Daring Cooks' Challenge: Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

When I came across the Daring Kitchen, I was so excited to see a group called the Daring Cooks, the members of which try out different cooking challenges, and I signed myself right up. Turns out I signed up just in time for the first challenge.

But, boy, when they say challenge, they're not kidding! This may have been one of the more difficult things I've ever tried to make and one of the few things I could not make right or fix. That's right. I failed my first Daring Cooks' Challenge. But it was still fun!

I was actually really looking forward to this challenge because the chosen recipe -- Ricotta Gnocchi -- comes right out of Judy Rodgers' The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco's Beloved Restaurant. One of my friends gave me this cookbook for Christmas, and I had yet to try anything out of it, even though I've already read it cover to cover and flipped through the recipes several times. It's one of those cookbooks that succeeds at being both gorgeous and instructive.

I followed the recipe exactly. I bought fresh ricotta at Whole Foods and drained it for what ended up being two days because I was too tired to make the gnocchi the night I originally planned to.

I took my drained ricotta and stirred and mashed it, then added the eggs, cheese, melted butter and sage, and salt. I mixed everything up. I thought the mixture seemed a bit loose, but since I had followed all of the directions, I made my test gnocchi anyways. It failed. So I tried to fix them as Rodgers suggests, by adding some beaten egg white.

But my gnocchi were still kind of goopy and gloppy. They looked nothing like the picture in the cookbook. I shaped them anyways and stuck the tray in the fridge thinking maybe they would harden and be easier to work with. No luck.

I can't even share a finished picture with you. They looked that bad. I even took the cooked ones and tried sauteeing them in some butter, so they might crisp up. This didn't even work. I guess it just wasn't my night. It's a good thing we had fresh rolls and zinfandel-braised short ribs.

My gnocchi came out with the texture of ravioli or stuffed shell filling. And it sort of reminded me of undercooked poached eggs too. It wasn't horrible, but I'd rather eat ravioli or stuffed shells. I don't see myself making this again, but I have always wanted to make potato gnocchi, and I haven't given up on giving that a try! And I definitely plan to try more recipes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

Check out La Mia Cucina for the ricotta gnocchi recipe.

A little gnocchi antidote: Last year I went on a cruise in Hawaii. While onboard the ship at dinner one night, I had a waitress who insisted on calling this dish ga-notch-ee. But what's worse -- she served me tortellini. There was no tortellini on the menu, so I nicely mentioned that she might want to inform the chefs that gnocchi and tortellini are two completely different things!