I know how to make gnocchi because of Marco Canora. For a year, I made gnocchi with him every day. The only day of my tenure at Craft that we didn’t serve gnocchi was the one day Marco left me by myself. And I fucked it up. I thought I was going to get murdered.
Nobody knows more about potato starch than Marco Canora. It’s fucking uncanny. It’s all about the crystals. You open up the potato and it almost looks like you coated the potato with sugar. And if it wasn’t right, those were the worst days. You knew right off the bat that it was going to be a bad service.
You want potatoes that are old. I would keep track and be at least seven to ten days ahead. I would hide them, because I knew how much service depended on the good-looking starch content of the potato. It was my prerogative to make sure the fucking potatoes were right all the time. But even if you did everything right, even if you stored them right, sometimes the potatoes were still wet and soggy. And you were fucked.
I love making gnocchi because there’s something therapeutic about the repetition and dedication that goes into it—it’s just you alone in the world with gnocchi, you can’t pay attention to anything else.
At Noodle Bar, in 2008, we started serving gnocchi sauced like gamjatang, which is a Korean pork-neck soup with potatoes. I just thought, How about we replace the pork neck and the bones with pork shoulder (which we had on hand to put in our ramen), and the actual chunks of potato will be the gnocchi? I thought it was really delicious. We had it on the menu for about a year, but not many people ordered it. I think people had a hard time seeing gnocchi outside of a traditional Italian format.
To that end, if you wanted to un-re-engineer this dish, you could revert the gnocchi back to chunks of potato, or even use rice cakes in their place. The soupy sauce is the star of the show, and it makes anything starchy taste good. Marco’s gnocchi are better than mine, but my sauce is better than his!
- 1 C sliced napa cabbage
- 2 T salt
- 2 T sugar
- 4 potatoes, preferably old and starchy
- + flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 C sliced onion
- 1 C (5 oz) Shredded Pork Shoulder
- 1/4 C gochujang
- 1/2 C paechu kimchi
- 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 C thinly sliced scallions
- 18 perilla leaves
- 6 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced into 2-inch-long pieces
- 3 C (24 oz) veal or beef stock
- 1/4 C ssamjang
- 1 T butter
- + ground sesame seeds, for garnish
Shredded Pork Shoulder
- 1 lb boneless pork shoulder
- 1 T + 1 t salt
- 1 T + 1 t sugar
- + black pepper
make the gamjatang
Sprinkle the napa cabbage generously with salt and sugar; set aside for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain.
Make the gnocchi: heat your oven to 300°F. Place your potatoes on a sheet pan, and bake for 2 hours. Remove and carefully slice in half lengthwise. Score the exposed flesh, and bake for another 20 minutes. You don’t want any color on the flesh; you’re just looking to draw the moisture out.
Scoop the flesh out of the potatoes , and rice/mill them. Clear a large space on your counter or kitchen table. Dump the riced potato flesh onto your surface. Using a spoon, poke at the pile of potatoes (no smushing allowed!) until you have an even ½-inch to 1-inch layer.
Dust your island of potatoes with flour and drizzle with the beaten egg. Using a bench scraper, cut the flour and egg into the potatoes, moving in tight lines across the length of your island. Fold in the excess flour from the edges.
Dust your new, smaller island of potatoes with another round of flour. Cut the flour into the potatoes, using the same technique. Drawing in from the edges, compact your dough into a long loaf. Rub the loaf with flour. Set aside, and scrape your workspace clean.
Slice the loaf into 7 even pieces. Place your first piece on your work surface. Using your hands, roll the dough until it is approximately ½ inch in diameter. Try to apply even pressure; you want your fingers to feel like an extension of your palm. Set the strand aside, and repeat for the remaining pieces.
Dust a sheet pan with flour. Gather your strands together, and dust them with flour, too. Using a bench scraper, cut your stands into 1½-inch lengths, and transfer to the floured sheet pan.
Boil a pot of salted water, and prepare an ice bath big enough to hold all of the gnocchi. Once your water is boiling, drop in your gnocchi. When they float, after about 5 minutes, take them out with a spider, and shock them in the ice bath.
Drain your gnocchi, and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the gamjatang: combine the sliced onion, shredded pork shoulder, gochujang, and paechu kimchi in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the cured napa cabbage and black pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add ½ cup thinly sliced scallions. Cook for 2 minutes.
Slice 12 perilla leaves into a 1-inch chiffonade. Add to the saucepan with the 2-inch chunks of scallions. Cook for 1 minute, then add the ramen stock and ssamjang. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Whisk in the butter, stirring vigorously for 1 minute.
Add the gnocchi to the saucepan, and heat them through. Slice the remaining perilla leaves into a very fine chiffonade. Take the stew off the heat, and stir in half of the finely sliced perilla leaves and the remaining thinly sliced scallions. Garnish with ground sesame seeds and the remaining perilla leaves.
Make the shredded pork shoulder
Season the shoulder with the salt and sugar. Hit it with a couple turns of freshly ground black pepper. Let it sit overnight, covered, in the fridge.
Throw the seasoned shoulder in a roasting pan. Cook, uncovered, in a 250°F oven for around 2 hours. Baste it occasionally with the rendered fat and juices that have accumulated in the pan.
After 2 hours, take it out of the oven and let it take a breather on the counter for at least half an hour. Then savage it with two forks, turning it into pulled pork. Use at once or pack it up and put it back in the fridge.