Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A German Photoessay

Everyone should have a German in their lives. Those people know food. I recently had the pleasure of having a wonderful German friend cook a wonderful German meal - and not complain when I got in her way to snap tons of photos. She was even kind enough to write out the recipe.

What I present to you today may be one of a handful of vegetarian German recipes in existence – no pig, no cow, not even a lowly chicken thrown into the mix. Don’t mistake it for a healthy meal, however – it is made of equal parts white flour and cheese (are you drooling yet?), and it’s just so good. Spaetzle, little boiled beads of flour and egg, are a perfect winter food, a perfect hangover food, and perfect with beer (I don’t see a contradiction here, do you?). The Germans, they know a little something about all three of these things.

The secret weapon in making this German delight? No, not David Hasselhoff. It’s the spaetzle maker – kind of like a slide set on top of a large bore colander, in the picture at the head of the post. The slide is filled with batter, forcing drops of it though the holes and into boiling water as it is pushed back and forth.

Spaetzle can be browned in butter and served as a side dish to just about anything. Alternatively, the spaetzle can play the starring, entrée role when layered with ridiculous amounts of cheese and topped with fried onions, German lasagna style (if it's not against the law to call it that).

The following is a visual guide to the making of your very own German delight, provided you have a spaetzle maker handy. If this doesn't make you want to run out and befriend a German with kitchen access, nothing will.

Here goes.

German spaetzle lasagna
Pan fry roughly chopped onions in olive oil until deeply browned. Keep warm. Have a medium-sized pot of salted water boiling.

Count on 100 grams of all purpose flour combined with 1 egg per serving (My lovely hostess combined 300g flour with 3 eggs... I think). One cup is ~125 grams, so you can use it as a general guide for the amount of flour you need.

- Combine flour, egg(s), and salt in a bowl.

At this point, the spaetzle can be gussied up quite a bit. My lovely hostess defrosted and squeezed dry a package of spinach and mixed it in with the batter, under the pretense of off-setting the dietary nightmare that is two pounds of melted cheese layered with white flour and egg. Not that I complained, mind you. I asked for seconds. I can imagine a grating of nutmeg being really nice in there, or maybe even some mushed up peas, for a German-British fusion sort of thing… if that’s not against the law.

Mix the flour and eggs (+ additives of choice) and add enough water such that the batter drops slowly from a spoon in a thick ribbon – sorry that I can’t be more specific as I was just a spectator to this wonderful event. I can tell you that the batter is quite liquid.

- Place the dough in the spaetzle maker set over a boiling pot of salted water.
- Move the spaetzle slide back and forth over the grid, effectively “grating” the batter into the water. See the beads dropping into the water? Maybe? Stir to prevent the batter beads from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

- The spaetzle are ready when they float to the top. Remove spaetzle as they are ready with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish.

- Layer spaetzle with big handfuls of grated Emmental and Gruyere cheeses – the heat of the spaetzle melts the cheese.

- Top with browned onions.

- To serve, scoop all the way from the bottom of the dish, and have fun battling the strings of melted cheese. Yum. Consume with copious amounts of red wine and a salad on the side. Note: salad is optional.


Se German said...

German lasagna :) nice comparison... I've also heard people call it German Mac&Cheese but German lasagna sounds much better...

For the record: the dow should be fairly gooey after adding the water.

lissa said...

yum. double yum. my german doesn't cook, so i'm not so lucky... now who's envious?

Catherine said...

Anna - so good to see you back! Although the new recipes/ideas don't do anything good for my waistline :)

dior said...

mmm lecker! if you like that, maybe you would also like älpler magronen, it is macaroni with onions, potatoes, and lots of cheese and is usually eaten with applesauce - swiss specialty.

Anna said...

Hi Stephi! So glad German lasagna didn't ruffle any feathers :) And thanks for the tip on the dough/batter. Am a little nervous about making it on my own. Thank you so much for a wonderful dinner. It was so fun.

Lissa - You need to get your German in line, tell you what. Not making full use of all the available German resources is just wrong.

Hi Catherine! Am so happy to be back, you have no idea.

Dior - Thanks for coming by! The dish you describe sounds amazing. Anything with potatoes, cheese and onions is automatically my favorite thing ever. Now where to find a Swiss person to make it for me... that's the real question.

Se German said...

just do it :) if you're anxious about the dow consistency, there is a certain range that can be tolerates ;) With the Spaetzle maker I used you can keep it on the viscous side and it works just perfect. My dad actually says that it should barely drop through the holes on its on, it's more about pushing it through by the movement... Oh,btw. nutmeg sounds delicious, I have to try that some time!

mehdi said...

Hi Anna,

I read that Sandrine's bistro at Harvard Sq has got a great Alsatian choucroute (Sandrine is a French bistro, but Alsace is close enough to Germany to resemble its cuisine rather than typical French)