German Geschnetzeltes & Homemade Spätzle
By virtue of living in Prague, the husband and I have the fortune of being based in the heart of Europe. One can access almost any European city within an hour by air and if you travel by car you are bound to cross the border into one of the four neighboring countries; Austria, Slovakia, Poland, or Germany. Ah, Deutschland. Without confusion or doubt, Germany is hands-down one of my favorite countries and for a variety of reasons; the traditions and colorful folklore, pictorial castles and access to chic metropolises, imperial mountains, and historic seaside boardwalks. I also have German heritage in my blood. Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is too short to learn German!” Ha! But for me, I happen to love the language … and the food.
I first fell head over heels with German food with the famous schnitzel years ago. Made from either a pork or chicken filet it is first floured, rinsed in an egg wash, breaded and then fried until it reveals a proud golden-yellow exterior. It’s sister dish, the Wienerschnitzel, is made exclusively from veal and is the national dish of Austria. My interest in German food however has railroaded over the years into more adventurous dishes. For example: Wildschwein (wild boar), Schweinebraten (pork roast), Sauerbraten (sour roast), Käsespätzle (baked cheese/onion spätzle), and Bratwurst (sausage).
Upon returning from our recent Easter trip to Saxony, I was inspired to take on a German dish and also learn how to create my own homemade spätzle. After all, being part German it was time for a culinary diversion and opportunity to learn. So what exactly is spätzle? Spätzle is Swabian noodles from the Baden-Württemberg region of southwest Germany made from eggs and flour. By virtue of its composition, it goes without saying that it makes an ideal bed to catch all the aromatic tasty bits of a traditional dish and the sauces. You can purchase ready-made spätzle or you can give it a go on your own accord (I prefer the latter). The ingredients are extremely simple but the technique itself takes a bit of concentration on the home cook’s part.
I must be transparent to tell you that when I gave my Saturday spätzle a go in my kitchen, it went off with a few hitches. Issue 1. My dough was too thick — this was caused by using 1 cup milk instead of using 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk. By using just milk I found that it makes the dough too rich. Issue 2. I do not have a spätzle press (yet) but spätzle can be created by using a colander or similar designs (view). The other method is by cutting board and pastry cutter – the oldest and most traditional way to prepare Spätzle (but the most challenging). I followed this video for my how-to on using the cutting board technique. Have a look and see how it is done.
The cutting board from the get-go? Well, let’s say I slightly burned myself in the simmering water (was paying attention to the size of my spätzle) and I also dropped the entire board on the kitchen floor! On my feet. Ouf! Too much pressure on the board made it flip. My problem? I wanted to go fast and zip the dough right into the water but I forget I am not the German grandmother who has been pulling this off for the last 80 years or so! Tip: slow down. The technique works quite well and I chose this method because I believe most readers have a cutting board and pastry cutter/knife, seemed logical for this blog!
This week’s feature is the German hunter sauce served with mushrooms, paprika, and onions (called Geschnetzeltes) over a bed of homemade Spätzle. I have listed both recipes side-by-side and included some handy tips. The sauce takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and spätzle only cooks for 2-3 minutes.
Conclusion? Not only was this pork recipe absolutely delicious and a “keeper”, I found it very interesting to learn these German dishes and found how different the sauces vary from France yet how similar they are to the Czech dishes that are here in town. With future recipes to be posted, including homemade sausages, I look forward to sharing more recipes aus Deutschland in the future with you!
A rich, comforting pork and mushroom sauce from the charming German countryside
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- 1 pound lean pork; thinly sliced
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tbsp AP flour
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup milk (tepid)
- 1 cup cream (tepid)
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 large beef bouillon cube
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Season with salt and pepper and saute the pork on medium-high heat in a pad of butter and drop of oil. Do not crowd the pork as the pieces of meat will not brown. Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl
- Saute the onions until they are soft and translucent (5-7 minutes) on medium-high heat then add the mushrooms; adding a drop of oil if needed. Season for taste. Saute for 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are cooked. Remove from heat and transfer into the bowl of pork
- Using the same saute pan, add the butter and flour and whisk until you create a roux. Add the tepid milk and cream, paprika, bouillon cube, salt and pepper, and whisk until combined. Alternate on and off heat. Should your sauce become too thick, add 1/4 cup milk
- Add pork, onions and mushrooms back into the sauce. Taste and correct seasoning. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook on low for an additional 15 minutes, loosely covered with foil
- To serve: Plate a bed of Spätzle or egg noodles and generously add your pork sauce. Garnish with a dash of sweet paprika, cracked pepper, and a sprig of parsley. Serve with a fresh garden salad and, of course, a cold beer!
The Bell Kitchen http://thebellkitchen.com/
Homemade German Spätzle
Master a German favorite
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- 4 cups AP flour
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- (Note: the following directions were prepared in a stand-alone mixer with a dough hook; a large bowl & wooden spatula equally can do the job)
- In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and nutmeg
- Create a well and pour eggs into the dry mixture. Add the milk and water; thoroughly blend
- Knead for 18 - 22 minutes until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl in bubbles; pockets creating "eyes" should begin to form from the edges. If your dough is sticky or too dry, add 1/4 cup water
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil then reduce to a simmer
- Using your chosen method or creating spätzle, push the spätzle into the water, letting cook for appx 2-3 minutes until they rise to the top. Immediately scoop out with a strainer and transfer into a bowl of cold water.
- To serve, add a tbsp of butter, salt, and freshly-cracked pepper. Re-heat spätzle in a fry pan with butter and drop of oil. Spätzle can last for days under refrigeration and can be used in a variety of dishes in lieu of egg noodles, potatoes, or other hearty carbohydrates.
- Once you have this down, transform your Spätzle into the vegetarian dish Käsespätzle, served with cheese, onions, and baked in the oven - delicious!
The Bell Kitchen http://thebellkitchen.com/