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Mar 21, 2018
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Flour Power: The French lighten up on gnocchi
By Kelly Green Schmickle | Photos by Greg Rannells
Posted On: 12/07/2009   

I blame my current culinary obsession on Julia Child. And Julie Powell. And Nora Ephron. For the past several months, ever since I sat in the movie theater this summer watching Julie & Julia and salivating over classic French dishes, I’ve been obsessed with French food. With all that butter and cream, it’s a love affair that I just can’t seem to let go of.

When I recently discovered French gnocchi (gnocchi Parisienne), my innocent smittenness with French food evolved into full-blown passion. I was sampling a few gnocchi recipes when I noticed that one of the dishes had a distinctly different texture. It was much lighter and more tender. I learned that those buttery, melt-in-your-mouth dumplings were made from potato-free pâte à choux (pronounced “pat a shoe”) dough, the same dough used to make éclairs and gougères.

Making traditional Italian gnocchi involves peeling and boiling potatoes, baking the cooked potatoes just until dry, pushing the potatoes through a ricer, mixing in flour and eggs, rolling out the dough, cutting the dough into dumplings, scoring the dumplings with a gnocchi paddle or the tines of a fork, and boiling in water. While it’s not difficult to make, Italian gnocchi is time-consuming.

French gnocchi, on the other hand, is much easier to make. You simply boil milk, butter and salt. Then mix in flour. Add eggs. Stuff the wet, sticky dough into a pastry bag. Pipe little dumplings into boiling water. To make it even easier, you can use a small ice cream scoop to drop little round gnocchi into the water.

The venerable Julia Child does include a recipe for French gnocchi in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her version calls for mixing cooked semolina flour into the pâte à choux dough. She finishes her gnocchi under the broiler with a topping of Swiss cheese sauce.

This is the kind of recipe you can play around with. You could add a couple of tablespoons of Dijon mustard, some chopped herbs (a mixture of parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil is particularly delicious) or shredded cheese to the dough.

My first sauce choice for gnocchi of any kind is browned butter and sage – though sometimes I need something a little less rich, especially after all of the French food I’ve been eating since July, when I previewed the movie. Recently, I opted for a winterized version of pesto; I replaced the bulk of the basil with spinach and used walnuts instead of pine nuts to create a vibrantly green sauce that is a piquant complement to the succulent gnocchi. Even though spinach pesto isn’t a classic French sauce, I think Julia Child would have approved.

Kelly Green Schmickle, an English teacher who lives in Alton, chronicles her culinary experiments at www.barbaricgulp.com.

French Gnocchi
Makes 4


1 cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
4 large eggs


• Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
• Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and there is no dough sticking to the bottom of the pan.
• Continue to cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until the steam rises from the dough and you smell the cooked flour. Do not let the dough brown.
• Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
• Add the eggs one at a time, beating in each egg until it is completely incorporated before adding the next one.
• Spoon the dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a 5∕8-inch plain tip and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. If you are not using a pastry bag, let the dough rest in the mixing bowl.
• Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer.
• To pipe the gnocchi into the water, rest the tip of the bag over the edge of the pot so that you can squeeze the bag with one hand. Use your other hand to cut off 1-inch lengths of dough with a small knife, allowing the gnocchi to drop into the pot. Cut about 24 per batch.
• Keep the water hot, but do not bring it to a boil. Once the gnocchi float to the top, cook for another 3 minutes or until the dumplings are cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet to dry slightly before saucing.
• Repeat with remaining dough.
• To sauce the gnocchi, heat the dumplings in a nonstick skillet. Add about ½ cup of pesto (Click here to find the recipe.) and stir gently. Keep adding pesto until the gnocchi is sauced to your liking. Serve immediately.

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DATE: 01/31/2010 01:27PM    POSTED BY: marcb
The problem with this article is that it assumes that potato gnocchi is the only type of Italian gnocchi. Or that the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking doesn't take potato (at least my 80's reprint does). So basically the 2 things it talks about are incorrect.

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