Almost every one I know follows the same formula when constructing a “well balanced” dinner: you need a protein, a vegetable, and a starch. Steak and green beans and potatoes. Chicken and broccoli and rice. Ham and leek soup and a dinner roll. I think that’s one of the minor reasons why “one dish” meals and casseroles have become so popular on large recipe sites: they’re usually quick, don’t have a lot to clean up, and generally include all three legs of a balanced meal – no additional thinking required.
Anyway, one of the starches that I grew up with doesn’t seem to be well known in North America, as I discovered after I got married. Spaetzle (or “little sparrow” in German) is an egg noodle or dumpling that’s often served alongside dishes
with a lot of sauce, or under a meat with a lot of juices. I remembered my mother making these occasionally, but I was a bit fuzzy on the details… Like, how. And I didn’t have a spaetzle maker!
My husband, who had never heard of spaetzle before he met me (let alone tasted it) scoured the city from top to bottom before landing me the spaetzle maker. The one he found consists of a steel plate with large holes, and a plastic hopper that slides back and forth on top. The batter goes in the hopper, and drools through the holes into the boiling water below. If you can’t find anything like this, there are lots of different types of spatezle makers, or you could just use a potato ricer. (I’ve seen some recipes suggest pressing the batter through a colander, but that seems like a recipe for disaster and heartache.) The only thing that’s really affected by how you make the spaetzle is what shape it is. Most commercial dried spaetzle consists of skinny noodles about an inch long, about the size of flat chow mein noodles, while my homemade spaetzle looks like little round-ish marbles.
Shaping the noodles is really the most complicated part of this; the batter is insanely easy. You’ll need:
* 4 large eggs, slightly beaten
* 2 cups flour (not self-rising)
* 1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 TB butter for serving
Start a large pot of water boiling. Don’t salt the water.
Mix the eggs, flour, milk, salt, and a dash of pepper in a large bowl. The batter will be fairly thick.
Using your spaetzle maker, form the spatzle directly into the boiling water. (This is why I like my tool: it rests directly on the pot and minimizes my contact with hot steam from the water.) Stir the water gently to make sure the spaetzle isn’t sticking to the bottom.
You shouldn’t overcrowd the pot, but I usually end up doing it anyway. Be aware that the spaetzle will “fluff up” a bit when cooked, so watch out for boilovers. A prudent cook will boil the spaetzle in two or more batches; an impatient one like me does it all at once.
Let cook for about five minutes, or until all of the spaetzle is floating. Lift out of the water using a slotted spoon or a skimmer and place in a serving bowl. Add butter to the spaetzle and toss well when melted.
This makes a HUGE bowl of spatzle, especially for just two people. The beauty, though, is that this reheats very well. Refridgerate the leftovers in a microwavable container, and then just nuke until hot. (You shouldn’t have to add more butter.)