Sweet Potato Gnocchi: A Labor of Love

We have our seeds!

We traded our goat’s milk caramel for seeds from High Mowing Organic Seed Co. out of Hardwick this year. Now we are sitting fat and happy, secure in the fact that we have next year’s seeds ready to go.

The only seeds we didn’t get from them are potatoes and garlic. We planted our garlic in the fall using seed from this year’s harvest, and now it is hibernating under a thick layer of straw.

Potatoes, on the other hand, are stored in the root cellar during the winter both for spring seed and of course to eat.

Five bushels of potatoes stare up at me when I go out to the root cellar, begging to be eaten before they start to sprout. Even though we grow five varieties, their pasty skin and knobby eyes become less than inspiring after a while. There are only so many batches of mashed potatoes you can make and still be satisfied with this tuber.

Luckily, I’ve come across an incredibly labor-intensive but potato-worthy recipe.

When I milk our goats, usually about a two-hour process, there is always some downtime while they finish eating their grain. Because I’m a multitasker and can’t sit still, I spend this time breezing through recipes and food magazines. A few weeks ago I came across this recipe for gnocchi in Gourmet Magazine. I knew it would take several hours to make, and so I put it off until just recently, when I spent all afternoon in the kitchen with my sister, Josey, who reluctantly agreed to be my sous chef.

We were visiting my grandparents in Maine and had offered to cook them dinners because at this stage in their lives they HATE cooking. My sister’s night featured steamed mussels in white wine, garlic and butter, and Japanese fish stew. Of course, I was her sous chef!

My night was sweet-potato gnocchi with fried sage and chestnuts, and sauteed lemon ginger apples and carrots. Both were amazing! I recommend making this homemade pasta for someone special, because it’s a labor of love and should be shared with people you love.

Put this recipe aside until the day when you wake up and say, “I will cook today.” Find some great music to listen to, crack open a bottle of wine or make yourself some tea, and spend hours in the kitchen enjoying the process of creating food.

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and Chestnuts

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Serves: 6-8

Cooking time: 2 1/4 hours. Active Time: 1 1/4 hours. (Tip: Leave yourself three hours so you can enjoy it!)

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
1 sweet potato (about 3/4 pound)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sage leaves
1/2 cup chestnuts (see note below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

You will need: a potato ricer or a food mill with fitted fine disk.

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 450 with rack in middle. Pierce russet and sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Then bake until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Prepare chestnuts: Gourmet’s recipe suggested you use bottled roasted chestnuts very thinly sliced with a blade slicer or vegetable peeler. I prefer using fresh chestnuts, so I bought them whole from our local market. They are abundant during the holiday season.

You need 15 whole chestnuts and one tablespoon butter.

Heat butter in medium-size skillet over medium heat. Cut an X into one side of the chestnuts. Cook chestnuts for 15-20 minutes stirring every few minutes to heat both sides. To see if they are done crack one open by using a large, flat-bladed knife to crush it. You should be able to peel off the nut casing and red skin easily. The chestnuts should be sweet and nutty. Peel chestnuts and cut into thin slices. Put aside for later.

3. Cool potatoes slightly and peel off skin. Put through the mill or ricer onto a sheet pan. Spread out on pan to cool quickly. Lightly flour two other baking sheets or cutting boards and put to the side.

4. Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. With hands or pastry scraper, mound potatoes into middle of sheet. Form a well in the center. Add egg mixture and knead in with hands; the mixture will be very wet. Start to knead in grated cheese and 1 1/2 cups flour. Add more flour if necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough.

5. Cut dough into six pieces. One at a time, form each piece of dough into a half-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into half-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball. Turn a fork over and hold at a 45 degree angle, with tips of tines touching work surface. One at a time, roll gnocchi down fork tines, pressing with thumb to make ridges on one side (or for a simpler method but not as perfect, press fork tines into each gnocchi while on baking sheet).

6. Fry sage leaves and chestnuts. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches, stirring, until they turn a shade lighter and begin to crisp, about one minute per batch. Transfer to paper towels with slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt.

Fry sliced chestnuts in three batches using the same method. Reserve oil in the skillet. (If there is very little oil left add another 2 tablespoons.) Add butter to oil in skillet and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for about two minutes or until golden brown.

7. Bring pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add half of gnocchi to water. Cook until they float to the surface, about three minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the skillet. Coat gnocchi with oil and butter over medium heat. Cook second batch of gnocchi and add to skillet. Then serve with fried sage, chestnuts and grated cheese.

Note: If you are not feeding a lot of people you can freeze some gnocchi for later. Lay uncooked gnocchi on a baking sheet and put in freezer. When frozen, remove from sheet, place in a zip-top plastic bag and voila! You can take them out frozen and cook them in boiling water next time.

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One thought on “Sweet Potato Gnocchi: A Labor of Love

  1. Neil and I have a wonderful tradition of doing fancy dinners at home for each other on valentine’s day (it keeps us out of the commercial rush)

    So thanks! Now I know what I’ll be cooking in 3 weeks :-D

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