I’m one of those fortunate people who is in a profession that allows a full two week vacation during the holidays. I’ll admit that I took full advantage of this vacation this year and was positively, completely, and totally lazy (by my standards, at least). I did spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. I think it is safe to say that my time was spent at least half in the kitchen, with the remaining time divided between sleeping in, walking the dog, and reading.
But alas, all good things have to come to an end eventually. It’s Monday, and I’m back to work, though I’ll confess to feeling a little sluggish. Really – 5:30 a.m. as a wake-up time? 10 a.m. seems so civilized by comparison!
I planned ahead a bit and did some strategic cooking for the week. I knew I was going to be tired and unhappy about working again, so thought that the first week’s lunches ought to be a little indulgent. Indulgence to me means some sort of heavenly pasta and sauce and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at home-made gnocchi. We were at our local grocery. I’m sure I’ll write more at some later point, but here in our part of the PNW, we have a regionally local chain called Sherm’s Thunderbird Market. It’s a strange amalgamation of really cheap food that’s heavily processed, along with a mini-market of organic and natural foods, occasionally local produce (including chanterelle mushrooms when they are in season) and an extraordinary range of citrus fruit in the winter. I have a serious love-hate relationship with Sherm’s. All of this is to say that, in addition to some really great citrus, I also ran across purple yams one day. Purple yams and a hankering to make my own gnocchi – need I say more?
First off, purple yams, in their unprocessed state, are not photogenic. Note below
Be warned – when scrubbed, they will go out of their way to stain everything in sight.
Gnocchi are fairly easy, so long as you keep a light touch with them. They require some sort of root vegetable or winter squash base (potato, yam, beet, pumpkin), some flour, and egg yolks. You can also add cheese to your gnocchi, but why complicate life?
In this case, the yams are roasted at 350 degrees for about an hour, until they are easily pierced with a knife. Remove the flesh from the yam while it is still fairly warm and use a potato masher to mash it up.
Separate two eggs and toss the yolks onto the mash.
Gently distribute the yolks over the mashed yams. Add the flour, about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup at a time and gently mix. I started out with a spoon and then eventually used my hands to work in the flour.
When the flour has been incorporated and the dough feels workable (not sticky), pinch the dough into five or six small balls. On a well-floured service, roll out each ball into a long rope.
Cut each rope into small pieces (about an inch in size). The gnocchi can be cooked at this point or frozen for cooking later – for lunch, maybe. I froze my gnocchi and am cooking them about two days’ worth at a time. To freeze, line the gnocchi up on a parchment lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag for longer storage.
All lined up on a cookie sheet and ready to be frozen – could there be anything cuter?
These could be served with a variety of sauces. I’d originally tried out a few with a little olive oil, truffle oil, and salt, but wasn’t overly impressed. Brown butter sauce was an option, but I feel a little buttered-out after the holiday. I finally landed on Gorgonzola cream sauce, which isn’t remotely lighter than brown butter, but definitely a comforting sauce for the first day back to work. Plus – cheese. Who would argue with cheese, especially a stinky one? The end result was a fluffy purple pasta with a rich, creamy sauce. I ended up looking forward to Monday if only to dig into my lunch.
Purple Yam Gnocchi
Serves 4 – 6
2 purple yams
1 ½ cups flour
2 egg yolks
Bake the yams, uncovered, for around an hour at 350 degrees or until they are easily pierced by a knife. Let them cool just long enough that you can reasonably handle them. Scoop out the flesh of the yams and put in a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash so there are no large chunks left. Drop the egg yolks on top and gently mix, just until there are no visible streaks of egg yolk left. Begin to fold in the flour, ¼ to ½ cup at a time. The dough has enough flour in it when it is still a bit sticky, but easy to handle. Once this occurs, break off balls of the dough and, on a floured surface, roll out each ball into a long rope. Do this with each ball of dough. Cut each rope into gnocchi about an inch long. At this stage, you can either freeze the gnocchi by laying them out on a parchment covered baking sheet and freezing, then transferring the frozen gnocchi to a freezer bag or container or cook the gnocchi immediately. Either frozen or fresh, boil a pot of water for the gnocchi and then put them in gently, boiling for about three minutes or until the gnocchi all float.
Serve gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce (recipe link here), pesto, or brown butter.