Chow Town

German food, especially spaetzle, is a cure for winter chill

Spaetzle bubbles to the top when it is cooked through
Spaetzle bubbles to the top when it is cooked through Special to The Star

The temperatures have plummeted, there is a constant chill inside our home and all the markers indicate to me it is time to get in the kitchen.

We’re not talking the same old, same old. Now is the time to submerge your heart and soul into comfort cooking. Stews simmer and the aroma waifs through the house, new soup recipes have been earmarked to test and comfort food cravings kick in big time.

When comfort food is the antidote for the winter blahs, my heart goes to Germany. Think America and you may think meatloaf, creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. Think Germany and I instantly think Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle and simmered red cabbage.

The easiest way to remedy my inner German food craving is to go to Beethoven’s No. 9 in Paola, Kan. Their schnitzel, spaetzle and red cabbage never disappoint. The folks at Beethoven’s do their very best to deliver German cuisine in a casual, fun atmosphere.

My cravings struck recently, but it was too cold to venture outside the warmth of the fireplace in the hearth room, and a drive to Paola was out of the question. It was high time that I try to replicate the classic German food in the comfort of my home.

Wiener schnitzel is easy enough to prepare at home, and we have an over-the-top recipe for tangy red cabbage in one of our entertaining slow cooker books, but spaetzle? I’ve always considered spaetzle in the same league as my mom’s egg noodle dumplings, which are blue ribbon winners and outshine mine any day.

Could I really replicate this traditional noodle at home? I knew it had to be an easy recipe, but was it one of those chameleon recipes that looks super easy but never turns out quite like you remember? I decided to take the plunge.

The first step was to research spaetzle. Turns out they are quite simple to prepare. I began to wonder why it had taken me so long to make spaetzel at home.

The recipe said to force the spaetzle dough through a colander or slotted spoon. I found it much easier to use my potato ricer. Mimi Sheraton in her iconic German cooking tome, “The German Cookbook,” instructs you to flatten the spaetzle dough on a floured surface and, using a sharp knife, cut small pieces of dough to drop in boiling water.

A critical procedure in spaetzle preparation: do not overcrowd the pot of simmering water with too many spaetzle. Work in smaller batches for best results.

We enjoyed a stellar German meal at home (this is according to my family’s accolades), and spaetzle has become my new BFF recipe. Here’s the recipe adaptation I used.

Spaetzle

Makes 4 servings

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2-3 tablespoons butter

Finely chopped parsley for garnish

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Stir and gradually draw in the flour from the sides of the bowl. This dough is very smooth and thick. Allow dough to stand for at least 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Hold a slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes of the spoon. Cook for about 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the top. During this process, stir gently to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan. Remove the spaetzle to a colander to drain.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add spaetzle, stir gently and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Tip: I made a light, small amount of gravy with beef broth and tossed the spaetzle in the gravy before serving.

Roxanne Wyss is one of two cookbook authors and food consultants who make up the Electrified Cooks. Her most recent cookbook is “Slow Cooker Desserts, Oh So Easy, Oh So Delicious!” She develops the recipes for the Eating for Life column for The Kansas City Star and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier. She blogs at pluggedintocooking.com

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