Food & Drink » Key Ingredient

Key Ingredient: mochiko

Ray Stanis of Nellcote makes mochi gnocchi



The Chef: Ray Stanis (Nellcote)
The Challenger: Elissa Narow (Perennial Virant)
The Ingredient: Mochiko

Mochiko, the finely milled flour made from glutinous rice (also known as mochi rice, sticky rice, or sweet rice), is used to make rice noodles and the sweet Japanese rice cakes called mochi; it's also a popular ingredient in gluten-free baking.

Ray Stanis described its flavor as "pretty mild and bland," noting that while there's a little sweetness to the flour, it mostly tastes like plain white rice. The texture is another matter. "It's different than any other flour I've worked with—it doesn't want to hold together," Stanis said.

His first thought was to make a pasta, given that Nellcote is so focused on the starch that they mill their own flour. It was easier said than done. "Everything I attempted was just really limp. It wouldn't hold together," Stanis said. "It had a weird texture. I tried hand-rolling some spaghetti, like a really thick noodle, but the texture was kind of gluey and weird. You don't get that bite, because there's no gluten to develop."

Video by Michael Gebert/Sky Full of Bacon

Most of the recipes he found for extruded pasta incorporated other ingredients like millet flour and tapioca starch. While those might have helped the texture of the pasta, Stanis felt that adding too many other elements would take the focus away from the rice flour.

Gnocchi was the one thing that worked: Stanis replaced the conventional wheat flour with rice flour (and a bit of cornstarch and xanthan gum to hold it together) and kneaded it with Yukon Gold potatoes that had been boiled and then baked. Even that was a little dicey. "I was happy that they even stayed together in the water," Stanis said.

They did, though, and Stanis served them with sauteed chanterelles, corn, and blueberries, finishing the dish with grated Pecorino Romano, espelette pepper, and fresh thyme. He'd read that in parts of northern Italy mushrooms and blueberries are combined in risottos, and figured this would work with gnocchi as well. He also tried juicing corn and incorporating the liquid into the gnocchi, hoping that the corn flavor would come through and the starch would help the dough hold together, but it just made the mixture slightly bitter. He ended up scrapping the idea.

Nellcote chef Ray Stanis
  • Nellcote's Ray Stanis

"It's definitely going to be texturally challenging," Stanis said of the gnocchi. Part of the reason he used corn was to add a little snap to the recipe. Overall, he found it well-balanced: "You want corn to be sweet and buttery and a little salty, and then you get the blueberry and it's like a hit of acid, some sweetness."

Still, his rice flour gnocchi isn't going to be making an appearance on the menu at Nellcote anytime soon (though Stanis is considering working on it more because he'd like to offer house-made gluten-free pasta). "I wouldn't say it's the best gnocchi, but it's close to being acceptable," he said.

Who's Next:

Ben Sheagren of the Hopleaf, working with coffee. "He uses a lot of beer, and there's a lot of bitterness at play there," Stanis said. "So I think the coffee will present a good challenge for him."

Rice flour gnocchi

2 c Yukon Gold potato, boiled and peeled
1 c rice flour
½ t xanthan gum
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t kosher salt
Cornstarch for dusting

Rice potato onto a counter or cutting board into a single layer in a rectangular shape. Slowly knead in the egg and salt. Mix flour and xanthan gum together and liberally dust the potatoes with about half the mixture. Cut flour into potatoes with a bench scraper until flour is just incorporated, then repeat with the remainder. Once the flour's incorporated, knead the dough gently until it comes together into a ball. If it's too sticky, add more flour or cornstarch. Cut dough into pieces and roll into logs, cut into half-inch pieces, and dust with cornstarch so they don't stick. Blanch until they float, then drain. Use immediately or reserve in ice water. Reserve cooking water for sauce.

5 oz rice flour gnocchi

2 oz chanterelle mushrooms
1 oz corn, cut off cob
1 oz blueberries
Pecorino Romano, grated
Espelette pepper
Thyme leaves

Saute chanterelles in olive oil and a touch of butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add corn and caramelize just a bit. Season with the thyme and espelette. Add an ounce or two of cooking water and simmer. Add gnocchi and warm through. Add blueberries and a touch of butter. Finish with grated cheese.

Add a comment