Vegan Gnocchi in Cheesy Bechamel with White Truffle Oil – Junk Food Post #1

Today hereby inaugurates my Thirty-One Days of Junk Food.  My New Year’s Resolution this year is to make sure as many of my readers broke theirs as possible!  (Just kidding, but not really.)  I think I’m off to a good start!

(BTW, this post is dedicated to Kelly Olexa, who ironically enough, is one of the best fitness vloggers out there.  She’s also one of my favorite people to Twitter at…)

Vegan Gnocchi in Cheesy Bechamel with White Truffle Oil

This recipe starts vegan with the gnocchi, but ends up being vegetarian with the yummy 5 cheese bechamel.  However, vegans, please do not go away.  You can remove the bechamel and replace it with some Elegant Marinara or a sage-brown vegan margarine sauce.

Either way, the party ends with a delicious garrnish of white truffle oil and a little basil for green and flavor.

Vegan Gnocchi

My challenge to myself in making this dish was making the gnocchi vegan.  Gnocchi recipes abound and are not terribly difficult, like this one at 101 Cookbooks I really liked.   Most recipes call for around 2 pounds of potatoes, 4 eggs, and some flour, salt, and nutmeg to add flavor to the party, but I wanted to eat some, too so I had to veganize it.

The easiest thing to do would have been to swap out the eggs with Ener-G egg replacer, but there are two problems with that.  First, while Ener-G egg replacer works great as a binding agent, it’s not so good at providing the protein matrix I wanted to make the gnocchi fluffy.  To address this issue, I added a scant teaspoon of baking powder (you can add more, but be careful, it has a bitter taste).  Second, Ener-G egg replacer needs to be blended with water and I did NOT want watery gnocchi.  For this, I used the novel approach of cutting the amount of water in half.

So here’s what I ended up doing:

  • 8 small potatoes (probably four pounds), peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 egg’s worth of egg replacer, but only 2 egg’s worth of water
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour + more for bench use
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

Boil the potatoes until they are just fork tender.  Rinse with cold water until they can be handled.  Drain thoroughly in a collander.

Add the egg replacer, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.  Using your hand or potato masher, mash the potatoes and mix the ingredients.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour a quarter cup at a time.

Cover a clean surface with whole wheat flour and begin kneading the dough until it is the consistency of cookie dough.  If the dough does not want to stay together, add more flour or a bit more egg replacer.

Once you are happy with the dough, do what Heidi recommends and cut the dough into eight pieces.  Roll each piece into a long strip and cut that strip into bite-sized pieces.  Let the dough rest for a few moments as you get the water ready.

Ready the water by bringing to boil enough water to cover the gnocchi and one tablespoon of salt in a sauce pan or pot.  When the water is boiling, add the gnocchi to the pot in small batches.

How do you know when the gnocchi is ready? Now, here’s where Herve This and I agree.  FORGET THE ADAGE THAT THE GNOCCHI IS READY WHEN IT FLOATS!  It’s a myth and I ate raw gnocchi to prove it.  Boil the gnocchi for three minutes and fifteen seconds.  Use a timer.

Serve with a sauce like a marinara or the bechamel below and enjoy!

Five Cheese Bechamel

I really wanted to gild the lily with this recipe, mainly because I was showing off.  This cheese sauce uses five cheeses to give it the extra zing and junk-foodiness that one needs to truly shatter one’s New Year’s Resolution.

You will need:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 2 tablespoons white flour (for the love of all that is good, DO NOT use whole wheat flour.)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup fontina
  • 1 cup aged Gruyère
  • 1 cup Asiago
  • 1 cup Emmenthaler
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • (optional) grated Parmesan

As my one concession to meat eaters, you can use rendered bacon grease instead of butter.  I hear that is might tasty.

Add the butter to a cold skillet.  Bring it to medium heat and continually move the butter around to prevent burning.  Immediately after the butter is melted, add the flour and stir.  (You are making a roux, the king of French thickeners.)  Cook the roux until you begin to detect a nutty aroma.  This should take anywhere from 2-4 minutes.

Add the cream and give it a good stir to make sure the roux is removed from the bottom of the skillet.  Begin bringing the cream to a boil, stirring occasionally.  As the cream starts to boil, add the cheeses, the nut meg, and the white pepper.  That much cheese makes the sauce thicken VERY quickly so you will only need to stir another 30 seconds or.  Remove from the heat and add the parm, stirring to incorporate.

Pour over gnocchi, cauliflower or anything else you want.

Bringing Vegan Gnocchi, Cheesy Bechamel, and the Truffle Oil Together

Get out a large bowl and dump the cooled (though hopefully not cold) gnocchi into it.  Top with the bechamel.  Now, if you have time, you can top the dish with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and parsely and bake the dish like a casserole until it gets crusty on top, or you can skip this step.

Baked or not, top with a light drizzle of white truffle oil and a chiffonade of basil.

Grab and spoon and get to eating.


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