Purple Potato Gnocchi with Mushroom Brown Butter
That’s not food coloring! The purple-blue hue is the natural color of these sweet potatoes, also known as Okinawan, or Hawaiian sweet potatoes. I was looking for fresh ube (a purple yam similar to the Okinawan) in my local Asian grocer, but couldn’t find any, so I thought I’d try making a gnocchi dish with the Okinawans instead of regular potatoes. They turned out spectacular and tasted amazing. The slight sweetness of the potatoes; married with the umami-ness of the mushroom brown butter, was heavenly. If you’ve never made homemade pasta, gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) are the way to go because they’re pretty easy to make, and if you have Hawaiian purple sweet potatoes, then it’s a double win for looks and flavor! Don’t they say that the more colorful a fruit or vegetable is, the better it is for you? Trust Hawaii to have beautiful beaches AND the best ‘good-for-you’ sweet potatoes! I know that nobody in Italy uses Okinawan potatoes to make traditional potato gnocchi, and when I first started shopping for dinner, I was actually looking for ube to make a Middle Eastern dessert inspired by all the ube-based Filipino desserts I saw and ate on a recent trip to Hawaii, but like all good cooks, I improvised and flipped the script to my advantage! I cooked and mashed my potatoes at night, added the other ingredients, lightly mixed everything, put them in the fridge, and went to sleep. Next day, no issues, they were just fine. I dusted them lightly with some flour because they had become a bit sticky overnight, rolled them in the palms of my hands into little oval pillows and plopped them straight into a pot of very salty boiling water. Couple of minutes later and the gnocchi were floating to the surface and begging to come out. Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to make gnocchi, they’re very accommodating, but they’re best eaten right away.
Level of Difficulty: Medium
3-4 medium sized purple sweet potatoes
½ cup all purpose flour
1 egg lightly beaten
6-8 cloves of garlic chopped into big pieces
4 Tablespoons butter
8 leaves or more of fresh sage fried till crispy in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
½ bullion mushroom or chicken or vegetable
Grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano
½ tsp of salt for the potatoes
Peel the potatoes and place in a large pot full of water. On high heat, boil and cook the potatoes till they’re very soft (depending on their size) around 40 minutes. Drain the potatoes well and mash them while they’re hot. Add the salt and egg and mix with a fork till incorporated. Start by using ¼ cup flour. Sprinkle the flour and mix lightly. Try to roll a ball and if it’s not too sticky and tacky then do not add any more flour. If the potato dough is still too moist and not holding its’ shape sprinkle in some more flour. If needed add all the half a cup of flour, but the less flour you use the fluffier the gnocchi. Place the gnocchi on a floured tray and cover lightly with a towel or in the fridge until ready to cook. In a medium saucepan (the same one you used to fry the sage but drained of the oil) and on medium high heat, cook the butter, mushroom bullion and the garlic until golden brown. Set the saucepan aside for the gnocchi. Boil a handful of gnocchi at a time and as soon as they float to the surface scoop them out with a slotted spoon into the brown butter. Mix the gnocchi in the brown butter till well coated. Sprinkle liberally with the cheese and the sage leaves.