gnocchi . . . and my brother




My brother is not known as a good cook, though he really is.  He is definitely not a foodie – nor is he of the type that doesn’t care what he eats as long as it is food.  I often underestimate his cooking skills and palate.  In my defense, mashed potatoes are well-known as his favorite food.  We used to make our own suppers of rice and frozen peas when we were younger and our mother was out.  He was the one who thought to add a few extras to this bland dish – a fried egg, a dash of soy sauce, a sprinkle of ginger (well, the ginger might have been me).

My brother is an avid sportsman.  He brings home dozens of game birds throughout the fall and winter.  His freezer is stocked with fish he caught (as well as shrimp and venison gifted to him by fellow hunters and fishermen).  All of this he cooks and eats (with his wife and young son).  He’s been way ahead of the wild food trend currently quite popular with foodies.

Occasionally, I ask him for his tips on cooking, especially wild game (often it is “wrap it in bacon and grill it” – this advise goes surprisingly well for many foods).  Or, I’ll ask him for his favorite recipes.  Except that he does not usually do recipes – he just cooks, putting together what he thinks, or has learned, works.  Once, a few years ago when we were on vacation, I asked him what he liked to make for supper – something he liked that he made often.  He said “gnocchi”.  What?!  Isn’t that time consuming, finicky, and difficult?  His answer was no – it was simple, fast, and really good (and had mashed potatoes, so, in his opinion, perfect).  He proceeded to describe to me how he made it and told me he’d learned when he was in college and worked at an Italian restaurant.

I dismissed gnocchi making for a few years, though I was impressed by his knowledge and ability, because when I got home and looked up a recipe, I was again daunted by the seemingly long, slightly confusing, task.  Every recipe was full of long instructions, and each said you had to take every one of those little potato dumplings and roll them on a fork.  Which would take forever – especially when 4 kids are rolling on the floor crying for supper.

But, this past summer, I dropped by my brother’s house and he was in the kitchen peeling hot potatoes.  I asked him what he was doing.  “Making gnocchi (with these fresh out of the field potatoes from the farm).”  I couldn’t believe it – in real life I was seeing him make his “simple” supper.  I didn’t get around to watching him do the whole process (but to give credit to his claim of a quick supper, I was only in the house for about 5 minutes).

So, when I came across a recipe for gnocchi in my Smitten Kitchen cookbook the other day, I decided to make it.  This recipe actually did look pretty simple.  There was no rolling each dumpling on a fork to make ridges.  The sauce was a simple tomato broth.  I could at least try it!

So I did.  It did not take long to make – probably slightly longer than my average meal-making time, but much of that was baking the potatoes.  Once they were baked, it was pretty quick.  And, simple.  And, delicious.

William loved it, the kids were mediocre (but, turned out they were starting to come down with a stomach bug, so they don’t count this time).  I think I did not quite get the dumplings right, but I also think I will try again.  And, I will probably ask my brother for some tips!



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