Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bavarian Comfort Food: Käsespätzle

Wow, it sure has been a while since I posted now. As the semester moved towards its inevitable conclusion, I was increasingly swamped in homework, then cramming, and lastly a little crescendo of exams. I did manage to get through it relatively unscathed, but I did feel a bit like a character from an old cartoon: all confused, and with a flock of little birds flying around my head, chirping something about statistics and stock portfolios.

This tuesday, however, it was finally over, and I could go back to spending all my time either thinking about, cooking, or eating food. Which I happily did, and as the weather took a turn for the worse, what better way to come back down to earth than some hearty comfort food?

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Allgäuer Käsespätzle are the local, and much better tasting, version of Mac and Cheese. With the little knobs of slightly firm pasta known as Spätzle, mixed with crazy amounts of cheese and topped with fried onions, Käsespätzle is stringy, gooey, rich, comforting and delicious.

If you live in Bavaria, and are feeling lazy, you can easily buy decent Spätzle in any supermarket, but that's not how we roll here at Butter & Beans, oh no. Back in March, I lived in another student dorm, and when I realized one of my lovely neighbours there was an honest-to-God Allgäuer, I forced her to teach me the fine art of Spätzle making. This recipe is dedicated to her; thank you, Tanja!


Allgäuer Käsespätzle
Serves about two people.

If you ever pass through Bavaria, or know someone from the area, get them to set you up with a Spätzlehobel, and this will all be much easier. However, the recipe below will use the Real Man method, without need for special tools.

When it comes to cheese, if you want this to be real Allgäuer Käsespätzle, go for a mix of Allgäuer Emmentaler and Bergkäse. You could also use Appenzeller, or Le Gruyère, or basically any Swiss style cheese of alpine descent. Use a mix of mild and sharp cheeses to get your perfect taste profile.

Ingredients

250 g flour
5 eggs
2-4 Tbsp water
1-2 tsp salt
150-200 g cheese
1-2 onions, red or yellow
butter

Instructions

Mix flour, salt and eggs in a bowl, and add water little by little until you reach the right consistency. The batter should be rather firm, but still somewhat fluid. The ideal texture is slightly wetter than a bread dough, and quite a lot firmer than a pancake batter. Beat the batter with a wooden spoon until it goes smooth and starts forming air bubbles when beaten. Set it aside to rest for 20-30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, grate the cheese, bring water to boil in a large pasta pot, and then slice the onions in thin rings or half-rings. Melt a large knob of butter in a skillet, and fry the onions on a medium flame until they get brown and crispy. Don't do it too quickly, or the onions will go bitter. Let the onions drain on some paper towels.
Heat oven to 175 °C.

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When the dough has had its nap and the water is boiling, salt the water rather heavily, as for any pasta. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
Spread the batter across a cutting board, and enjoy its lovely weird elastic texture.
Now use a knife to scrape small scraps of the batter straight into the simmering water. Work as quickly as you can, but don't worry too much if it takes a while.

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When the Spätzle rise to the top, they're done. Remove them in batches with a slotted spoon, and set them in a small ovenproof tray. Between layers of Spätzle, layer in some of your grated cheese, and top it all off with the last of the cheese.
Place the tray in the oven until the cheese has melted nicely, then remove, sprinkle with the onions, and serve with a green salad.

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Don't tell your cardiologist I gave you this recipe.

6 comments:

Claudia said...

Hi,
I just wandered over from FXcuisine. I wanted to tell you that I love your blog. I'm impressed that you have time to cook (and post!) while you go to school; I'm a student myself. I like that you post so many pictures of the work-in-progress and I'm looking forward to trying some of your recipes, especially the Euro version of mac-and-cheese (never been a fan of the American version) and the lemon cardamom scones.

del said...

claudia: Thank you very much! It's fun to see that people are finding their way here, and liking it.

As for how I manage to both study and post... well, there's a little trick to it :)
It might be a bit hard to spot at first (we're trying to come up with a good way to change that), but there's actually two contributors to this blog: me, Daniel, and my girlfriend Angelica. So we can keep up a somewhat tight post schedule even when swamped in work.

Most of the baked goods tend to be Angelica's, as is the case with the lemon cardamom scones. Do try them, they were awesome.

katrina said...

Aurgggg. I can't see what you're doing with the knife! I would love to try this recipe, but between the spreading of batter and the knife into the boiling water, I am hesitant. If you could enlighten me, I would be so delighted. Many thanks, and I love your blog!

del said...

katrina: I understand your pain, that picture is more artsy than helpful.

You just use the knife to separate a small sliver of the batter, about half as wide as your pinky, and half as long, and scrape it off the board into the pot.

This german site has some instructive pictures. I hope this will assuage your fears, so you can get your delicious decadent delight!

Kevin said...

That looks so creamy and good!

Barbara said...

I like your recipe for this, I have a similar one. You could also add some bacon bits to the finished product. I know its not great for the waistline or the heart, but it is so good!