Squash never had it so good–and neither did we
Visit the link HERE to see how to cut, clean and sous vide process a Butternut squash.
Other than the squash itself, you will need:
- Flour, 0.5 oz/15 g plus some to dust the board. It is important to WEIGH the flour. If you do not have a scale, 0.5 oz/15 g of flour is just barely over 1 Tablespoon. Very important to achieve the desired consistency of the dough.
- Kosher salt, a few grains.
- Ginger, a tiny pinch.
- Vegetable oil, 2 drops.
- Whipping cream, 1.5 oz/40 cl. (for the sauce–NOT the dough).
- Cold butter, 1 oz/28 g. (for the sauce–NOT the dough).
- Pumpkin seeds, hulls removed, about 20 each.
- Reggiano-parmigiana cheese, grated, a little bit;
- Chopped parsley, a little bit (optional).
- Potato ricer or a food mill.
- Food processor.
This wedge weighs about 5 oz/140 g. It weighs the same before and AFTER cooking because of the sealed package. After processing at 183 F/84 C for one hour, shock the package cold in iced water until it achieves 70 F/21 C. Refrigerate at 40 F/4 C until you are ready to proceed. The carefully weighed barrel section can also be used for this application.
The problem with water
Like many other foods, Butternut squash is mostly water. Water is the enemy of good gnocchi, and water content is the difference between silky, tender dumplings and oversized pencil erasers. Even well dried Russet potatoes are too watery to make good gnocchi without removing as much water as possible.
Various methods are utilized…some chefs bake the potatoes first. Others grate the potatoes when they are still hot in hopes that the water will escape through steam. Our vacuum method reduces the chore to an easily achievable procedure with predictable and measurable results.
Pat the wedge dry with a paper towel and cut in half. Do not remove the skin.
Put the half wedge in the ricer with the skin side UP.
Place the ricer above a paper towel and lower the piston into the cylinder.
Lift up the piston and remove the skin from the cylinder.
Repeat the process with the other half wedge. Discard the skin.
Now you should have approximately 4 oz/115 g of squashed squash on the paper towel.
Put another paper towel on top of the squash purée and wrap the whole thing up in a dry kitchen towel.
Vacuum in a sous vide bag. I use a chamber vacuum, but a channel vacuum will work as well. Wait one half hour.
Remove the paper towel “envelope” from the pouch.
Now you have approximately 2 oz/60 g of Butternut concentrate–about half what you started with. That’s a lot of water.
In the food processor, load the squash, the pinch of salt, the WEIGHED 0.5 oz of flour (about 1.5 T), the pinch of ginger and the 2 drops of vegetable oil. Pulse to create the dough. It will seem too dry at first, and should not actually form a ball in the processor (see below).
After about 20 pulses, you should get very coarse crumbs as pictured above.
Use gloved or clean hands to form the dough into a ball.
Use the splayed fingers of one hand rolling gently back and forth.
This will start to form the rod.
Using both hands with fingers splayed, continue rolling out the cylinder until it is approximately 16″/41 cm.
Cut into approximately 16 dumplings. These are perfectly fine in this shape, although some Italian chefs might call these “malfatti.” If you prefer to take the extra step…
You can acquire a gnocchi board to create ridges.
This effect can also be achieved using a fork. If you push a little harder, you can create “conchiglie” (shells).
Take a deep breath
Making gnocchi is not difficult. It is, however, time consuming, and reminds us of a time when there was more, well, TIME. That said, making gnocchi is a good excuse to exclude yourself from other chores that might otherwise be assigned to you around the house.
Stage 1 qt./1 L of iced tap water into a large bowl. Set aside.
Bring 1 qt./1 L of water to a rapid boil in a sauce pan. The water must really BOIL. Drop the gnocchi in all at once. At first they will sink and then they will begin to bob. Continue cooking until ALL the dumplings float to the top and stay there. Use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi and drop them in the iced water to stop the cooking process. You can pour the boiling water (and gnocchi) through a strainer before shocking cold, but be careful–the gnocchi are quite soft at this point and are easily damaged.
Drain the gnocchi and stage into a small bowl. Drizzle with a few drops of EVOO. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.
Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small sauté pan with a drop of oil just until they crisp. It only takes a few seconds. Remove the seeds to a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Add the cream, the butter and a pinch of salt to the pan and simmer for one minute. This is NOT a reduction–there is no need to reduce the volume. You are creating a simple emulsion with cream as the continuous phase and butter as the dispersed phase. Add the gnocchi to the pan and simmer just until hot–if you cook too long in the sauce, the gnocchi will become gooey. Stage on to a plate, sprinkle with the seeds and grated cheese. If desired, sprinkle with chopped parsley. In the picture we have a crisped fennel frond as well.