Potato Flake Gnocchi with Foraged Flavors

I'm that person who has always made heavy stodgy overworked gnocchi. I'm a pretty good cook, but they were a fail for me every time. Last month, I discovered that potato flakes made the perfect binder in my acorn "meatballs" recipe. I was a little surprised by that, to be honest. Afterward, I was left with an entire bag of potato flakes, so I needed to find another recipe to utilize them. All of the best internet searches led me to gnocchi made with potato flakes. I gave it a go. For the first time ever, I managed to pull off gnocchi that were light as air. Even better, they came together in minutes. I was sold, especially knowing gnocchi pair well with wild flavors, as my best foraging buddy Wild Food Girl has been doing for years.

Here's why the potato flakes work well in gnocchi. The little dumplings can get too heavy when they contain too much moisture, or when you try to correct that moisture level by adding too much flour. The flakes take some of the variability out of the moisture level in the recipe. Not only that, they take you halfway to the finish line with no work. I don't know about you, but after putting so many hours into obtaining foraged goods, sometimes I don't have the time or energy to spend an hour cooking dinner. Did you know that there are a few varieties of organic potato flakes now on the market?

You can make these basic gnocchi wild in two ways. You can either add foraged goods to the dumplings themselves, or include wild foods in the sauce. Or both! Just think of the fun possibilities. The lead picture above features gnocchi made with cattail pollen, porcini mushrooms, and dandelion greens, each added as a dried powder, rather than fresh. You can double the amount of cattail pollen or mushroom powder used in this recipe. However, using a greater amount of greens powder yielded gnocchi that I didn't enjoy because they were too strong.

Basic Potato Flake Gnocchi with Foraged Flavors

1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. potato flakes
2 eggs
3/4 cup minus 1 Tbsp. flour (pre-mixed gluten-free flour works just fine here)
1 Tbsp. wild food powder or flour (such as cattail, porcini, or dandelion)
pinch of salt

1. Heat the milk and butter together until they are melted. Then add the potato flakes and stir until they are all well-combined. The mixture should be a little bit crumbly. Let it cool to room temperature.

2. Add the eggs, flour, salt, and wild food powder to the potato mixture. When you are measuring, add the tablespoon of wild powder to the measuring cup, then fill the rest of the way with flour. Stir all of the elements together just until they are combined.

3. Turn the flour out onto a lightly floured counter top, and knead it gently just until it comes together into a nice ball. Divide the ball into three pieces, which makes it easier to form the gnocchi, particularly if space is tight.

4. Roll the gnocchi dough until it forms a 1" diameter rope. Cut the rope into 1" pieces. The pieces can be slightly larger, just make certain they're all the same size so that they cook evenly.

5. Take each pillow of gnocchi dough and push it down the length of a fork until the back side is dimpled in with your fingerprint and the front has indentations from the fork. The pocket makes a nice place for sauce to land, and the ridges keep the gnocchi from being slippery in your mouth.

6. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi in 2 batches. At first they will sink. Give them a quick swirl to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the gnocchi float in the water, let them continue to cook for one additional minute. Fish the cooked gnocchi out with a slotted spoon or spider.

7. Cooked gnocchi can be served in any number of ways. I have a strong preference for slipping them into a skillet with brown butter and sage, and letting them sizzle and soak up the flavors for a few minutes before finishing them with a spoonful of the gnocchi cooking water and a shower of finely shredded hard cheese. Gnocchi take equally will to being served with any number of sauces, from a wild mushroom wine sauce, to marinara.

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