When a friend challenged me to create gluten free sweet potato gnocchi, I was nuts enough to take her up on her challenge! After three batches, I finally created fluffy gluten free sweet potato gnocchi, which I served pan-fried with chicken sausage, roasted red peppers and arugula.
If you get the chance, you should probably make friends with a food blogger. We go all out at potlucks. You always have someone to call when you need a cup of sugar (or in my case, a few tablespoons of raw, local honey). And if you present them with your kitchen conundrums, they'll happily accept your challenge.
At a tailgate a few weeks ago, I was chatting with my friend Tara, my favorite nutrition school dropout...and by nutrition school dropout I mean she graduated the same nutrition undergrad program as me then went on to become a nuclear chemist or something I don't quite understand so I just smile and nod whenever she talks to me about work. Anyhoo, she told me about a recent kitchen disaster when she attempted gluten free sweet potato gnocchi. Her beautiful little orange dumplings simply disintegrated into a pot of orange sludge.
Her kitchen fail ignited a old vendetta I have against gnocchi, as I had experienced the exact same problem when I tried to make sweet potato gnocchi in college. Granted, I had just learned to cook, so making gnocchi was about as realistic as me trying out for the Olympic hockey team.
My challenge - create a light, gluten free gnocchi with no refined flours.
Gluten free gnocchi is a whole other beast. Wheat flour forms gluten, which helps gnocchi stay together, but gluten free flours do not. Plus, they are heavier, making it more difficult to form light, pillowy dumplings.
After 3 batches of gnocchi and hours of online research, I think I found the tricks that will keep you from making a batch of orange goo for dinner.
1. DO NOT MASH THE POTATO!! Looking back, this was the mistake I made the first time. This releases too much water and your gnocchi will never come together. Instead, use the large holes on a cheese grater to grate your potato. You could also use a potato ricer, which is probably easier, but seriously, who owns a potato ricer?
2. Bake, don't boil your potatoes. See above.
3. Use as little flour as possible. My first batch, I was so determined to not have my gnocchi fall apart that I used almost an extra half cup of flour. My gnocchi didn't fall apart, but they were also hard as rocks. Fairly edible rocks, but rocks nonetheless. You want the dough still be a little bit sticky, but not so loose that it won't form dumplings.
4. Freeze the gnocchi. After making the gnocchi, I transferred it to the freezer for about 10 minutes. It wasn't frozen solid, but the outside was firm. I think this helped.
5. Look for finely milled gluten free flours. My second batch was made with brown rice and bean flours that were a little bit grainy (that's what's pictured here. You can kind of see the graininess in the pictures). It wasn't bad by any means, but it was definitely improved when I used white bean flour (versus garbanzo bean) and a more finely milled brown rice flour (here in Columbia, I found Earth Fare's bulk brown rice flour is finer). You could also use 1/2 cup of potato starch instead of some of the flour, and I think that would work too.
6. Traditional gnocchi has ridges in it, made with the tines of a fork. Skip this step. You just made gnocchi from scratch. Do you really want to mess with one extra step??
That week, I ate sweet potato gnocchi every which way - in a simple olive oil, garlic and sage sauce, a vegan Bolognese made with tempeh - but my favorite was this warm salad of pan-fried gnocchi with organic chicken sausage. To save time, use a package of premade gnocchi. Cappellos makes a gluten free, grain free gnocchi you can purchase locally here at Earth Fare. I haven't tried it yet, and probably won't for awhile since I'm gnocchied out for the time being, but please report back if you do!
And since you're going to the trouble of making gnocchi from scratch, you might want to make an extra batch and freeze it for another day.
Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Chicken Sausage Salad
- 2 lbs sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup white bean flour
- 3/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1 large shallot, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 8 ounces organic chicken sausage, garlic or Italian flavored, sliced (or vegan sausage for vegetarian version)
- 2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 16-ounce bottle roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
- 8 ounces arugula
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry your sweet potatoes, then prick them all over with the tines of a fork. Place on a baking sheet and roast 45-60 minutes until tender. Check them after 30 minutes if you're using small potatoes.
- Once tender, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel and grate on the large holes of a box grater. Place the grated potato in a large bowl. Add egg, pepper and salt and mix well with a spoon. Slowly add the flours, a little bit at a time, and stir until well combined after each addition. Once all the flour is added, knead the dough a little bit until it forms a slightly sticky, but cohesive mass.
- Dump the dough out onto a well floured surface. Using a knife or dough cutter, cut it into four sections. Roll each section into a ball, then roll into a large log. Cut each log into dumplings then transfer to a baking sheet or plate that will fit in your freezer. When all the gnocchi are made, freeze for 10-15 minutes (or longer if needed for prep time) until slightly firm.
- Toss the shallot with red wine vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes.
- While the gnocchi are chilling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add the gnocchi and cook until tender and they float to the surface, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the gnocchi are cooking, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and when shimmering, add gnocchi. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Toss gnocchi, sausage, and red peppers together. Remove the shallots from the vinegar and add the shallots to the gnocchi. Divide the arugula among four plates and top with the gnocchi salad. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the salad and serve.