Every Wednesday the Providence Journal publishes their Food Section – a collection of articles about food, recipes, local food-related events, and so forth. I would love to get the paper delivered every day – and have time to read it – but we cancelled our subscription long ago because the papers would pile up and we'd end up either recycling them or using them to start fires (in the fireplace or on the grill – not just random ones). So, we cancelled. And the only thing I miss is the Food Section. Of course, fortunately the paper is online, so I can check out the food stuff there, but it's not the same as turning the actual pages, so sometimes I'll buy the Wednesday paper.
All that long and rambling opening to explain where I got this recipe.
It was featured in last week's Food Section, in a regular feature called "Chef's Secret." People will write the editor of the food section to ask if she can get the recipe for something they'd had at a local restuarant, and each week a includes another example from these requests. Last week someone wrote in to ask about the house gnocchi at the Blue Grotto, a restaurant in Providence. You can read the article and get the recipe here.
I love gnocchi, as you may already know (see here), but I've never had or made sweet potato gnocchi before. So I bookmarked the recipe and bought everything for it (with one exception – the baby spinach – oops), and planned to make it Saturday for dinner, but that changed unexpectedly, so I made it yesterday instead.
If you're going to make it (or regular gnocchi, for that matter), plan on several hours of prep work. I know, that's a lot of time. Some of it is just the cooking time for the potatoes, but still – it's all part of the process. I will say – the reward is worth the effort.
Okay. Per the recipe in Bold, with my own notes in italics…
SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI
6 sweet potatoes (4 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon white pepper (didn't have any – I used freshly ground black pepper.)
1 pound ricotta cheese
4-5 cups all purpose flour
Bake sweet potatoes at 450 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Overbake slightly making sure they’re soft inside. Let potatoes cool just enough to be able to handle; they should not cool down completely.
Scrape out the insides of the potatoes with a spoon into a mixing bowl with all of the other ingredients except the flour.
I actually had my able-bodied assistant, Julia, combine all the other ingredients (except the brown sugar and the flour) while I scraped out the potatoes. She wanted to help.
I added the brown sugar to the scraped out sweet potato flesh…
and then we added Julia's mixture to mine.
and Julia mixed it all together.
Use the dough hook attachment. (We didn't – we did it all by hand.) When the ingredients are incorporated, add the flour, one cup at a time.
Julia opted out of helping me at this point – the dough gets stiffer as you work the flour in, and it was too hard for her to mix anything.
The dough is finished when it is firm but yielding and slightly sticky. Knead by hand and roll into a ball. Place a damp cloth over the ball and put into the refrigerator for one hour. (Didn't do that – the fridge part – I didn't have enough time.)
Lightly flour your working surface. Cut the ball into six pieces,
and roll each into a rope between 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch in diameter.
Cut into 1/2-inch pieces flouring them as you go.
The gnocchi are now ready to cook or freeze.
About 8 ounces of gnocchi is a good portion.
When cooking the gnocchi, bring water to a boil and cook until they float for 2 minutes.
I ended up with 5 cookie sheets of gnocchi. I made the Blue Grotto's sauce while I cooked the gnocchi in batches.
Here's the Blue Grotto's sauce recipe – any changes I made are in italics:
BLUE GROTTO GNOCCHI SAUCE
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced fennel (I diced mine – I was unfortunately trying to do too much at once and i didn't realize it said "sliced.")
1/4 cup white onion, thinly sliced (again, I diced when I should have sliced)
1/8 cup roasted red pepper strips (once again – mine were diced, not sliced, and I used 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon fresh basil (I used a handful – mostly because i forgot the spinach and – yes, this is ridiculous reasoning – I wanted more green)
1 teaspoon minced shallot (I used a whole shallot – about a tablespoon minced)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese (I used Asiago. I just felt like it.)
Small handful of baby spinach (like I said, I forgot to get the spinach)
And before I launch into things – here's a picture of a fennel bulb, in case you haven't looked for one before:
Fennel has a fresh, bright anise flavor and can be used in salads, soups, etc. I remember trying a fennel and blood orange salad recipe a long time ago and it was really refreshing and different. So go buy some fennel.
Heat pan with oil over medium heat. Add fennel, onion and roasted red peppers.
Sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and shallots cook for 30 seconds.
Reduce by 1/3.
Add cream and reduce by 1/3.
Add butter and salt and pepper. Cook until butter is melted.
and grated Romano cheese. (Or, if you're me, Asiago.)
I didn't toss ALL the gnocchi with the sauce. I put about one cookie sheet's worth (1/5 the recipe) in a separate bowl and just tossed with some butter. I had a feeling that Alex would dislike it on sight if he saw bits of onion and onion-like substances in the sauce, not to mention the bits of red that he would think are tomato, and would therefore refuse, and even if he knew they were roasted red pepper, he'd probably refuse that, too. But I thought, maybe, just maybe, if it was just served with butter and grated cheese, he'd try it without prejudice.
And he did.
And after eating a piece of sweet potato gnocchi, he shut his eyes, stretched out his arms, and let his fork fall dramatically to the floor. I wasn't sure if this was happy drama or not, so I asked if he liked the gnocchi, and he said no, he LOVED it. That it was "THE BEST PASTA I EVER HAD!" So a big thanks to Chef Robert Hanson at the Blue Grotto Restaurant for sharing the recipe with Food Editor Gail Ciampa at The Providence Journal and making my son a happy boy.
As far as the rest of the meal went, my husband and I loved this dish. The sweetness from the brown sugar reminded us of balsamic vinegar, sort of. In fact, now that I think about it, it reminds me of a tortellini dish we had at another local restaurant before it closed. But anyway – I know I made some changes to the Blue Grotto's Gnocchi Sauce, but I don't think my end result strays too far from the way it would taste at the restaurant. Guess we'll have to get a babysitter and go out for a meal some night soon. But for now…
homemade will suffice.