Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

So I've been lamenting that we're somewhat falling behind on our 80 Plates cooking, and that we need to step it up some. I've got 2 countries planned--Italy on March 28th (open to friends--please RSVP if you are coming! You won't be alone, Elizabeth is intrepidly being our Test Italian) and Turkey on April 6th (book club only, I'm afraid!), but beyond that we haven't found time or recipes that inspired us to get cooking! Mike and I have been playing "clean out the freezer" from many of our previous dishes, and also from things we put in there and forgot. It's saved us money on the grocery bills in addition to providing some challenges with "what the the heck am I going to do with a half pound of pork!?"

So today we pulled out bratwurst that has been in there since who knows when. The thing is, I've made brats a thousand times, so I didn't really feel good about counting it for Germany. The aforementioned Elizabeth, also an expectant mommy, (click here to visit her blog) and I were talking and we both hit on a flash of brilliance at the same time: spaetzle!

I love spaetzle. The first time I remember having it was when my mom got us beans and spaetzle from Birds Eye when we were little and visiting my grandparents in Connecticut. Since then, I've had it prepared in several German restaurants, including one here in Stafford County, which I highly recommend. However, if you visit Zum Rheingarten, make damned sure you have reservations and don't wear blue jeans. Although the General and I broke both rules and they still seated us anyway and were darned nice about it, so what can I say?

Anyway, I had found a recipe on line for spaetzle that garnered rave reviews from German cooks and I'd been wanting to try it, so what better occasion than this? So out of the blue, another country down.

I'm including my preparations for bratwurst here too, just in case you want to see it. It is basically what they used to show during the Johnsville brats commercial, but it's so good and so yummy that it's how I've always elected to make ours! So it was a gorgeous day here in Fredericksburg, 72 degrees this afternoon. So nice in fact that I put on the ceiling fans and opened the windows. I decided I was going to go ahead and fire up the grill for the first time since last fall. Remember I said we call it Vesuvius? Well, here it is! You can see why. That sucker is massive. But I could also call it Old Reliable, because it fired up with no hesitation this evening when called for duty.

My recipe for brats is a simple one: Thick slice an onion, throw it in a pot, dump a can of beer over it, bring it to a boil, add the brats, boil them up a bit, and then throw them and the onions on the grill till done. See below!

Ok, time to make some spaetzle!! If you want the recipe I followed, please visit this site. Yes, yes, it is Tyler Florence again, but reading the feedback, it is an authentic recipe, so I felt justified in using it. Not to mention that every single spaetzle recipe I read had the same ingredients as this one, so I think you make one spaetzle, you've made them all. You can buy spaetzle mix at your local grocery stores, but it really isn't hard to make, so why bother? Also, in reading the comments left on this recipe, everyone said that the spaetzle came out really nutmeg-y, so if you are leary of nutmeg, you should add a bit less. I like nutmeg a lot, but I didn't want them to taste of it overpoweringly, so I only put in a quarter teaspoon instead of a half.

Ok, so the ingredient list is pretty easy: flour, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, milk. You will also need butter to sautee them in and chives for the top if desired. I did put some chives on them to make them more colorful. So the prep is pretty easy--mix together the dry ingredients, combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, combine the two. Only, I guess I got excited because I dumped the milk on the flour mixture without first combining it with the eggs! Oops!

I mixed it all together using a silicone spatula because it allowed me to give everything a good beating and mush out any lumps in the dough. Then it had to be set to rise for a while before I could boil it up. I put it to the side while I put the brats out on the grill and then came back to make the spaetzle.

Spaetzle is fun to make!! Basically what you do is force the dough a little at a time through a slotted spoon into a pot of boiling water. Once it floats to the top, you skim it out and put it in a colander to drain, and rinse it under cool water.

Once this is completed, it's gravy. My hands did get a little bit messy and occasionally the dough overflowed the spoon and made giant dumplings instead of sweet little neat ones, but all in all, it went perfectly. They looked and felt like authentic spaetzle.

All that was left was to saute them up. I had the butter melted already, just having put the pan on the hot burner from when I had boiled up the brats. I just turned it back on and tossed the spaetzle in. I didn't think they'd really fry or brown up, and they did not. It just kind of sizzled in there and got buttery delicious. I tossed on the chives, and it was time to eat!!

I made a side of green beans for myself, and Mike just had his spaetzle and brats. He thought they were "good". He said that when he thinks of dumplings, he thinks of something bigger that has a filling, but over all he thought they were good. I was really freakin' impressed with myself for having made them!! I thought they were really good.

So another country knocked off! We need to get more heavily into Africa--we've only done one African country so far. It's hard finding recipes from there. Here is a map of the places we've been so far:

visited 15 countries(6.66%)
Create your own visited map of The World

I recommend this recipe for a fun and delicious dish to cook! :-)

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