keito potato

Watercress Gnocchi
April 7, 2010, 4:01 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , ,

In planning an Easter menu, deviled eggs are the traditional constant. For the rest of the meal I pursue new recipes featuring seasonal produce. This year I pulled out my Cafe Paradiso Seasons cookbook by Denis Cotter, which has become one of my top favorite cookbooks. It’s a seasonal cookbook put out by one of the top restaurants in Ireland. It’s darn exquisite. I flipped to the chapter on “early spring” and found this watercress gnocchi recipe. It’s a standard potato gnocchi, but with joyful green flecks of watercress mixed into the dough. I imagine you could substitute tender spinach leaves if watercress is hard to find in your neighborhood.

Denis pairs his gnocchi with a roasted tomato cream sauce. As I still don’t have a special place in my heart for tomatoes, I didn’t enjoy the sauce as much as I had imagined. So I am encouraging you to find your own sauce pairing for these watercress gnocchi. I loved their delicate texture and playful green flecks, and I bet you’ll find wonderful things to do with them.

A word about gentleness. Gnocchi dough needs to be treated quite carefully. Years ago I friend and I mistakenly thought we could whip up a batch in the processor, only to find the dough quickly becoming snotty. When we exasperatedly tried to remedy the situation with too much flour, the dough became tough and leathery, not what anyone wants in gnocchi. The goal is to make soft, tender pillows that melt in your mouth. I soon thereafter read that processing is the worst thing one can do to a gnocchi dough, which confirmed my experience. So I learned my lesson. Now I coax the correct texture from the dough instead of being impatient. That said, this dough isn’t necessarily difficult or time consuming.

One helpful suggestion offered by the cookbook is to bake the potatoes instead of steaming or boiling them. This ensures a drier dough that’s easier to work with.

21 oz. starchy potatoes
5 oz. watercress
3 oz. Parmesan, grated
salt and pepper to season
4 oz. white flour (to start)

Bake the potatoes. When cool enough to handle, peel them and gently mash the cooked potato flesh, or use a potato ricer. I mashed mine with a fork, and I’ll be honest that I enjoyed the tiny rustic lumps of potato in the pillows. Next chop the watercress very finely, and stir it into the potato mash. Add the Parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the 4 oz of flour and work it into the potato. Gradually add more flour to get to the right consistency. You may end up adding as much as 8 oz, but 4 is a safe start. The goal is a soft dough, and not sticky to the touch. If you are unsure of your dough, you can test one piece in the boiling water to see if it falls apart. If so, add more flour.

Press the dough out on a floured cutting board, and roll it into logs. Slice a log into pillows at about 3/4-inch increments. Using a soft touch, roll the pillows around on the cutting board until the surface is smooth.

Drop them into the boiling water. Then will sink to the bottom of the pot. When they float to the top (which only takes minute or two), remove them with a slotted spoon. Depending on the size of your pot, you will probably want to boil them in 2-3 batches.

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