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Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Spinach

I was watching A Moveable Feast on PBS a few weeks ago and Jonathan Waxman was on.  He made these potato gnocchi and said that he sometimes doesn't boil them.  He just throws them frozen into browned butter and cooks them that way.  He made them with fava beans, peas, and asparagus. I'm not too into the asparagus thing but I did like the idea of not boiling them. Sometimes they are such a pain to boil. I thought he might be onto a real good thing here for the summer.  You know how it is, the kitchen is about 190 degrees, you're dying for some sort of pasta dish (yeah I know gnocchi is not really pasta but OK you're dying for a real starch dish), and the thought of boiling water just makes you want to keel over right there on the spot.  What if you could just throw on some butter and cook them in that? So off I went experimenting.

Potato Gnocchi

2lbs russet potato
1-2 eggs
1/2 c flour

Bake the potatoes. Do not boil them because that just leaves them too wet and you are going to have to put in a ton of flour. I cheated and microwaved them. Let cool a few minutes. Peel potatoes and run them through a ricer.  You can mash them but I find the ricer does a nicer job. Season potatoes with salt, pepper, and nutmeg (or other preferred seasoning).  Add 1 beaten egg. Gently toss potatoes until egg is mixed through. You may need to add all or part of the second egg depending on how dry the potatoes are. Gradually add flour. Again depending on the potatoes, you might not need all the flour. Mix until a soft dough forms.  Turn out on board and continue to gently knead.  Do not over knead or gnocchi will become tough.

Potatoes pushed through the ricer (with seasoning)
With your hands roll out a section of dough into a long rope about 3/4" thick.  Cut into 1" pieces. Using the tines of a fork press the gnocchi onto the fork while rolling it down the fork.  They should form a sort of "c" shape.  Freeze in a single layer on trays.

You can check out youtube for a demo of forming the gnocchi. There are some really awful videos on there. This was the best one I found Mary Ann Esposito - she starts forming them about 5 minutes in. This one wasn't too bad either. I saw a Gordon Ramsey one.  He just cuts them into 1" pieces and indents them with his thumb. See if I thought of it while I was doing it, I should have made a video myself.

You can also use a gnocchi board which is what I did. My forks have 3 tines and I just find they don't come out as good so I invested the $4 in a board (my punishment for the purchase is storing yet another kitchen item).

This recipe is really just a basic one. There's really not much to gnocchi - potato, egg, and flour.  I guess if you wanted to you could throw in a little olive oil. I decided to use the nutmeg because I was going to saute them with spinach.  Nutmeg always goes rather nicely with spinach.

Here's the recipe for the spinach part:

6 T butter
2 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 recipe gnocchi frozen
2 c fresh spinach

Melt butter in skillet over medium flame. As the butter cooks you will see the solids cook off and it will start to turn a golden brown. Place frozen gnocchi in pan with garlic. Saute until gnocchi begin to brown slightly.  Remove from heat.  Throw spinach on top and place a lid on the skillet.  Let sit until spinach has wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

The gnocchi are very fragile.  You can only jiggle the skillet to prevent them from sticking. Do not attempt to stir the gnocchi or they will fall apart (lesson learned). I removed the remainder of the frozen gnocchi from the tray and sealed them in a zipper bag - all ready for another meal for another day.


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