Monday, November 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Gnocchi: A Recipe for Victory

Today in my Serious Eats column: Mushroom Risotto. It's like eating Sherwood Forest in the best possible way.

A long, long time ago (2008) in a galaxy far, far away (this very blog) I made potato gnocchi, and promised that a butternut squash version would be not far behind. A-year-and-a-half later (which isn’t too long, when you consider the age of the Earth), here it is. As a depressed and bitter Mets fan, I blame the delay on the Yankees.

(Other things I blame on the Yankees: wedgies, scabies, angina, the continued success of Two and a Half Men, the early cancellation of My So-Called Life, the final season of Roseanne, holes in my socks, rats in my backyard, jalapeno in my eye, “Hotel California,” 311, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” [the song, not the movie], skunked beer, corked wine, accidentally drinking Gatorade right after brushing my teeth, the word “moist,” owning 27 World Series rings and remaining relatively classy / making it difficult for me to hate them / making me all the more crazed.)

Anyway – gnocchi! It’s one of my favorite dishes in the world, and surprisingly easy to make if you don’t mind a bit of a mess. (Another good messy recipe: Oprah’s Jam Straws.) The butternut squash variety is sweeter than potato gnocchi, and a bit lighter, due to the root veggie’s lower calorie count. I’m ignoring the fact that it’s usually paired with high-fat sage and brown butter sauce, because denial is a fun and constructive pastime.

This particular gnocchi recipe is a mélange of Emeril’s (roasting technique), Sunset’s (ingredients), and a blog called Hungry Craving’s (gnocchi technique). It’s filling without being heavy, which is a result of two things: 1) a good squash-to-flour ratio, and 2) letting the squash dry before combining it with the other ingredients. Beware of wet gnocchi, folks. It falls apart in the pot and is generally the nadir of society.

We have to address the sauce, though, don't we? Okay. Here goes: I find that a little bit of butter never killed anyone (exception: those with butter allergies). However, parmesan is a great topping all by itself, especially since the gnocchi is a bit wet coming out of the pot. A little salt, a little pepper, and you’re good to go. Ready for takeoff. Four on the floor. Lucy in the sky with dia- … I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, this particular recipe will be the last butternut squash dish for awhile. I’d like to blame the fact that we’ve hit orange foods pretty hard the last few weeks. But, um ... I blame the Yankees. (*shakes fist*)


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Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Makes between 150 and 200 gnocchi, which serves 4 to 6
Print this recipe.

1 2-lb butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1) Preheat oven to 375°F.

2) Slice butternut squash lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and surrounding junk. Rub cut sides of squash with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast face down until easily pierced through with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When finished, remove from oven, flip over, and let cool 15 minutes.

3) Once cool enough to handle, scrape squash meat into a large mixing bowl and pulverize it with a potato masher. There should be no lumps whatsoever. Then, spread squash out in the bowl and cool to room temperature. (This took only about 15 minutes for me).

While squash is cooling, bring a very large pot of salted water to a boil.

4) Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg to squash. Stir. Then, add one cup of flour and stir until absorbed. Add a second cup, and repeat. The squash should be forming a dough, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add a third cup and stir again.

When squash is doughy enough (meaning: not wet and sticky), turn out on to a well-floured surface. Make sure your hands are well-floured, and gently knead dough for a minute or two. Add more flour if dough sticks to surface.

5) Once you have a good dough ball, break off about an eighth of it. Using your hands, carefully roll this piece into a long, thin log, about 1/2 - 3/4 inch in diameter.

6) This is the most important part: using a knife or a pastry scraper, cut off a 3/4-inch piece (not the end piece) of the roll. It should look like a tiny pillow.

7) Drop the piece into your pot of boiling water. When it rises to the top, it's finished. Eat it. If you like it, go ahead to step 8. If it's gummy or falls apart in the water, that means there's too much moisture in the dough. Add more flour (1/8 - 1/4 cup) to your dough ball, knead it in, and try again until you get the result you desire.

8) Chunk by chunk, roll the remaining dough into logs. After each log is made, cut them into 3/4-inch pieces. Each piece should be about the size of the top of your index finger, from knuckle to nail. You can take this opportunity to make the beautifying/sauce-catching fork marks often associated with gnocchi, or, like me, you can skip it and get on with things.

9) Place each piece of gnocchi on a floured or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. This will give you an idea of their numbers AND set them up for freezing later.

10) Drop a full serving (between 20 and 30 gnocchi) into the pot of boiling water. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon (or other hole-y implement) and place them into a serving bowl. This should take between 3 and 5 minutes per serving. You may have to drain extra liquid from each bowl at the end.

11) Add sauce or parmesan and dig in.

NOTE: To preserve uncooked gnocchi, simply chill the pan from step #14 in your freezer. When gnocchi is frozen through, dump 'em in a plastic bag, squeeze the air out, and seal. Voila.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
Four servings: 589 calories, 4.9 g fat, 8 g fiber, $0.53
Five servings: 471 calories, 3.9 g fat, 6.4 g fiber, $0.43
Six servings: 392 calories, 3.3 g fat, 5.3 g fiber, $0.36

1 2-lb butternut squash: 408 calories, 0.9 g fat, 18.1 g fiber, $1.55
1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.11
1 teaspoon salt, divided: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, divided: 4 calories, 0 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, $0.05
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg: 3 calories, 0.2 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.01
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (calc is for 4): 1820 calories, 5 g fat, 13.5 g fiber, $0.40
TOTAL: 2354 calories, 19.5 g fat, 32 g fiber, $2.13
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 589 calories, 4.9 g fat, 8 g fiber, $0.53
PER SERVING (TOTAL/5): 471 calories, 3.9 g fat, 6.4 g fiber, $0.43
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 392 calories, 3.3 g fat, 5.3 g fiber, $0.36

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