In many ways, the humble spätzle (spaetzle for the umlaut averse) seems to embody (to me) the Teutonic psyche in a nutshell. Traveling abroad in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, the fellow tourists we kept running into time and again were British uni grads doing a celebratory year before joining the working world, Aussies out playing in their own backyard, and lucky Germans who have between 4-6 weeks of vacation a year. There seems to exist an almost surreal schism that I just can’t seem to put my finger on. For example, one of our fellow travelers, a very pleasant Müchner, who while remarking on how enjoyable and relaxing it was in “it’s all good” Thailand in the next breath felt that German civilization was going to hell in a hand basket because the privatization of the railways had made the previously punctual train system 3 minutes off [harumph.]. That same veneration for precision in a freeform setting is manifested in a chewy, amorphous pasta that when in long noodles is called spätzle or “little sparrow” (and yes, I’ve heard that little boys’ organs are also endearingly referred to a spätzle but for the purposes of being able to eat, I’m just going to ignore that tidbit) while their munchkin-y brethren go by knöpfle or “little button.” Not sure how a twisty strand could remind someone of a sparrow but that’s just proof that I’m not German (that and I’m as aryan looking as Jackie Chan ;))
Incomprehensible subtleties aside, I do understand why these are so popular that they’ve been claimed by the different regions of Germany as well as Switzerland and Hungary. They’re just that satisfying to eat and like most pastas, pretty darn versatile too. What’s not to like about tender yet slightly chewy pasta that’s been crisped up in a soupçon of butter and then rolled in a flavorful sea of whatever suits your fancy. Mushroom season? Pilzspätzle to the rescue. Cheesemonger? Käsespätzle coming right up. Sweet tooth? Can I interest you in some cinnamony appley apfelspätzle? So, just cuz the chanterelles were whispering to me, I give you mushroomy Pfifferlingknöpfle cuz my little roly poly pastas are 2 standard deviations below the mean length. Genießen 😉
Shortcuts make for a pleasant kitchen experience 🙂
1) So what’s the trick to fat little knöpfle swimming in your pasta water instead of partially steamed pasta dough clinging desperately to your spätzle maker? Keep your pasta water at a gentle simmer, not boiling and let the spätzle maker cool off between batches (a quick dunk in cold water will do).
2) Why cook the spätzle in batches? If I can keep the spätzle maker cool enough can’t I just do it all at once? I’m hungry woman. Um, nope. If you have too many swimming around in the pasta water they glom together to make one megaüberspätzle 😦
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
1 + 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1 tsp (1 clove) crushed garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
4 oz chanterelle mushrooms, woody stems removed and in 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c dry white wine
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp fried shallots, optional
Simmer ~10 c water and 2 tsp salt in a large ~3-4 quart pot. Set a slotted spoon or mesh strainer and a large bowl of ice water within reach of your stove.
In a small bowl whisk together flour, nutmeg, and salt. In a large bowl combine milk, egg, and parsley. On low speed add flour mixture to milk mixture and mix till just combined (no white clumps or streaks visible). You should have a dough with the consistency of a thin pancake dough so that you can easily push it through the spätzle maker (no fancy spätzle maker for me so I jerry-rigged one with my colander and silicone spatula).
Using a spätzle press, press 1/3 of the dough into the boiling water. Remove spätzle with the slotted spoon or strainer once they float up (~2 minutes) and dump in ice bath to stop them from overcooking and then drain in a colander and set aside. They will be very wet and pale but don’t worry they’ll dry out when browned in the butter.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat till aromatic but not smoking. Sauté shallot till translucent and tender ~3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute then add lemon juice and chanterelles and sauté till they’re tender and have released their juices. Add wine and increase heat to high and boil till liquid is reduced by half. Add cream and remaining 1 tbsp parsley then remove from heat.
In another skillet heat butter over med-hi heat till melted and foam subsides. Add spätzle and brown till golden. Plate the pasta and serve with chanterelles (I like to use 1 c knöpfle and 1/2 c mushrooms per serving.) Sprinkle with fried shallots if using. Makes 2 servings.
**No nutritional info for this post cuz my recipe analysis program seems to think that 6 oz of chanterelles contain 319 calories and ground nutmeg is a B-rated spice??