Gnocchi with morels, peas, sorrel oil, pine nuts, and miso broth

Good gnocchi is one of my favorite things. Here it’s seared, and that’s the most popular these days in America. I like it even more boiled and then tossed into a braise or soup or baked into a casserole-like thing and i’m sure i’ll have a recipe for that soon. It’s also traditionally vegan - like the recipe in Artusi (pictured) - however it’s commonly enriched with egg.

This dish got put up on vegansaurus last spring, but I’ve been working on perfecting the gnocchi itself so I’m posting it here with an new and improved recipe. Most importantly, 00 flour is essential. 00 denotes the finest-milled wheat flour available, although I’ve heard that the gluten content of 00 varies considerably. Every professional i know uses caputo brand which you can order online, although i just picked up what they had at Claudio’s and it worked well. I used to think that the structure of a good gnocchi came from the gluten bonds, but now it seems to me the flour is mainly there to add heft to the potato scaffolding. I mention this mainly to say that kneading should be very limited and that oil basically deflates this dough, making it useless. I’ve weighed out the cooked pureed potato and the flour, which also makes this recipe exponentially more reliable. Lastly, I’ve given up on freezing raw gnocchi - it still ends up fine; its just very different and i prefer the fresh.

serves four to six

Ingredients

Gnocchi:

  • 4 white fleshed or mealy potatoes
  • 175g 00 flour
  • ½ tsp. salt

Miso broth:

  • 1 small onion, cut in half
  • 1 rib celery
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. white or yellow miso

Sorrel oil:

  • 1 bunch sorrel
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups olive oil

Dish: 

  • 1 bunch early spring greens, rinsed and stemmed
  • 4 to 12 fresh morels, cut in half (the more the merrier)
  • ½ cup peas, shelled
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin

Instructions

Miso broth

Put the onion, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a pot with the water. Simmer for 30 minutes while you make the dough. Strain.

In a small bowl, place the miso. Whisk ½ cup of the stock into the miso. Taste. Add more stock in small quantities until the flavor is still pretty strong but balanced and it has a brothy consistency.

Gnocchi

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lay down a layer of salt on a small sheet pan and sit the potatoes on top. When they’re done, you should be able to stick a knife into the center of the potato without resistance. Remove the potatoes when done. 

Put up a large pot of water to boil. Let the potatoes cool just enough to handle. Rub the skins off. Use a tammy/strainer or a ricer to thoroughly puree the potatoes.  Weigh out 500g of the potatoes.  Weigh out 140g of flour and mix in the salt.  Sprinkle or dust the flour over the potatoes and cut it in using a knife or dough scraper.  

Work the dough with your hands into a manageable ball and knead just until it’s a solid mass, maybe 5 or 6 times altogether. As the potatoes cool they will get stickier, so move pretty fast. If the dough sticks to your fingers, work a little more flour in until it stops doing that. It shouldn’t be firm like pasta dough but it should be firm enough to hold its shape when you pinch off a piece.

It is a learned skill to make gnocchi dough correctly and there’s no substitute for experience in this regard. This is an approximate ratio I’ve provided, but I do suggest before you start rolling and cutting that you test one out first by dropping a piece of the dough into simmering water. If it starts to fall apart before it floats, you need more flour in the dough.  

You’ve made the dough! Flour your work surface and pinch off jawbreaker-size pieces and roll them out into ½-inch wide snakes on a floured surface, trying not to taper the ends too much.

Line these up next to each other and with a big knife or a bench scraper cut them all into ¾ inch pieces. Tine them by rolling each piece on a gnocchi board or the back of a fork.  It‘s sorta like giving your fingerprints when you‘re arrested. Grease a plate or sheet pan with a little good olive oil.  This is where you’ll land the gnocchi when they come out of the water.  Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour and drop them into the pot of boiling water.  When the water comes back to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the gnocchi float on the surface.  Wait 20 seconds and then scoop them out and directly onto the greased pan.  Sort them into a single layer and let them rest until you’re ready to use them, at least 10 minutes.

Sorrel oil

Tear up the sorrel, separating it from its stems. Put all the sorrel, ¼ cup water, and olive oil into a blender and puree for a good two minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the blender every 30 seconds or so. Season with salt and strain.

Schav is a sorrel soup that was a springtime staple for immigrants in the early 1900s. At its most basic, it was sorrel, water and salt, but it still was so delicious that people drank it out of mugs. I could drink this sorrel oil straight, but for a good schav just reverse the oil/water ratio here. Sorrel oxidizes super-quick after it’s chopped up or pureed, turning from bright springy green to army green to gray-green. It still tastes just as good but if you want to be classy just  make this oil right before you put everything together.

The final countdown:

Warm the broth in a small pot. Make sure everything for the final dish is prepped and handy. If, like me, the largest pan you have is about 10 inches, you’re going to have to finish this dish one serving at a time, so divide up your mis en place accordingly.

Heat a non-stick pan with oil. Put the garlic and morels into the hot pan and season them with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 seconds and then add the gnocchi to the pan, trying to spread them out so as to have one even layer. Disturb the pan as little as possible until the gnocchi start to brown on the bottom.

When the gnocchi are browned on the bottom, flip them with a spoon or small offset, spatula. As the other side starts to cook, add the peas, pine nuts and greens and season them with salt and pepper as well. Toss together. Add more oil if you don’t see any on the floor of the pan. Cook for another solid minute, tossing every 15 seconds or so.

Put in the center of plates. Pour or spoon broth over the top so that it pools around the gnocchi. Drizzle the sorrel oil around the plate.