hours before spending the evening in the kitchen preparing a dinner that takes a little more effort. This kind of day is perfect for such an undertaking. If you are lucky enough to have the time and the energy today, I have just the dish for you: homemade gnocchi.
I find gnocchi to be more fool-proof than regular pasta once you've figured out the proper consistency. Plus it never seems to take as long to get together (especially if you skip the rolling for grooves step). It creates a base that compliments many flavors from bright pesto to hearty ragu. This time around I went somewhere down the middle with a brown butter, sage, and shitake sauce to give it depth but still keep it on the lighter side. It's just the thing I want to curl up with as the snow blows against the window panes.
Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3/4-1 c. flour
8 oz. sliced shitake mushroom caps
1 TB olive oil
4-5 TB butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
2 TB parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender and fall off a fork when pierced. Strain out the potatoes, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
Push the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer onto a counter-top. Cool for about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle 1/4 c. of flour over top of the potatoes. Use a bench scraper to "chop" and mix the flour into the potatoes. You want to try to incorporate the flour without overworking the dough too much. Once the first addition of flour is almost mixed in, add another 1/4 c. of flour and repeat. Then add a third 1/4 c. of flour and chop and mix again. Now the dough should almost be pliant and ready to roll. To test, roll a small piece into a 1/2" tube and drop into a pot of boiling water. It should pop to the top of the water in about a minute or so. If the piece does not fall apart the dough is ready. If the dough does fall apart, add the remaining 1/4 c. of flour and test again.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll out each one into a snake about 1/2" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4" long. Sprinkle with a bit of flour and toss using the bench scraper to cover the gnocchi and help keep them from sticking. Then roll each piece on a gnocchi board or along the back of a fork to create grooves. Place the gnocchi onto a wax paper lined sheet pan as you repeat with the remaining dough.
Once the gnocchi are prepped, start on the sauce. Heat the 1 TB olive oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the shitake mushrooms once hot and saute until browned all over. Add the butter. Once it is melted and starting to sizzle, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the sage is fragrant and the butter is slightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside until gnocchi is boiled.
Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, probably in two batches to avoid sticking. Cook until the gnocchi bubbles to the top and let boil for about 30 seconds before removing from the water and straining. Be sure to reserve at least some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.
Once the gnocchi have been boiled and strained, return the mushroom butter sauce to a medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and let boil for about 30 seconds until it thickens up a bit. Add the gnocchi and toss. Add a bit more pasta cooking water if necessary. Remove from heat, toss with parsley, and grate on Parmesan cheese to serve.