There were always a lot of German and Austrian dishes on my family's dinner table growing up. And, aside from my mom's chicken and dumplings, for most of my life spaetzle has been one of my favorite things to eat.
If you've never had it, spaetzle is essentially a side dish (although folks at my house treat it like the main attraction) - small, egg/flour/milk dumplings. Sometimes spaetzle is served with gravy, but I like it best dressed with nothing more than butter, salt and pepper.
Locally, you can enjoy spaetzle at Siegfried's Delicatessen. Dried, boxed spaetzle is also available in most grocery stores, but it's expensive. However, it's also very easy and economical to make at home.
A note about tools: You can make spaetzle using a colander to push the dough through the colander holes. But, it's much easier to use a dedicated spaetzle maker (see below). I've seen them online for as little as $4.99 at sites like WebRestaurantStore.com.
Here is a terrific spaetzle recipe that I've been using with success for many years.
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
In a large bowl, stir all the spaetzle ingredients together.
The spaetzle should have the consistency of a thick batter. If it's too runny, add additional flour a tablespoon at a time to achieve the correct consistency. It might take a batch or two to get the hang of.
Using a spaetzle maker (or colander) and spatula, put the spaetzle batter into the hopper of the spaetzle maker or into the colander.
Push the spaetzle through the holes of the colander or, using a slow, steady motion, push the spaetzle maker's hopper back and forth above the simmering water.
The batter will fall in small pieces into the simmering water.
Allow the spaetzle to float to the top of the pot and to simmer for a few minutes, until the spaetzle swells and is fluffy. It cooks quickly.
You can use the spaetzle immediately; just drain and toss it in butter and whatever seasonings you like.
However, I prefer to allow the spaetlze to dry a bit before using: Remove the spaetzle from the pot and place on a clean, dry kitchen towel or onto a platter or baking sheet. Allow the spaetzle to dry for an hour or so. (You can even make the spaetzle early in the day for use at dinnertime.)
Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.
Saute the spaetzle in butter and season with salt and pepper.
In Germany, leftover spaetzle is often served scrambled with eggs or sometimes shredded ham. It makes for a terrific breakfast treat!
Next week, I'll share a recipe for wiener schnitzel to enjoy with spaetzle.