Tag Archives: spaetzle

SPAETZLE, THE LITTLE DARLINGS

Recently I have written about noodles and pasta and some of my travails in turning out good products. Part of the stimulus for my effort has been watching an outstanding video cooking course by Chef Bill Briwa of the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America and produced by The Great Courses. Chef Briwa made pasta-making look so easy, especially after my history of struggle over the years.

Actually, I found the basics of pasta and noodle making to be fairly straightforward. (How complicated can anything be with the ingredients limited to flour, eggs, and water?) At the same time, refinements come only with practice and attention to detail.

Here is my effort at a close relative of pasta/noodle: spaetzle. The word is German, and translates to either “little sparrows” or “little darlings”. Personally I prefer the “little darlings” translation because I would rather not have birds floating around in the sauce, and the little  noodlets do look cute, snuggling in the brown butter. Spaetzle are basically made from a soft noodle dough that you force through holes into boiling water where they immediately cook and float to the top. You can use a cookie press with a spaetzle attachment, but those holes are too small. You can use a colander with large holes, but there is a lot of effort with a spoon in pushing the dough through the openings. The last time I visited Los Angeles, I found a spaetzle maker at the Surfas kitchen supply store in Culver City. As an aside, I would highly recommend a visit when you are in Los Angeles. They have more kitchen gadgets than you can imagine along with a small sandwich and pastry shop.

Back to the spaetzle, the device I bought at Surfas makes spaetzle-making a breeze. You load the dough into the little box on top, move the box back and forth across the pierced plate, and the dough automatically feeds until you need to load it again. The spaetzle drop into the boiling water, and you scoop them out into waiting melted butter at the same time you reload the box.

I served the spaetzle in brown butter sauce with croutons, along with braised pork chops, apples, and onions. Pretty German – and pretty monochromatic. You might want to add a green vegetable to brighten up the plate.

RECIPES

Spaetzle in Brown Butter with Croutons

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup croutons
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 quarts salted water for boiling the spaetzle
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter  and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned, being careful not to let it burn. Remove from the heat, stir in the croutons, and have it next to the cooking water for the spaetzle so that you can transfer the pasta immediately into the butter.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, water, salt and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Place the spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Load the metal box with dough, and using a back-and-forth sliding motion, pass the dough through the holes in pierced plate.
  4. The noodles should drop into the boiling water and sink to the bottom. After they float to the surface, let them cook for a minute or so, and the lift them out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon or a spider. Transfer to the melted brown butter, stirring them so that they are completely coated with butter.
  5. Repeat the process until all of the dough has been used up.
  6. Correct the seasoning of the buttered noodles with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or you can chill them and reheat them later if yo wish.

 

Braised Pork Chops, Apples, and Onions

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 boneless, 1 inch-thick pork chops
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 stems fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½ inch rings
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly (Use a mandolin if you have one.)
  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pan with tight-fitting lid, big enough to hold the pork chops and other ingredients. Brown the pork chops on both sides. Add the chicken stock, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Cover and place in the middle of oven preheated to 220° F.
  2. Braise for one hour, turning the pork chops from time to time, and adding water if necessary.
  3. Add the apple rings and onions, and continue to cook for another 45 minutes.
  4. Transfer the pork chops, apples, and onions to a plate, cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven.
  5. Strain the cooking liquid, and return to the pan. Boil the liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about one-half and is slightly thickened. Stir in the Calvados.
  6. Serve the pork chops, apples, and onions, topped with the sauce and with the spaetzle on the side.
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CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP TO TREAT WHAT AILS YOU

We have been back home nearly a week after visiting our family in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are still recovering from a “cold”  (could it be the plague or whooping cough??) that we got from our infant grandson on the Monday before Thanksgiving. He was quite ill for three days and then recovered to his usual bouncy self. Since then, he seems to have forgotten anything about the illness. In the meantime, grandparents are dosing up with various remedies and stoking up the nebulizer at night. Ah, there is a resilience of youth that seems to have left me.

Over the last several weeks, Sarah has been experimenting with dumplings. Of course, that means she has made the classic, chicken and dumplings. It occurred to her on our last night in San Francisco that chicken and dumplings might be therapeutic. There is the belief in more than one society that chicken soup, especially the broth, can cure any cold. There is even some limited scientific evidence that that might be so. We were not about to turn down free medical treatment. Sarah made a delicious version of chicken and dumplings, and we felt better. But the cure did not last.

Sarah's chicken and dumplings

Sarah’s chicken and dumplings

That made me think that maybe a repeat dose at home might do the trick, so I made a batch of chicken soup. Instead of dumplings, though, I decided to use home-made noodles as the starch. The soup was tasty even though the noodles were a little heavy. As to the therapeutic powers, we still have the “cold” (could it be the plague or whooping cough?)

There are three elements to the usual bowl of chicken soup:

First, the chicken. Most recipes call for a whole chicken. After boiling, the meat is removed from the carcass and finely shredded. Since there would only be two of us for the therapy, a whole chicken would be way too much, so I went with four chicken thighs.

Second, the broth. If you are a serious cook, you will make a rich stock from the boiling chicken and aromatic vegetables. For me, that always results in a watery broth that begs to be reduced and flavored. Alternatively, you can use packaged stock. Some cooks sniff at that approach as the commercial stuff contains lots of additives. Read the label, and you will find things like “chicken flavor”, salt, dextrose, celery juice concentrate, carrot juice concentrate, and yeast extract. Actually, the yeast extract may not be all that bad as it adds to the umami flavoring and richness of the stock. My preferred alternative is to use commercial stock in which to boil the chicken and aromatic vegetables. That has the pleasant result of yielding a rich, well-flavored stock. Then you use that for your soup.

Third, the starch. There are several good choices, matzoh balls, kreplach, dumplings, spaetzle, and packaged noodles among them. I went with homemade noodles as I have recently been trying to perfect what seems like an impossibly simple but confounding recipe. I rolled the dough as thinly as I could, but that was not enough. You need strong arms and determination. When you think the dough has been rolled thin enough, roll it out some more. Even better, use a pasta machine and work through the settings to the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting.

Here’s my effort at homemade chicken noodle soup:

Chicken noodle soup

Chicken noodle soup

RECIPES

Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 48 ounces packaged chicken stock
  • water
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 cloves onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning. More if you prefer
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 2 scallions, including the green tops, sliced

Method

  1. In a soup pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the chicken, the half onion, one of the carrots, one rib of celery and the remaining ingredients. Return to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked. Add additional water if needed.
  2. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate, and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and cut the meat from the bones, shredding the meat to the size you prefer. Set aside.
  3. Remove the vegetables and strain the broth through a fine sieve. Wipe the pot clean, and return the broth to the pot. Bring to the boil.
  4. Peel the remaining carrot and slice thinly into rounds. Slice the remaining celery stalk into ¼ inch slices.
  5. Add the mushrooms, scallions, celery, and shredded chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, stir in the dried noodles, return the soup to the boil for an additional 10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and tender.

Dumplings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons basking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup whole milk

Method

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together
  2. Beat the egg lightly and stir in the milk
  3. While stirring continuously, add the egg and milk mixture slowly to the dry mixture. You should have a smooth but stiff batter.
  4. By teaspoonfuls, drop the batter into boiling soup. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Noodles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4-8 tablespoons water

Method

  1. On a clean, dry work surface, make a mound of the flour. With your fingers, form a well in the middle of the flour that is big enough to hold the eggs.
  2. Break the eggs into the well. Add one tablespoon of water. With a dinner fork, lightly beat the eggs, and then begin to pull the flour gradually into the well.
  3. Continue to mix the eggs with more of the flour. Add another tablespoon of water. The dough should be well mixed and begin to hold together. If the mixture is too dry, add more water by a few drops at a time. The finished dough should be smooth and hold together, but should not have any stickiness. Knead for a few minutes with your hands until the dough is smooth. Cover with a bowl or dust lightly with flour and wrap with plastic wrap. Let relax for 30 minutes.
  4. When you are ready to roll out the noodles, cut the ball of dough into fourths, working with only one part at a time and covering the remaining pieces to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Shape the dough into a rough rectangle. Then using a sturdy rolling pin, roll the dough to the desired thickness – the thinner the better. Dust very lightly with flour and fold the dough over on itself so that you have a long roll with four layers. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into noodles of the desired width.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining three pieces of dough.
  7. Dry the noodles for 20 – 30 minutes. Then add to the boiling soup and cook until the noodles have puffed up and cooked through. It should not take as long as with packaged dry noodles.

 

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