Did you ever make something so delicious, so transporting, so perfectly satisfying that the memory of eating it lingers for days?
I knew as soon as I read the October Gourmet that this recipe would be a winner. But I didn’t really think I’d cook it—I’m a gnocchi neophyte. And then, on Sunday, we took Harry up to Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint (exactly what it sounds like, folks: a working farm on the roof of a warehouse).
forgive the crappy cell phone pictures, please.
Harry got to help out, watering the kale…
…and when he was done, we checked out the mini-farmer’s market where they sell produce as it’s picked, literally.
I took one look at the bundles of silvery, feathery, supple sage and knew I’d be making those gnocchi after all.
At first I thought I’d treat this as a Nap-Time Cooking recipe and break it up into steps. I did break it up, but in the end I think it may be a little too complicated for nap times—the active cooking time just to form the gnocchi is considerable. Unless, of course, your baby is small enough to take three or four naps a day—in which case go for it! As for me, I’m saving this one for dinner party fare, assuming that some day we’ll actually have dinner parties again. I have visions of this dish wowing company for years to come.
It’s a sizable recipe, so I froze half the gnocchi for later use, along with half the bunch of sage (uncooked). The sauce itself is fantastic and super-fast, so that’ll go into regular rotation, but once I cook the freezer stash I’ll serve it over store-bought gnocchi. Or, as Harry calls them, banokey. (He, of course, refused to taste them, even with a simple drizzle of olive oil. Sigh.)
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and Shaved Chestnuts
Serve 6 (main course) or 8 (appetizer)
1¼ lbs russet (baking) potatoes
¾ lb sweet potato
1 large egg
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
1 ½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sage leaves (from 1 bunch)
1/3 cup bottled roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with an adjustable-blade slicer or a sharp vegetable peeler [this is harder than it sounds; bottled chestnuts can be crumbly. I gave up on prettiness, and it was just fine.]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.
Pierce russet and sweet potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake in a 4-sided sheet pan until just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool potatoes slightly, then peel and force through ricer into sheet pan, spreading in an even layer. [I don’t own a ricer or food mill, so I used the next best thing: a sturdy mesh strainer:]
Cool potatoes completely. Lightly flour 2 or 3 large baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
Beat together egg, nutmeg, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper in a small bowl.
Gather potatoes into a mound in sheet pan, using a pastry scraper if you have one, and form a well in center.
Pour egg mixture into well, then knead into potatoes. Knead in cheese and 1½ cups flour, then knead, adding more flour as necessary, until mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough. [Mine took all 2 cups and then some—it was super-sticky.] Dust top lightly with some of flour.
Cut dough into 6 pieces. Form 1 piece of dough into a ½-inch-thick rope on a lightly floured surface. Cut rope into ½-inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and lightly dust with flour.
Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough. [Confession: After following the instructions for the first 3 pieces, I got fed up and made one bigass rope with the remaining dough—it worked fine]
Turn a fork over and hold at a 45-degree angle, with tips of tines touching work surface. Working with 1 at a time, roll gnocchi down fork tines, pressing with your thumb, to make ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi as formed to baking sheets.
FRY SAGE LEAVES AND CHESTNUTS:
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches, stirring, until they turn just a shade lighter and crisp (they will continue to crisp as they cool), about 30 seconds per batch [mine took a bit longer, closer to one minute]. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. [I forgot to salt, and it was still yum.]
Fry chestnuts in 3 batches, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 30 seconds per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season lightly with salt. [Again, forgot to salt, no problem.] Reserve oil in skillet.
Add butter to oil in skillet with ½ tsp salt and cook until golden-brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add half of gnocchi to a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water and stir. Cook until they float to surface, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to skillet with butter sauce. Cook remaining gnocchi in same manner, transferring to skillet as cooked.
Heat gnocchi in skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat.
Serve sprinkled with fried sage and chestnuts and grated cheese.
Uncooked gnocchi can be frozen (first in 1 layer on a baking sheet, then transferred to a sealable bag) up to 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.
Chestnuts can be sliced 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at cool room temperature.