Thursday, March 21, 2013

Käsespätzle










Spätzle with grated emmentaler cheese and caramelized sauteed onion!

     The origins of spätzle are foggy.  Many believe that spätzle originated in eastern europe or possibly ancient Greece.  Eggs, grain flours and milk were part of all old eastern european cuisine, Balkan cuisine and Grecian cuisine.  Nobody really knows where spätzle originated, but one thing is certain.  Spätzle is a simple egg dumpling or egg dumpling style fresh noodle that anybody with a flair for cooking, could have created intentionally or not.  Who knows!
     Käsespätzle is a traditional recipe.  The recipe is simple.  Käsespätzle is popular in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and eastern europe.  Any kind of grated cheese can be tossed or melted on the spätzle.  Emmentaler (swiss cheese) is the most popular cheese for making Käsespätzle.  Käsespätzle can be baked like a casserole or is can be sauteed in butter and topped with grated cheese.  The Käsespätzle in the pictures was made with the saute method.  It is best if the butter is cooked to a light beurre noisette color, before adding the spätzle.  This way a hazelnut aroma will develop.  Spätzle puffs up a little bit when it is sauteed in hot butter.

     Board Cut Spätzle Dough:
     This recipe makes enough spätzle for 3 or 4 portions!
     Place 2 1/2 cups of regular bread flour or all purpose flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Stir the dry mixture.
     Form a well in the center of the flour.
     Place 5 ounces of whisked egg in the well.
     Stir the egg till it starts to combine with the flour.
     Start kneading till a very stiff dough is formed.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk or water at a time, while kneading, till a medium stiff semi sticky noodle dough is formed.  Only a few tablespoons are needed!  
     Note:  Do not add too much liquid or you will end up with spoon spätzle batter!  The dough should not be as stiff as an Italian pasta dough, but it should be firm.  After pressing a finger on the dough to leave a dent, the dough should barely spring back and the dent should remain. 
     Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. 
     
     Board Cut Spätzle:
     Allow the dough to reach room temperature.
     Stretch and roll a portion of the dough out, so it forms a rectangular 3 1/2" to 4" wide x 10" long strip that is about 1/2" thick. 
     Gently press the dough strip onto a spätzle board or a small cutting board, so it sticks in place.  Be sure to leave 3" to 4" of bare board as a leading edge. 
     Heat a pot of water over medium/medium high heat.  The water should only be gently boiling.
     Follow the directions in the next step!
     
     Board Cut Spätzle Technique:
     Board cut spätzle is made with a firm noodle dough.  The noodle dough is not quite as thick as Italian semolina pasta dough, but it should be a medium firm texture.  Only one portion of spätzle is needed for this recipe.   
     The dough is rolled into a rectangular slab, then pressed onto a board.  The board can be about 8"x10" with a handle.  Some German chefs prefer a 14"x 20" board with no handle, that can be held with one arm and pressed against the ribs.  
     The board is held with one arm and the other hand uses a long thin spatula spätzle knife to cut the thin strips of spätzle.  A long straight thin cake spatula can be used as a spätzle knife.
     The board should be held close to a pot of boiling water.  
     The spätzle knife blade is placed flush on the board in front of the dough at about a 15º to 25º angle and it is dragged back over the leading edge of the dough.  After making contact with the dough, the leading edge of the dough becomes flattened.  
     The knife then cuts a thin slice of dough, while being dragged forward against the board.  The knifed should always be in contact with the board, when cutting spätzle!  
     This is done quickly and with just enough force to send the spätzle flying through the air into the pot of boiling water.  Of course, the board must be held close to the pot of water. 
     A good German chef can stand twenty feet away, with his back turned and he can tell whether the spätzle is being made correctly just by listening to the sound of the knife and board!  If the knife is at too steep or too thin of an angle, it makes certain noises when it drags across the board.  If too much force or pressure is applied, certain sounds can be heard.  If the knife is not worked fast enough, then the first group of spätzle will overcook!  
     Once the board cutting spätzle technique is mastered, the sound and feel of making spätzle will become second nature.  A good German cook can cut spätzle as fast as lightening!  
     Start learning by making medium size spätzle.  Medium size is a forgiving size.  Small 1/8" thick spätzle are not difficult to make, after getting the feel of working the board with a spätzle knife.

     Boiled Spätzle:  
     After following the board cut spätzle technique above, the noodles should all be gently boiling in the water.  
     The spätzle are finished cooking when they float on top of the hot water for a couple of minutes.
     Use a fryer net to scoop the spätzle out of the water.
     Drain off the excess water.
     Set the boiled spätzle aside, till the entree is ready to be finished.

     Caramelized Sauteed Onions:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/4 tablespoons of bacon grease or 3 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add 3/4 cup of thin sliced rings of onion.  (French rondelle cut.)
     Saute till the onions start to gain light golden brown highlights.
     Add sea salt and black pepper. 
     Saute till the onions become caramelized with a brown color.
     Keep the caramelized onions warm on a stove top.  

     Käsespätzle:
     Spätzle is usually finished by frying it in noisette butter!
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 6 pats of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to become a golden brown color and emit a hazelnut aroma.
     Add 1 portion of boiled spätzle, while shaking the pan.
     Saute and toss the spätzle, till the spätzle slightly puff up.  (this only takes about 1 minute)
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of ground sage.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped Italian parsley.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the spätzle on a plate.
     Immediately sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of grated emmentaler (swiss cheese) over the spätzle.
     Place the plate in a 300º oven for 30 seconds, so the cheese softens and partially melts.  (Do not brown the cheese or the spätzle!)
     Place the warm plate on a counter top.
     Mound the caramelized onions on the center of the spätzle.
     Use 2 large table setting spoons to shape a large quenelle of sour cream or whisked stiff creme fraiche.  
     Place the quenelle on top of the onions.
     Sprinkle a few very thin bias sliced green onion top slivers over the quenelle.

     After making dough for board cut spätzle a few times is becomes easy to recognize when the dough texture is correct.  After making board cut spätzle a fe times, the cutting technique becomes second nature.  I prefer a medium to large size board cut spätzle most times, like the ones in thee pictures.  Sometimes tiny thin spätzle is preferred for certain recipes.  You can make these little sparrow dumpling noodles any size that you wish, but do not make them larger than a little sparrow.  Ach der lieber!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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