Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Dinner Spaetzle

     Apparently I am German. Yes! It's still there! Lately I have been really sentimental about Germany, really missing the food and culture. I think it's the reality of the realization that my children are not going to have the multi-cultural childhood experiences that I did growing up, that is making my upbringing suddenly that much more precious and dear to me. One of the quintessentially German dishes that I have been craving is spaetzle (Pronounced Shpetsleh)--and it means "little sparrows!" how cute is that! Anyhow, it's home made egg noodles, basically, but it is a soft batter-style dough that is pressed through holes into boiling water. and it is SO! GOOD! My Oma used to make it in her blessed kitchen, usually with beef and a really hearty brown beef sauce to go with it, and it is probably one of my top 4 favorite meals of all time. Food. Heaven. Now mind you, it is super dense and has basically no nutritional value, but anytime you are craving a huge amount of extra delicious white flour in your tummy (like on a Sunday, when you've been really good all week), well, this is the thing for you.
     The thing about this meal is, you have to have a special gadget to be able to achieve the noodles: a spaetzle press (aka potato ricer), which looks something like the hugest garlic press you have ever seen. Or the ones my mom and grandma had did, anyway.

     The one I have now, I got from a woman in California who owned a European deli shop. It looks more like a flat cheese grater except the holes are not knife-like and it has a slider-cup to go back and forth over the top.

     This version makes not long noodles so much as tiny rounded mini-dumplings, but the taste is the same, and after tragically losing my mother's spaetzle press in one of our many moves, I was certainly glad to have something. The point is, if you have any German in your family, rediscover it, and for the love of your heritage, get a spaetzle press. If you don't have any German, pretend like you do, because this is one meal that is WORTH having a whole extra gadget in your kitchen to make! Do it.

Basic recipe and method:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
dash nutmeg (Germans love adding nutmeg to stuff)
4 eggs
1 cup cold water
2 TBSP butter

Mix the flour, salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. Break up the eggs with a fork, then add them and the water to the flour mixture. Stir vigorously until you have a smooth batter/dough (I used my Kitchenaid mixer). Meanwhile, boil a bunch of water in a big pot with some salt. when it is boiling, press the dough through your spaetzle maker into the hot water. Cook 2 or 3 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Toss with butter.

(Now, if you reeeeeeaaaaally can't buy a spaetzle press and you reeeeeeaaaaally want to make this, I did find a recipe online that allows you to make the dough stiffer and roll it out/cut strips off of it to make the noodles, but I can't promise that it will be the real mccoy. To do this, use 5 eggs and only 1/2 cup water, mixing that together with the salt and nutmeg first, then adding the flour in small amounts til you get the consistency you need. Roll flat and cut 2-or 3-inch strips off, dropping them into the water. Good luck with that.)

So usually, where I come from, Spaetzle is served with jaegerschnitzel, which is pork, and mushrooms, or beef and savory brown sauce. I only had chicken, so I decided to adapt German-style schnitzel methods to chicken and make up a sauce. And here is where I discovered that apparently I still AM German, because it was sooooooooo good that I could have eaten the whole thing then and there. Here is that part of the recipe/process:

Chicken tenders (or if using lg. chicken breasts, beat them thin with a meat tenderizer)
paprika (Germans love adding paprika to stuff)
salt and pepper
a whole bunch of butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth
about 1 tsp. onion powder, or to taste

     Rinse the meat and pat dry. Dredge in a mix of flour, paprika, salt, and pepper and fry in butter on both sides til just done. (My flour ratio was about 1/3 cup, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.) Add more butter if it has gone a little dry, and put in about 2 Tablespoons of your leftover flour mix, whisking it in. Add the onion powder too, and keep whisking as you add the chicken broth slowly. Result: super amazing authentically German-tasting gravy/butter sauce! YUM!

     Now: Eat heaping platefuls of spaetzle and chicken drenched in sauce, and if you're feeling good, make a quick green salad with onions and tomatoes and use a vinaigrette. Add some spaetzle, chicken, and sauce to the top and be transported to German food bliss.
     Here is my home picture. This was after my 1st portion and during the salad course and it doesn't look like much, but it is probably the best thing you can imagine eating. Ever.

No comments: