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I was wondering about a detail of a recipe I recently read in a magazine.

The recipe is for Gnocchi, so basically it's about making a potato mash dough.

Instead of just boiling the potatoes, the recipe was roughly like:

Put the whole, unpeeled potatoes into a large casserole, cover them wholly with ample stone salt, and slowly bake them for 2 hours. (... then peel cooked potatoes and put them through a ricer ... ...)

What gives? I'd just put them into a steamer and cook them, what's the point of putting them into the oven for 2 hrs covered with salt?

(Note: It was a recipe from a posh restaurant, so it may well be more complicated than necessary :-)

Here is the original (german) recipe for reference.

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Roasting in salt is supposed to give great skin, but if the potatoes are destined to be used in gnocci, that doesn't make much sense. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 5 '13 at 21:45
    
@SAJ14SAJ - And if they're covered in salt, there won't be must "roasting" going on, or will there? –  Martin Dec 5 '13 at 21:47
    
Actually, they will. Salt is a pretty good heat conductor. But I don't see why it is used in this application. You could just as easily bake them in the oven right on the rack. –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 5 '13 at 21:49
    
Could the salt be drawing off water while baking ? –  Optionparty Dec 6 '13 at 1:31
    
The salt certainly would draw off water, but that doesn't explain it since a hot, dry oven would do the same thing. I'm inclined to think this recipe is gussied up for show, as the OP suggested. –  Carey Gregory Dec 6 '13 at 2:35
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1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The only answer that makes any sense (other than the "just for show" hypothesis) is that baking in salt does create a fluffier potato. That assertion is backed up by Cook's Illustrated and the Idaho Potato Commission [citation]. So, for the lightest possible gnocchi, start with the fluffiest possible potato.

I've got to say though, roasting potatoes in salt for gnocchi would be too fussy even for me.

EDIT: One other possibility just occurred to me, and the more I think of it, the more I think it's the key. Maybe the restaurant always bakes potatoes that way and it's just as easy to add extra for the gnocchi or to use leftovers. So, they wrote the recipe the way they actually do it.

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Hmm ... wrt. your second theory ... I think it's rather unlikely this restaurant ever serves oven-baked potatoes. It's neither a common dish in Italy, nor is it a high-cuisine dish, afaik. –  Martin Dec 6 '13 at 18:42
    
My bad because I somehow didn't realize that the link you posted was the actual recipe from the actual place, I thought it was some kind of historical treatise on Gnocchi. After some Google translate action, I've got to agree that the "we do oven baked potatoes anyway" hypothesis is probably not correct. Not so much because baked potatoes wouldn't have a place on the menu (the restaurant bills itself as Italian and International, and a stellar baked potato can certainly play a role in International high-cuisine) but (oddly) because the potatoes in question are waxy. –  Jolenealaska Dec 6 '13 at 23:34
    
The fact that the potatoes are waxy (which wouldn't be the choice for a fluffy baked potato) actually kind of supports the pre-edit answer. If waxy yet fluffy potatoes are the goal for the gnocci, then the salt trick actually makes more sense. Some quality in the waxy potatoes is desirable, but so is fluffiness. Enter salt. At any rate, considering your concern about the answer, perhaps you were a bit fast to "accept"? –  Jolenealaska Dec 6 '13 at 23:45
    
Well. After your two comments, the answer certainly is very acceptable. :-) Cheers. –  Martin Dec 7 '13 at 19:08
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