In the past we have made Ranch flavored gnocchi. We've also failed at making Ranch flavored gnocchi. A couple of years back we successfully prepped, cooked, and served Ranch flavored gnocchi to a large audience with a reasonably good reception. Satisfied, we put the idea to bed.
Ranch dressing is a delicious and ubiquitous condiment for both the fancy and the familiar. When Ranch dressing is around, for many people all is right with the world, at least the world at their table. It can be the bane of chefs as it slowly replaces ketchup as the condiment of choice on the American table, although these days the only times we really raise our eyebrows are when it's slathered on pizza or drizzled on lasagna.
As I write this, I am inspired because while Ranch lathered pizza might sound a bit strange, Ranch seasoned ricotta and mozzarella could be just what I need. To incorporate these flavors into those cheeses we would need to make a dry Ranch flavoring and then incorporate it into the milk and proceed with the cheese making. Since we have not tried this yet and are speaking only in theory, we will revisit this tangent at a later date.
The flavor of Ranch and many other dressings from honey mustard to Thousand Island are unique and comforting. They carry us to places in our memories where the world was simpler and kinder and happiness could be found in a plate of food prepared with love. I cannot recall when I first tried Ranch, in fact it is a relatively new fetish. The Trainwreck Fries at Virgil's Real BBQ are a fine place to start. That may have been the spot where I thought up Ranch gnocchi, though our first rendition did not retain the down home goodness which is evoked each time we dig into the enormous platter of loaded fries, usually accompanied by an ice cold beer.
Last week I contacted our friends at The Spice House to see if we could work on a Ranch powder for our new take on Ranch gnocchi. They were more than generous with their time as we rooted through aisles of spices and powders, tasting and blending in order to achieve the essence of Ranch. Since they had just sold the last of their buttermilk powder they gave me the initial blend and left it to me to incorporate the final ingredient and finish the mix. The final product is resplendent with intense flavor and aroma, and finishes on the palate with the distinct lactic tang, which to me defines a great Ranch dressing.
In the gnocchi the intense flavor of the powdered Ranch blends beautifully with the potatoes. Where our original Ranch gnocchi were dependent on Methocel for their structure, the new version depends upon tradition and evolution.
We used twice cooked potatoes, cooked first in a 65ºC in a water bath to stabilize the starch, chilled, and baked. We riced the hot baked potatoes and then folded in some flour and egg to bind the dumplings. We used our Ranch blend for the seasoning, let the dough rest for half an hour and then formed the gnocchi. We then poached them and chilled them overnight in the refrigerator. Although they were tasty when we created them, they were even better this morning after the ranch flavor had an opportunity to hydrate and bloom. The finished gnocchi have a delicate chewy texture and a haunting ranch-potato flavor. We were tempted to serve them this evening with lobster but we held back. Tomorrow we'll see where lightning strikes the potatoes.