"Substitutionus Maximus", or, "Swapping Ingredients for Fun and Profit".
What’s a gnocchi? Potato dumpling, of course.
Well, to be exact, it’s just a dumpling of Italian origin. Potato gnocchi are a relatively recent invention, with potatoes (like tomatoes and corn) being introduced to Italy only after the advent of trans-Atlantic trade.
Gnocchi can be made with a huge variety of ingredients, from regular flour with egg to semolina or ricotta. Herbs, cheeses, spices – you name it, you can pop ‘em in the gnocchi. Most of the variety you’ll find is in the starch, but it brings us to our topic today – substitutions.
It’s quite easy to perform substitutions within recipes as long as you maintain a slight similarity in the type of ingredient you’re swapping and a nod to necessary adjustments for flavor preservation. Starches are really easy to swap, and the occurrence of such changes is becoming more commonplace as the number of gluten-avoidance diets rises each year.
With potato gnocchi, only a portion of the flour is removed in place of the potato, thereby maintaining a bit of gluten to help the dumpling hold its shape. Gluten-free diets face a bit of difficulty in this area, relying on other binders such as egg or xanthan gum to ensure a sturdy product. If you’re swapping out flour for flour, as in rye, buckwheat or whole wheat, follow the general principle of the potato gnocchi and keep a portion of all purpose flour in your recipe so as to provide the desired flavor without creating too dense of a final product.
There are countless books that cover all aspects of substitution within the culinary arts – most any cooking book you can find is composed of recipes that alter or swap ingredients for new flavors and textures. Try anything and everything, just don’t expect them all to go perfectly well – cooking is all about trying, with the successes and failures equal opportunities to learn more and hone your craft.
Basic Gnocchi Recipe
7 medium potatoes
1 whole egg
1 pound salt
Wash potatoes and cover with salt. Place potatoes in preheated 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Remove meat of potatoes and run through foodmill or ricer. In a large mixing bowl knead potatoes, egg, flour, and any dry ingredient you might want to add until medium stiff dough occurs. Place on cutting board, cut into sections and cover with a towel. Roll out sections into 3/4" logs and cut into 3/4" sections. Roll off of fork into the floured bowl that the dough was made in. For storage of extra gnocchi, place on sheet pan or a shallow pan and place in freezer over night. The next day you can place the gnocchi in Ziploc bags for storage of up to 6 months or so.
To cook gnocchis, place in pot of boiling water and cook until all gnocchis float. After about 2 minutes of floating place in a hot sauté pan with butter and oil until golden brown.
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