As those of you who live in the Philadelphia area may be aware, we here at Fante’s hold weekly demos to show off some of the amazing kitchen gadgets we have. This week, we’re bringing out our wide variety of food mills, a subject that always gets our stomachs grumbling. Food mills are often (unfairly) dismissed as yesterday’s kitchen gizmo – grandma’s food processor – or even pigeonholed as only useful for homemade baby food. We couldn’t disagree more (though the baby food thing is pretty handy).
In short, food mills puree your food. Depending on the make and model, they also come with a few different discs in varying degrees of coarseness, from fine (think silky pea puree) to coarse (think pizza sauces). The key is to choose the right disc for the job, and to prepare whatever food you’re milling correctly.
For this week’s recipe we needed to be extra careful to blanch our potatoes completely. Undercooked potatoes will fight back! Trust us. We’ve seen enough vanquished potato ricers over the years, lost before their time simply because the user forced through an undercooked potato, leaving them with a tangled piece of metal.
Our food mill proved to be a great asset for this week’s cooking odyssey. Our mill, combined with a hot cast iron pan and a creative fix for a bitter basil-walnut pesto left us with the best gnocchi we’ve had in a looooong time.
We decided to play around with one of our in-store potato gnocchi recipes, which is originally from Nunzio Patruno’s Monte Carlo Living Room here in Philadelphia. You can now sample Nunzio’s excellent cuisine at Nunzio’s in Collingswood, NJ. Everyone has his own “inside information” on how to achieve feather-light potato gnocchi. We put together a hybrid of sorts. Here’s the full recipe, with our special toque tip at the bottom…
Nunzio Patruno’s Potato Gnocchi
3 lbs Idaho (russet) potatoes, whole with skin
1 lb all purpose flour
2 whole eggs
Salt to taste
Boil whole potatoes with their skins until tender, 30 to 40 minutes*
Peel while hot and pass through a food mill or ricer (not a food processor).
Immediately fold in flour and eggs. Dough should be very pliant, but not sticky. Adjust, if necessary, with flour or water.
Roll dough into 1/2-inch thick cylinders, then slice into 1/2-inch segments.
Roll each segment gently over a gnocchi board to put grooves in the sides. (Alternately, you can use a fork or a small whisk.)
Transfer to baking sheet and coat with olive oil.
*One of our favorite ways to simply roast a potato for a side dish is to parboil them before finishing with a roast in the oven. This is how we approached our gnocchi recipe. Rather than following the full 30-40 minutes Nunzio’s recipe calls for, we cut that time in half and finished the potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. We were careful not to brown the potatoes, but to just get them dry and cooked through before running them through our mill. After that, we spread them out on our parchment-lined baking sheet to cool, making sure not to pile the milled potatoes. Less handling = fluffier gnocchi!
Another detour we took was with the sauce. Considering the abundance of basil we needed to use (overflowing garden) we decided to toss the finished gnocchi in a light pesto. However, after preparing the sauce, we found the late-harvested basil to be beyond peppery, with an almost bitter taste. With all the audibles we’ been calling, our dinner play clock was quickly ticking down with no timeouts remaining. Opening the refrigerator in frustration, we spotted a pint of heavy cream. The idea of cutting the bitter basil pesto with a luscious cream was too much to resist.
2 cups basil
2 cups Parmesan cheese
2 medium garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup roasted walnuts
1 1/2 -2 cups olive oil
For this, we prepared our pesto in a mortar and pestle, which gave a heartier finished product. If you’re going for a smoother texture (which would be a good idea for this recipe) we recommend a food processor.
After our pesto was finished, we had a mini-meltdown over the bitter taste (see above) and added 1 1/2 cups of cream to a small saucepan and whisked it together with our pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste, and warm in your saucepan over low-medium heat for a few minutes to combine.
Final step! With our gnocchi formed and hanging out on our cookie sheets, we coated a cast iron skillet with olive oil (butter would work well, too) and brought it up to medium-high heat. We added an even layer of gnocchi to the pan and gave them a pan fry for a few minutes (depending on how dark you’re looking for). This created a nice crispy exterior, which was a great match for our creamy pesto sauce.
While the pan-fry took away somewhat from the fluffiness of our gnocchi, the trade-off for crispiness was more than worth it.
How do you like your gnocchi? Send us your recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org!