Sunday, June 17, 2012
When the low-carb fad-diet craze began, I was dismayed. I have never met a carb that I didn't love. Potatoes, bread, pastry, pasta, dumplings and beer to me, make the world go 'round. One should not have to live without soul-loving starchy foods. So in classic fashion, I simply pretended the absurd idea didn't exist, and went on enjoying a well-balanced diet which included many types of carbohydrates.
One particular favorite of mine is spaetzle. Admittedly, when one thinks of a noodle or a dumpling, spaetzle may not immediately come to mind. Traditionally, this type of noodle seems to originate from the German region of Bavaria, but many areas of Europe make a similar style of small dumpling. It is a humble side dish that provides any cook a neutral base with lots of nooks and crannies to hold sauces, ground meats or fish, vegetables and herbs. There are many expensive "spaetzle makers" on the market, and these are nice to have, but you don't need one. As long as you have a colander with large-ish holes that you bought for a dollar at your neighbor's garage sale, you are in business. There are many versions of the recipe, but this one is mine:
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick salted butter, melted
1 can beer (the cheap stuff will do just fine)
1 1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
Throw all this into a mixer, food processor or blender (if it has a powerful motor) and mix to combine. Allow it to process for several minutes to develop the gluten that helps provide the structure for the dumpling. You want the mixture to be thick.
This resulting bowl of lovely small dumplings can be skillet fried in butter, topped with Parmesan, and served as a simple side, or it can be topped with any number of sauces and meats. This part is up to you. This recipe will yield 3-4 pounds of tummy-filling, wholesome noodles for you and your family. The ingredients are inexpensive, readily available and are usually found in a reasonably well-stocked American kitchen.
My father's mother's family immigrated to America from a region in Germany very near Bavaria. When they finally settled in New Jersey, they opened a Bakery. Perhaps they made spaetzle. Perhaps they thought of spaetzle as too humble and "old world" a dish to serve to their new American neighbors. I'm fairly certain they served it in their own home. Food of all kinds nourishes our bodies; food of this kind feeds our American spirits and helps us connect to the traditions and lore of our immigrant ancestors- which in turn helps us move into our futures as healthy, whole, American families.