My experience making dough is slim at best. At worst, I have melted a sheet of cookies into a gooey, black mess in the oven. But, that’s a different story. Given my dough ineptness, it was surprising to me that I had any interest in trying my hand at making sweet potato gnocchi, which was to be mixed with a large helping of butter, sage, and parmesan cheese.
Sweet potatoes and dough didn’t compute well in my brain, but I was looking forward to making a mess by pounding dough all over my countertops. Still, I decided to keep my expectations low. Turns out, that was a good idea.
In an act of sheer violence, I kicked off the cooking by stabbing my large, 1-pound sweet potato repeatedly with a fork. I thought it would be a fun, albeit savage, way to get things started, but I found myself quietly swearing as I thrust the prongs into its leathery skin, and then wriggling the tiny – and very stuck – tines out of the potato.
Satisfied with the number of puncture wounds, I wrapped the potato in a wet paper towel and stuck it in the microwave for 13 minutes before wandering off to make some important progress on my Candy Crush game. Once the potato was nice and soft, I peeled the skin off and mashed the sucker up in a bowl before adding a bit of ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and flour.
Fork in hand, I furiously mixed the doughy concoction until it no longer stuck to the side of the bowl.
Then it was time for the messy part.
I had very little space to work with, as one half of my countertop was covered with dirty dishes, and the other half with the rest of the ingredients. I wiped down a small section in front of the microwave and sprinkled flour across the small area…and the floor. Of course I did.
I took a deep breath (because I knew I was about to make a huge mess), slapped the giant ball of orange dough into the field of flour and started kneading. I was absolutely certain that I was doing it wrong. Still, I worked the dough into the white powder that covered a good portion of the counter, all the while hoping my roommate wouldn’t walk in and ask what I’d done to the kitchen.
I then boiled a vat of water on the stove as I divided the dough into three parts before rolling each one into a giant ball. I re-floured my surface and rolled them to about 12 inches long and 1-inch thick, then cut them into a dozen pieces each. The water bubbling, I tossed in the gnocchi, burning my hands no less than three times from the backsplash, and then waited for the gnocchi to cook until they were “tender-firm.”
As they cooked, I melted a stick of butter over medium heat in a separate skillet, which sputtered boiling hot lava all over me and my cookbook. In a sheer act of bravery, I leapt toward the stove and lowered the heat, presumably right before the pan turned into an unapproachable volcanic spew. Given my penchant for burning things, I knew it was that or be forced to retreat into the hallway for the fire extinguisher.
Side note: I went back and read that I had cooked up too much butter after I was done with this cooking disaster. Still, when it comes to butter, the more the merrier, I say.
After the butter melted and the foamy bubbles died down, I picked sage leaves off the stems and threw them into the skillet, cringing every time they hissed to life as they cooked to a crisp.
Sage leaves demolished, I then drained the gnocchi and added it to the skillet, causing the oil to roar to life once more, before frantically stirring the gnocchi into the browned butter and singed sage. As a final topping, I sprinkled grated parmesan cheese over the mixture, which burned to dead cheese ashes as soon as it hit the pan.
With significant trepidation at this point, I forced myself to spoon a helping of this concoction into my bowl, and sat down to taste test. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The bowl of thick, sloppy gnocchi, blackened sage leaves, and burnt cheese looked nothing like the fresh, shapely pods pictured in my cookbook. The gnocchi in my bowl looked like chunky grease pellets, or perhaps something that a giant hacked up from its lungs. I went with one of the smaller pieces first.
It’s hard to describe what these little capsules tasted like. In fact, I found myself taking more and more bites, mostly because I didn’t know how I’d remember what the hot, orange mess tasted like for this story. Let’s just go with forgettable, with a hint of sweet, potato-y flavor.
Will I try to make this again, perhaps improving upon my mistakes from the first go round? Probably. Did I order a hot sandwich from a food truck instead of finishing this shit? Most definitely.
Amanda Push is a writer who wishes she lived with a cat and just wants to learn how to not eat like a college student anymore. Contact her at [email protected].