It goes without saying that cooking should be fun. I know what you’re thinking: I have LOTS of fun! Eating, maybe. But the truth is preparing a meal can be a stressful act, especially when trying to impress someone with that big ambitious dish. Which makes it that much more rewarding when you find a dish where the process is just as much fun as the outcome. If you’re looking to bring a little more enjoyment into the kitchen, spätzle is the thing for you.
A recent trip to Reading Terminal Market (i.e. Foodie Paradise) here in Philly got me in a German/Eastern Europe mood and I picked up some kielbasa and sauerkraut from AJ Pickle Patch. Needing a suitable starch to go along with this meat & cabbage feast, I decided to have a go at homemade spätzle.
The ingredients are simple, but it’s all about technique for this one…
- 1 cup A.P. flour
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup water or milk
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp (more or less) butter
Couldn’t be simpler, right? First, get a large pot of salted water going, bring it to a boil and reduce to a decent simmer. In a bowl, combine the flour with a decent pinch of salt and a couple of grates of nutmeg, add the egg and mix. Once the egg is incorporated, slowly add the water or milk, stirring constantly, until you reach a smooth batter with a consistency that’s thicker than pancake batter but thinner than traditional pasta dough. Essentially, you want something that can be pushed through, but won’t immediately drip through, your steamer insert. Hopefully, the holes are evenly-sized and about 1/8″ in diameter.
This is there the fun comes in. Place the insert over the simmering water, pour the batter evenly around the insert. Take a rubber spatula and start “painting” the batter so that it drips through, creating small, irregularly sized dumplings. Seriously, feel free to regress to your inner second-grader and imagine you’re wearing one of your dad’s old dress shirts backwards as a smock. Is there a better word in the English language than “smock?”
As best as I can tell, this style of spätzle is called knöpfle which translates as “small button,” which should give you some indication of the relative size.
Let them simmer for a few minutes and then drain them in a colander. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan and saute the spätzle until it gets a little bit of color. Season with salt and pepper and it wouldn’t hurt to toss in some finely chopped parsley if you had it.
It’s a great little side dish, can be made with items you already have in your kitchen, and the fact that you get to play with your food will put a smile on your face. It doesn’t get much better than that.