I am not afraid to fail. I like an experiment and I don’t mind an experiment that proves me wrong. Still, loose, sloppy gnocchi is a bummer of a reality to bump up against.
I had some leftover mashed potato from last night’s dinner. Actually, I had a lot of leftover mashed potato. I thought it might be fun to make potato gnocchi. The last time I remember making them I was pretty young, maybe in my early teens. I remember being at my grandma’s and intending to help, but finding myself not very useful in her kitchen other than to fetch things. I remember that she used instant potato flakes in her gnocchi, but I don’t remember much else.
I looked up a recipe that suggested not working the dough very much because it would become too stiff, so I was pretty gentle adding the flour to my mashed potato and egg. I worked it in gently, I kneaded gently, I rolled gently. I think I didn’t added enough flour in the first place and I think I treated my dough a little too sweetly.
I admit to getting a little disappointed when I realize that everything I create is not a work of inspired genius. This case is no exception, but nevertheless I did learn some things. Mostly it was just fun, so even if I’d learned nothing it would’ve been a worthwhile venture.
The stakes are pretty low with potato based dishes. Potatoes are inexpensive, versatile, and forgiving.
So, as I mentioned, I had a whole mess of mashed potato, which I mixed with egg and flour into what turned out to be an all too delicate dough.
I rolled out a bit of the dough at a time and cut the ropes into pieces. At this point I was still pretty sure the consistency was right. When I marked the pieces with the fork they did seem a bit sticky, but not enough to really concern me. I suppose I should’ve thought better of it. I’ve made pasta with semolina flour many times and the dough is always very stiff, but I guess working with all purpose flour and potatoes, I assumed it should be softer. It should be softer. But not this soft.
I put half the batch into a container to freeze for later and the other half into a large pot of boiling water. It was a little hard to get the individual pieces unstuck from one another before dropping them into the pot. This is when I began to suspect a problem.
I removed the cooked gnocchi from the water with a big straining spoon. They looked, honestly, kind of gross. They were losing their integrity, becoming shapeless.
I thought perhaps I could salvage them if I could get some more of the moisture out. I made a sage and garlic butter to toss them in over a little heat hoping they’d evaporate a little of the water off and take on the yummy sage flavor.
It didn’t help. I ended up with something that looked like scrambled eggs, had the consistency of mashed potato that had sat out too long, but tasted, honestly, fucking delicious, but in a way that only a disaster can. I would never ever serve this mess to anyone.
In my final attempt to turn this delicious disaster into a win I plopped all the little buttery potato blobs onto a baking sheet and again, hoped drawing out some of the water would leave me with something resembling gnocchi. This also did not work. At this point the dish was too far gone.
What I was left with, essentially, were slimy potato cookies. No one should ever eat this. Not even me. But I will. I’m that stubborn. Also, I mean, come on it’s potato and butter. It really doesn’t matter how gross it is. It’s still good.
I had to do something to recover the damage to my ego: