This traditional German recipe, Spätzle, is from Walter Staib's cookbook, Black Forest Cuisine.
My mother prepared spätzle all the time at home, and I continued to do so in the gasthaus and hotel kitchens where I worked. Literally translated as "little sparrows," these tender dumplings are even more popular than potatoes in the Black Forest.
We prepared many varieties of spätzle, flavoring them with paprika, pepper, herbs, cheese, or even bits of sausage. The dough is quite forgiving and lends itself well to just about any flavorful ingredient. Spätzle also marries well with virtually any sauce, which is yet another reason for its wide popularity. Most often it is just tossed with butter as I have suggested here.
If this is your first time making spätzle, this recipe is a good place to start. In traditional black forest style, I have called for just a bit of nutmeg to be mixed in to this soft, elastic dough. You can shape the dumplings in a number of ways. I learned to cut them by hand on a board as my mother did. This can be a bit tricky, however, so I suggest using a potato ricer or large-holed colander. If you think you'll be making the dumplings often, you might purchase a spätzle machine (see sources, page 320 of the book). These contraptions are widely available today in most kitchen supply stores and make an easy job of shaping the dough.
1. Combine the flour, eggs, salt, and nutmeg in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined and slowly pour in the water, mixing until the batter is smooth. Mix for about 5 minutes more, until the batter is elastic.
2. Bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Scrape the dough into a potato ricer or a colander with large holes and press the dough into the boiling water (with a large spoon or spatula if using a colander). Alternately, place dough on a small cutting board and scrape dough into boiling water. Cook until the spätzle are tender but still firm, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. They will rise to the surface when done.
3. Lift the cooked spätzle out of the water with a large slotted spoon, shake off the excess water and place directly onto a serving platter. (You can also drain the spätzle in a colander.)
If you make the spätzle ahead of time, cool them off in an ice bath after cooking. Once cool, transfer the spätzle to an airtight container and toss with a bit of vegetable oil before sealing so they don't dry out. To reheat, either shock them in boiling water or saute them in butter until golden brown.
Black Forest Cuisine
The Classic Blending of European Flavors
by Walter Staib with Jennifer Lindner McGlinn
Forewords by Tim Ryan and Franz Mitterer
Running Press, 2006
Full-color photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
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