Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Albert's Tomahawk & Spaetzle

The Familytale: Albert channels Winnetou
80 some years later and the evidence is still there ... 

With finals on the horizon and a boyfriend just home from the hospital (and resting well), my culinary aspirations are fading. All I want is mac and cheese.

But, as I resort to my Amy’s Organic white cheddar shells or Mac and Jack (my own creation of penne, prosciutto and pepper jack).  I think about how I wish I could spice it up with an old, German family dish: Spaetzle. This German mac and cheese made from dumpling noodles has been a family favorite for years.  I remember being 19 and extremely jet-legged my first day in Munich and eating about a troth of it.

Jet-lagged in the Englischer Garten, Munich 2009. Spaetzle was just what the doctor ordered.

The dish pairs well with beer, especially Hofbrauhaus, but also with a good German story — especially a familytale about Albert and his kleine schwester Lottie, my Oma.  

When my grandmother was a little girl, she remembers her big brother getting into all kinds of trouble.  He accidentally bounced her out of her baby buggy and let her loose on an ice flow. Oma’s hand to God. But those are stories for another time.

Today, I’m going to tell you why Oma still has a split in her skull that you can feel when running your fingers over her forehead. Albert was a fan, as all German little boys were at the time, of cowboys and Indians. Most notably the Cowboy from the beloved German series Old Shatterhand and his trusty Indian comrade Winnetou.  Please keep in mind that I myself have never read the adventures of Shatterhand and Winnetou and am not confident that I can endorse these pre-WWII, German children’s stories.   

But, the cultural norm in Germany in the end 1920s was for little boys to read about Winnetou’s adventures and aspire to be cowboys.  Albert was no different.  He decided to fashion a tomahawk from plywood. But, he also had a desire to be William Tell, the folk-hero of Switzerland famous for shooting an apple off his son’s head.

So here we have a tomahawk, an apple and Lottie’s head.  Well you can guess what happened next.

Oma laughs now when she recounts the story of being five and the tomahawk spinning toward her forehead, missing the apple by a few important inches.

Yes, Albert could give her a hard time she explains. But, he was the only person who could. If any other neighborhood kid tried to mess with Lottie, he would protect her.  After all, she was his baby sister and if anyone was going to throw a tomahawk at her head, it was him.

Essen: Spaetzle or SpƤtzle (as dictated by Oma and written by my mom)
Currently craving this pasta and cheese. But sadly it's out the box this week for a poor college kid. 

This recipe is from what is left of Oma’s 1950s German cookbook, and notes from her mother’s kitchen.  Uhr-Oma made these noodles quickly and often from scratch. She made variations of them for soups, side dishes and comfort food.

Found this beauty online and am currently drooling on my keyboard.

2-1/3 to 2-1/2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. salt
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 cup water
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 cup toasted bread crumbs, optional- see variations below
1 cup Parmesan cheese crumbs, optional-see variations below
Large Pot (4 quart+) with 2 quarts of boiling water
2 tsp. salt for salting boiling water

Sift together flour and 1tsp salt. Set mixture aside. Combine in a large mixing bowl the large beaten egg and the 1 cup of water. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture bowl, stirring it so that it is smooth. It should get stiff as all the flour is incorporated. The flour batter should break from the spoon, no longer pourable in a continuous stream. It becomes just thick enough to be dough. Oma uses a cheese grater with 4 sides to cut the dough, using the sides with the largest holes. The dough can be pushed through like very soft cheese. Oma says a metal colander with round holes also is good for cutting the dough: push it through the holes into the irregular little strips that make Spaetzle.

Add the 2 tsp. of salt to the large pot of boiling water. Drop the raw noodles into the water until one layer covers the pot. Only cook one layer at a time: do not overfill the pot. Boil noodles gently 5-8 minutes. Test one for doneness by pressing against the side of the pot with a spoon. It should be firm but tender. Remove noodles gently with a slotted spoon, draining excess water from spoon, and placing in a bowl with warm melted butter as they are removed.

Toss with melted butter. Variation: toss with butter and crispy bread crumbs. Variation: toss with grated cheese. You can use them plain as dumplings in soup.

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