Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gnocchi, without the vacuum-sealed bag

About 10 years ago, we packed our bags and headed to the mountains of North Carolina for a family vacation. We rented a house near Boone that was big enough for the three of us, my in-laws, and Tim's brother and his four kids. Considering how many people we needed to feed at each meal, we also packed groceries to make easy eat-in meals.

Among the staples we selected were several vacuum-sealed boxes of gnocchi, which apparently was not available back then in East Liverpool, Ohio. My mother-in-law, a wonderful woman who would be the first to tell you she's not an adventurous cook, decided to get a head start on dinner. After simmering the gnocchi for a while she asked me how to tell if they were done. Imagine my surprise when I saw them bubbling away, still in the plastic bag and congealed into one enormous gluey dumpling.

I've made boxed gnocchi countless times and ways since then, and enjoyed the fresh-made, tender pillows of potato goodness at fine restaurants. I've often wanted to try making them from scratch but assumed it was too difficult. Not anymore.

This month's issue of Bon Appetit features Lidia Bastianch's butternut squash gnocchi with sage browned butter. We aleady had a fresh butternut squash from the market and Tim planned to replace our summer-stressed sage plant this weekend. With the stars so obviously aligned, I decided the time had come to learn how to make gnocchi.

Like many delicacies, gnocchi really isn't hard to make. While a bit different than other versions I've since checked online -- Lidia says to peel the potato before boiling and cook the gnocchi in stages and a bit longer -- her recipe is easy to follow. The only really tricky part is rolling of each piece into the classic shape and texture. I wish I'd taken a look at this how-to video before I made my somewhat squished examples.

I needn't have worried about their looks, or whether Graham would actually eat squash. While Lidia claimed the recipe would serve six, there was not a bite left.

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