Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scalded Fingers, or how to make Käse Spätzle

On Friday late afternoon, after weeks (no, months), I finally completed a draft of my history chapter. It's certainly not perfect, but it's 50 pages of something. For those of you following the never-ending dissertation project, you'll understand that this is a monumental achievement for me. Getting a draft of the history chapter written means that I can turn back to my ethnographic material and start working on another chapter, it also means that it is food-blogging time!!!

Originally, I had asked if people would prefer to read about Dal with Mustard Greens or Chile Rellenos with Black Beans (the few people that cared said Dal)! Well Dal will be forthcoming, but today I'm writing about Spätzle, glorious Spätzle, since that's what I made for dinner yesterday. I'm also going to include a few photographs. [Please note, these photographs are UGLY. As I have stated before, I am terrible at food photography - the lighting is never right, my food always looks gross and lacks color, blah, blah. I only take good photos of kids and sunsets; also I only like taking photos of kids, sunsets, and buildings.] Ok, there you have it a photo of a some gorgeous schoolkids in Mwanza and sunset at Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar! Just kidding, there are some UGLY food photos below to meet the requests of readers who want some visuals to go with the blogs. For people like me, avert your eyes!

So what was this entry about again? Oh yeah! Käse Spätzle. First off, never ever say Shpaytzel, the word is pronounced Shpaytzluh. Lately, I've heard the "zel" pronunciation too often (including on Top Chef) and frankly, it's driving me insane. Spätzle, for those who don't know and didn't click on the wikipedia link above are German/Swiss/Austrian egg noodles/dumplings and one of my favorite examples of German cookery (and also one of the few vegetarian items in traditional German cuisine). As a kid in Bonn, Germany, spätzle was sometimes served as a starch to go with some kind of meat gravy (like Goulash). Spätzle are good this way and I sometimes cook them with a mushroom goulash. However, Brad does not really love spätzle with goulash and as you will see below, I need Brad to make spätzle.

Importantly, Brad really loves Käse Spätzle, the gooey combination of homemade noodles, carmelized onions, and gooey cheese that I consider the German version of mac-n-cheese. I fell in love with Käse Spätzle when my parents lived in Munich during my college years. Because of all the entertaining they did as diplomats, they employed this criminally-insane chef from Swabia (I'm not kidding, but most people who know me are totally bored of the story, so you'll have to believe me). As a classically-trained chef, he typically prepared gourmet food, but he would sometimes make Käse Spätzle (a Swabian dish) as a low-brow kitchen dish.

Ok, so you get it, right? I love this stuff. Please don't buy the store-bought stuff. It's not very good. If you want to try this recipe, invest in a cheap spätzle maker or if you have money to burn and have a lot of cupboard space, you can buy a spätzle press. If you are insane and don't want to purchase any items to try my recipe, you can use a colander.

While the recipe for Spätzle is dead simple, the process is deadly and involves finger-scalding. I really hate having my fingers scalded, so Brad typically does the really hard work. Yay Brad! And now the how-to:

1. Get out your tallest pot and fill it half way with water, add a 1/2 tsp sea salt. Bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, mix 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs together. I use my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. As the dough starts to come together, add 1/2 cup water mixed with a 1/2 tsp sea salt. At this point, the dough should be coming together into a tacky, stiff dough. Add more water (maybe 1/2 cup) to get the dough to this consistency. You can also add some finely chopped fresh sage (maybe 2-3 Tbs) to the dough.

3. Get out your spätzle maker/press/colander and spray with cooking spray. This is Brad's tip.

4. Pack some of the dough into the spätzle maker/press/colander and rest over the boiling water. Depending on which tool, you are using, press or grate the spätzle through the holes and into the boiling water.

5. As the spätzle rise to the surface, use a slotted spoon to pull them out of the water and place them on a baking sheet.

6. Continue until all the dough is used up, cursing under your breath as the steam burns your hands and your knuckles become raw.

7. Periodically, drain the spätzle in a colander and then return them to a dry baking sheet. You want them to be really dry before using them.

Note: If they are really dry, spätzle can be frozen them flat in a ziploc bag.

Once the spätzle are done, you can use them as a starch with any kind of meat that you like or you can make Käse Spätzle (which is what you should do)!!! Insert these steps into the directions above.

1B-6. After putting the water on to boil, half and then slice two onions into thin strips. Melt 3 Tbs of butter in a large sautee pan and add onions. Lower the hear and stir the onions occasionally allowing them to caramelize. Add water if necessary to continue the goldening of the onions. Preheat oven to 400

8. Grate 6 ozs Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese. [I had neither last night, so I used Dubliner which worked really well. An aged Gouda would also be nice].

9. Place dry spätzle into a baking dish. Toss with 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper.

10. Layer cheese over the top of spätzle, then scatter buttery onions over the top of the cheese.

11. Bake at 400 for about 35-40 minutes. The onions should be slightly browner, the cheese should have melted and be turning golden brown

I typically serve Käse Spätzle with braised red cabbage to complete the German theme. Last night, I was working with a nearly empty fridge, so I concocted a quick and tasty accompaniment. After removing the onions from the frying pan, I added a Tbs of olive oil. In the olive oil, I sauteed a sliced leek and two carrots (sliced into rounds). I added a package of halved mushrooms and continued sauteeing all of the veggies until brown. I then added a 1/2 Tbs smoked paprika, some salt and pepper, and a few shakes of Cavender's Greek Seasoning (a spice mix that I find addictive). I then deglazed the pan with about a half cup of red wine. As the red wine was simmering, I added a half a bag of frozen mustard greens and cooked the veggies until the frozen greens were warmed all the way through. These veggies were not very pretty, but the smokiness of the greens and paprika added a nice foil to the cheese.

1 comment:

  1. oh. my. god. can you please make that for me/with me sometime? looks so so so yummy!!!