Friday, July 15, 2011

Well, Isn't that Spaetzle?!?!? July Daring Cooks Challenge: Homemade Noodles

I recently signed up to take part in a really fun blog group called the Daring Cooks. Each month, they are given a cooking challenge to complete and then post on their food blogs. Steph from the blog Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for spƤtzle and fresh egg pasta, as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with! We also were given a bit of leeway to use our own creativity.

I have to admit that making homemade noodles was definitely a challenge for me...and something I had never done before. That's the idea of taking part in the monthly Daring Cooks challenges: to step outside your comfort zone and stretch your culinary muscles a bit! I decided to try my hand at making spaetzle. I looked at several recipes online and decided that Dorie Greenspan would be a good person to help me make these little German boiled dumpling noodles. Her spaetzle recipe featured lots of herbs for flavor...after they were boiled, I simply browned the spaetzle in a bit of butter and olive oil. I added a bit of fresh thyme and a diced shallot for flavor. 

The spaetzle batter was simple and quick to whip up, but the cooking was a bit more time-consuming than I had anticipated. I don't have a spaetzel maker, so I improvised by using a colander and a spoonula to push the dough into the boiling water. That was hard wonder those German grandmas have such strong upper arms! The payoff was worth it, though: the spaetzle were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside...with a really nice flavor from the herbs!

Herb Spaetzle with Shallot-Thyme Butter 
adapted from Dorie Greenspan via Bon Appetit

Step 1:  Add 3/4 cup whole milk and 3 large eggs to a measuring cup; whisk to combine and set aside. Add 2 1/4 cups AP flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg to a large bowl. Add 1.5 tsp. dried herbs of your choice (or 1.5 tbs. fresh chopped herbs). I used herbs de provence, but the original recipe suggests using any combination of parsley, thyme, rosemary, or chives. Quickly combine the dry ingredients with a whisk, then add the egg/milk mixture. Whisk to make a soft batter. 

Step 2:  Let the batter rest while you bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add half of the batter to a handheld colander. Using a spoon, force the batter through the holes of the colander and into the boiling water. As the spaetzle cook, they will float the surface. Cook the spaetzle in batches, using a slotted spoon to remove them to a bowl. Once the first half of the batter is used, add the rest of the batter in the bowl. Keep pushing it through the colander and cooking until all of the batter is used (...and perhaps remind yourself that you need to be doing more upper-body work at the gym!).

Step 3:  After all the spaetzle are boiled, it's time to saute them. Add 2 tbs. butter and 1 tbs. olive oil to a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add one diced shallot and 1 tsp. fresh thyme and saute until the shallot starts to caramelize...about 5 minutes. Add the reserved spaetzle and 1 additional tbs. butter. Cook until they begin to brown, stirring often. This took me about 5-6 minutes. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste.

I served these spaetzle as a side dish with Ina Garten's delicious Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken Breast and a strawberry/field green/feta/candied pecan salad. The spaetzle were really yummy...the herb flavor is definitely noticeable, but it's not overwhelming. The shallots gave it a nice sweetness in the background. This dish was a nice change of pace from our usual side dishes.

Another nice thing about making spaetzle is that the batter can be whipped up with basic kitchen staples. It's also a very versatile dish...some of the other Daring Cooks participants cooked it with bacon or onion. With the addition of bacon, the spaetzle becomes a light main course. If you're interested in joining the Daring Cooks, click here to sign up. Each month is a different challenge...I can't WAIT to see what they come up with next time!

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