When I think of German food, I think of three things: pretzels, wurst, and spaetzle. All three conjure up memories of the months I spent studying in Bavaria as an exchange student, where I lived in a town on the Inn River in the Alpine foothills. Each day, I’d stop for a fresh roll from the local baker on the way to school. My friends and I would often pick up a schinken-kaese-bretzel (a pretzel sliced width-wise and stuffed with ham and cheese) or a butter bretzel (a butter slathered pretzel) for lunch during the school day or a quick snack in the train station on our frequent trips to Munich. Dinners with my host family were always hearty with plenty of meat – typically some sort of schnitzel or wurst. My favorite was weisswurst…a white sausage stuffed with veal, pork, and parsley..which was typically only eaten in Bavaria, south of what was known as the Weisswurst Equator. On the side, we always had a tall glass of weissbier and bowl of warm, buttery spaetzle.
The wonderful thing about spaetzle is that it uses ingredients that everyone has on hand – milk, eggs, salt, and flour. That’s it.
The trick to making the spaetzle noodles is to pass the dough through small holes into a boiling pot of water. If you don’t own a spaetzle maker, a cheese grater will work just fine for starters. A potato ricer will work, too. If you do make spaetzle frequently, you might want to buy an inexpensive spaetzle maker, preferably the kind with the basket or hopper that slides across the holes. Most are about $10 – $15. Mine was $3.99 at a local discount store.
Make the spaetzle in batches. Don’t crowd the pot. Last night, we ate spaetzle with venison polish sausage. The buttery noodles were a nice offset to the spicy sausage.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Stir salt into flour. Slowly alternate between adding flour and milk while mixing. Dough will be thick and sticky. If the dough is too thick, add a teaspoon of water. Balance spaetzle maker over pot of boiling water. Scoop dough into spaetzle maker basket with a spatula. Move basket from side to side – this will push the dough through the holes, cut it, and drop it into the water below. Cook for a few minutes until the spaetzle begin to float. Remove first batch with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Add more dough to the basket and repeat steps for next batch. When all spaetzle is cooked, stir in a pat or two of butter and a dash of salt and serve.