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Monday, January 17, 2011

Gnocchi a la Parisienne - French Fridays with Dorie

Wait a minute, I thought to myself! I just learned to make decent potato gnocchi, and now you're asking me to do something that looks like it's made from pate a choux, with yet another Bechamel sauce. That sounds very ... white. And very high in calories. But then I figured I might as well try it.

The dough did not look like it was going to work. As soon as I added the eggs, it morphed from a thick, unyielding dough, to a coagulated mess. But it gradually did come together, and was soft, silky, and manageable after the second egg went in.

Let me take just a minute here to make a heartfelt plea to Dorie. In your next book, please, please, please include weights as well as volume. This recipe is supposed to serve six, and there's a caveat that it doesn't hold up well. So naturally I wanted to reduce it for a two-person household. This meant changing 1 1/4 cups of flour and water to 5/8 cup of each. It's possible to measure 5/8 cup of water, but it's not easy. If I could have just halved the number of grams, it would have been a cinch. So please. You're a baker--you must weigh ingredients yourself. Just add gram weights, not only for OC bakers in the U.S. but also for normal ones in other countries.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

There is an Italian pasta called malfatti, which means, more or less, "poorly made." I like the idea of being upfront about such lapses in aesthetic appearance. "We're having malfatti for dinner--it gives people fair warning that what they're about to eat isn't going to be pretty."

I would definitely call these gnocchi malfatti--shapeless and raggedy, they're not lovely to look at. And, as I've mentioned before, they're quite white. I'm hoping that the Bechamel sauce (also white, I'm sorry to say), will provide cover.

I learned how to make Bechamel sauce from my mother. Only she called it white sauce. More importantly, she didn't cook the flour and butter together for a few minutes to brown the butter and get rid of the floury taste. She also used too much flour. (I believe this recipe also uses too much flour and not enough butter, but then I'm not the one who lived in France). Also adding a bit of cream raises it a notch above the "white sauce" I used to know.

The gnocchi is resting on top of a bit of grated Parmesan and a few spoons of Bechamel. It still doesn't look pretty.

But 30 minutes in a hot oven do wonders for its pulchritude. Now brown and puffy, all the malfatti-ness is well hidden. It smell good, and it looks good.

And does it ever taste good. You shouldn't really compare it to Italian gnocchi because it's an entirely different thing. Sometime when I'm feeling very devil-may-care, I'd like to have a two-gnocchi dinner, so I could taste them side by side, and do the comparing I just said you shouldn't do. This gnocchi is feather-light and so delicious that you just don't want to stop eating it. I'm thankful that I didn't make the whole feeds-six-people recipe: we might have eaten it. It's probably not a dish you'd serve to your most important guest: it certainly has a hearty, down-home quality. But you should definitely serve it to someone you love, or someome who loves to eat (if you're lucky, that will be the same person).


  1. I like the thought of a side-by-side gnocchi dinner... YUM

  2. Malfatti - describes these little dumplings perfectly! I noticed that a number of people were piping the dough out and cutting it. That probably looks better, but since they were to be smothered in b├ęchamel and cheese, I decided it didn't matter.

  3. Cher,
    A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    I agree--piping is a pain. Why do it if you don't have to?