Saturday, February 3, 2018

Beet Gnocchi, Revisited

By now, I've made gnocchi countless times. 

In tomato sauces, with pesto, or simply seared in brown butter with garlic.
(First gnocchi I ever made, in 2012, right below)

I've had to make potato gnocchi for both my food industry jobs, so I feel pretty confident when it comes to that version.

Beet gnocchi, however, is something else. My first attempt (circa 2015, I think) wasn't bad, if a little lumpy:

Then there was a sharp downturn in success when I tried to use grated candystripe (or Choggia) beets in my next batch in this post. Results below.

They were pretty gummy and what colour there was boiled out of most of them during cooking.

But I'm getting closer. This time, I used the more popular, dark-red beets (Detroit Dark Reds or similar variety). After roasting whole at 400 for about an hour, I peeled, chopped, and then processed the beet flesh into a purée with my handheld immersion blender. 

The below dough is about a half pound of puréed beets, two whole eggs, and enough flour to make the (very wet) mix stop spreading across the counter. 

It's hard to know by feel when to stop adding flour. I generally keep kneading it in until I can fold the dough in half, and the mound remains at the same height, instead of slumping back down into a puddle. 

A tip I learned from my current job involves taking a fingertip-sized piece of dough and dropping it into boiling water. If, after 15 seconds or so, the dough ball still holds together, the dough has enough flour. 

After I've reached that point, I roll half-inch-wide and 8-inch-long logs of dough, and cut them into half-inch-wide pieces. Then I press them into the back of a fork to make the traditional gnocchi lines.

I found this video to be really helpful with getting the impressions right.

Whenever I make gnocchi, I save a couple handfuls to have fresh, and freeze the rest.  

 Placed on baking sheets lined with parchment or plastic, and frozen for minimum four hours, they can be kept in an airtight container in the freezer for at least two months. That's the longest I've ever made it without devouring them, so they might keep longer. 

You can eat these in so many ways. Today, I made Seared Beet Gnocchi with Fennel, Garlic, and Feta. 

First, clean out the pot.

Then, add olive oil and start it on a low heat while simultaneously heating up a different pot of water on high. 

Meanwhile, thinly slice two cloves of garlic, a quarter of a fennel bulb, and a handful of parsley. When the water simmers, throw the garlic into the warm oil. 

After the garlic is soft, add the fennel and turn the heat to medium-high. While that's on a back burner, get the gnocchi. I made the above batch of beet gnocchi a little while ago, so I'm working with frozen. I'd say it's about a half-pound.

The light in my kitchen isn't great, so I'm putting the gnocchi in the water in front of my really big window. Don't do that - you want the water at a rolling boil. 

Colour will immediately start to leach from the gnocchi, but don't worry. The red is intense enough that it can stand to lose a bit.

Back onto the burner it goes. Stir the fennel and garlic and fry until golden. 

I like my gnocchi seared, and next time, I'll remove the vegetables when they've caramelized, since frying the gnocchi goes a touch longer than it takes to burn the veg.

At this point, I remembered that I have some spiced pork fat that was rendered from a dish at work. I added three tablespoons to the pot with the vegetables and let it heat up. Bacon fat works too, as does more olive oil or butter, though those last two will burn faster.

If I remember right, the spices in the fat were fresh rosemary, dried thyme, chili flakes, and dried oregano. I'd recommend adding a quarter teaspoon of each straight into the hot oil before the gnocchi.

Generally, with potato gnocchi, they're cooked through once they float to the surface of the water. These beet ones are a bit more dense, so they need an extra 10 seconds or so on the boil after they float. Once they do, transfer them straight to the hot oil/fat.

I let the gnocchi sit undisturbed for 1-2 minutes on medium-high heat. After that, they should be easier to remove from the bottom of the pot with a rigid metal or wood spatula. Stir frequently to coat with the oil and any added spices.

As soon they begin to display small, bright red blisters, they're done. 

Taste a gnocchi and decide if it needs salt. Mine did. Throw in parsley, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon. 

I decided that it needed cheese. I have this really soft, salty, Macedonian feta that I love putting in salads, and it was great in here. If I had balsamic vinegar in the cupboard, there would have been a drizzle of that on top, too. 

Great for cloudy days. 

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