Why is it snowing again? WHY? While my poor husband is outside shoveling, I’m sitting inside with baby boy trying to find ways to keep him entertained. In case you are wondering, I am out of ideas. I tried watching a COLA lecture on Apple TV, but he wasn’t having any of it. We have currently settled on a combo of the Jumperoo while listening to the Caspar Babypants Pandora station (highly recommend). He’s “singing” to himself while jumping like a crazy person, and I have a few minutes to continue typing this post (though I may have spoken too soon).
Enough about snow and how it is ruining our lives. Let’s talk about the recipe. The background story is pretty straightforward: We don’t like to go out on Valentine’s Day. Instead, I usually try to cook something special, and we eat at home. Last night was the beginning of a blizzard, and we didn’t have a babysitter, so we were going to eat at home either way. I know that Diran likes gnocchi, and that we both like sweet potatoes, so I decided that I would make sweet potato gnocchi. Mmm. I have this awesome book called The Flavor Bible (found here, and highly recommended to anyone that enjoys improvising in the kitchen)–basically, you find the food that you want to cook, and it gives you all sorts of other foods and flavors that go with it–so I took a look. It turns out that sweet potatoes go with all sorts of things. I found that kale and bacon were compatible flavors, and Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Tuscan Kale and Bacon was born.
Before you read the recipe, I have a few warnings. 1) For some reason, I found it really hard to describe how to simultaneously be making the gnocchi and the kale/bacon. It seems like there are a lot of steps, but you can actually be doing some of these things at the same time. 2) Yes, it is kind of time consuming to make gnocchi. If you don’t have the 20 minutes or so it takes to do the prep, you can either a) prep the gnocchi ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it, or b) just go out and buy some (see the bottom of the post for suggestions). No one has to know. BTW, if you buy pre-made gnocchi, it will cut prep and cook time down to about a total of 15 minutes. 3) This is not really a warning, but a suggestion: if you have young (or old) kids, get them involved in the gnocchi making! Everyone knows it is fun to roll out dough if you are a kid. If they’re old enough, they can cut the pieces with a kid friendly knife, and they can roll the pieces over a fork to make grooves. I actually found the gnocchi-making part of this recipe to be the most annoying part, but I would have loved doing this if I was a kid! Plus, kids are more likely to eat food that they helped make, so you’ll have less complaining and weird looks when it comes time to eat. My 7 month old ate some of the gnocchi and loved it, so I think it’s a pretty kid-friendly food.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Tuscan Kale and Bacon
Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
1 medium/large sweet potato
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup flour
pinch of nutmeg
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pieces uncooked bacon, diced
1/2 bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly grated parmesan (1/3-1/2 cup or so)
Preparing the gnocchi:
Place a big pot of water on the stove over medium-high heat (if it boils before you’re ready for it, just turn it down to low). Meanwhile, poke a bunch of holes in the sweet potato with a fork. Put it on a plate in the microwave for 5-6 minutes until soft and cooked through (turn it once during cooking). Remove from the microwave and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh and place it in a big bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the egg yolk, and combine with the fork. Add the flour, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Combine gently with the fork until just combined (it should look like lots of pebbles, but for the most part be coming together). The dough should feel moist, but not too sticky. If it is very sticky, add about 1/4 cup of flour at a time and combine until it is dry enough to be rolled out.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured countertop. Form it into a ball, being careful not to knead it more than is necessary. Flatten it out, and divide in half. Set one half aside. Roll the other half into a long rope, about 3/4 inch in diameter (see the picture above). Cut the rope into about 1/4 inch pieces (it doesn’t have to be exact, but try to keep the pieces about the same size). Take each piece, and roll it over the tines of a fork to create grooves. Place each piece aside, preferably on a floured surface so it doesn’t stick (alternatively, you can place them on a paper towel, which worked well for me). Repeat this entire process with the other half of the dough.
Making the bacon and kale and assembling the entire dish:
Place the olive oil and garlic cloves in a large skillet over low heat for about 5 minutes to infuse the flavor of the garlic into the oil. Turn the heat up to medium, and add the diced bacon, stirring occasionally to brown all sides of the bacon (about 7 minutes). When the bacon is brown and crispy, remove it and the garlic with a slotted spoon; set aside the bacon, and discard the garlic. Carefully add the kale to the pan, being sure to step back if the kale is wet because it will splatter! Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt. When the kale has wilted down, add the butter, and turn heat down to low to keep warm. Note: I recommend doing this step (cooking bacon/kale) while rolling and cutting the gnocchi to cut down on prep time.
Once you add the kale to the pan, you can now cook the gnocchi. Salt the boiling water (to the salinity of the sea, which is pretty salty). Carefully drop in about 1/3-1/2 of the gnocchi, 1-2 pieces at a time. Cook until the pieces float to the top of the pot (it will only take a minute or so) and then continue to cook for another minute or so. Using a slotted spoon or a spider, transfer the gnocchi to the pan of kale, and stir gently. Repeat the cooking process with the remainder of the gnocchi. Once all the gnocchi has been cooked and transferred to the pan of kale, grate a generous amount of parmesan cheese over the top (to your taste, but I probably added 1/3 of a cup), and fold to combine. Plate each serving, and top each plate with half of the cooked bacon and a little more parmesan cheese.
Ways to improvise:
- Buy pre made gnocchi. I really like the kind from Trader Joe’s, which is shelf-stable and found in the pasta aisle. It’s not sweet potato gnocchi, but it would still taste good in this dish. You can also buy freshly made gnocchi at specialty stores.
- Use ravioli instead of gnocchi. I bet this would be good with butternut squash or mushroom ravioli.
- Use a different kind of kale, like regular kale.
- Use pancetta instead of bacon.
- Prep ahead: make the gnocchi ahead of time and refrigerate in a single layer (or freeze in a single layer). Then do the rest of the prep/cooking before eating.