Jeff and I went to Germany this past May for our friends' wedding. We tacked on a few days in France beforehand, starting our trip in Paris. After three days of touring and eating there, we took a high-speed train to Reims. There we rented a car and drove to Epernay for a tour of Moet & Chandon. And after that we headed to Germany. It was nearly 8 p.m. by the time we got to the hotel in Frankenthal, and we hadn't eaten in hours, so our friends pointed us in the direction of a brewhouse (brauhaus) and we headed straight there to grab some dinner.
Of course we started with some beer. When in Germany...
And I knew immediately that I wanted schnitzel. Crispy, breaded meat and a pile of fries along with two gravies for dipping definitely hit the spot. I apologize for the picture below -- I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture until I was almost done! That's one-fourth of the portion below.
Jeff got the grilled pork with traditional German potatoes (so good!) and we actually traded since we each got two pieces of meat, so we could try some of each dish. His came with a beer-bacon gravy that I definitely sampled.
The next day we toured a castle in the area with our friends and their other friends and family and then actually drove back across the border into France to try flammkuchen (hoping to re-create that soon). The following day, Jeff and I set out to find some wineries and spent the early afternoon sampling Rieslings and other German wines. We asked for a lunch recommendation and ended up eating at a barrel-shaped restaurant in Bad Durkheim.
Swayed by my schnitzel from the other night, Jeff ordered it for lunch there. It again came with a pile of fries and some optional gravy.
I went with the winzersteak, which is steak made in the style of the wine growers. I wanted more of those German potatoes. They have the best meltingly soft texture.
We definitely enjoyed the food when we were in Germany (the groom's parents even made us all dinner the night before the wedding with traditional foods), and our friends who got married there actually gave us a spaetzle maker as part of our wedding gift. Since I didn't have a chance to try some spaetzle in Germany and I was now armed with a spaetzle maker, I figured I should give making it at home another shot. (I had made it a while ago trying the colander method and it was a bit of a pain.)
Realizing that it's the middle of Oktoberfest right now, I decided to prepare us a little German dinner a few nights ago. The main course: schnitzel and spaetzle. I used a recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook for the schnitzel, which calls for a pork tenderloin that you cut into pieces and pound flat into medallions. The recipe also requires drying out bread cubes and then pulverizing them in the food processor. I thought the bread crumbs would be too fine, but the coating ended up being super-crispy on the fried pork.
Once I had coated the pork, I mixed up the batter for the spaetzle, and then I cooked the spaetzle and fried the pork at the same time. The spaetzle maker (which looks like a cross between a garlic press and a potato ricer) was so easy to use. I simply poured some batter into it and then squeezed it over the boiling water so the batter would drop out in lines. Then I broke up the lines with a spoon. The little dumplings only needed to simmer for a couple of minutes and then they were done. For a little extra flavor, I sautéed the spaetzle in some butter before serving it. Friends compared it to mac and cheese -- ultimate comfort food.
(adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook)
A traditional German dish, spaetzle is delicious sautéed in a little butter.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
5 ounces cake flour (or scant 1 1/2 cups)
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons lukewarm water
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon salted butter
Pour the flour in a medium bowl. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl, pour them over the flour, and stir them in with a fork until absorbed. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the water, then stir in the remaining tablespoon of water. Let the batter rest.
Fill a wide sauté pan with water, and bring it to a boil. Salt the water generously, and stir in the unsalted butter.
Set a sheet pan next to the stove. Scrape about one-third of the batter into a spaetzle maker. Squeeze the spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Stir gently. Continue to cook the spaetzle for 1 minute after the little dumplings float to the top of the water. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, scoop the spaetzle out of the water and place it on the sheet pan. Repeat in 2 batches with the remaining batter.
One all the spaetzle is cooked, heat the salted butter in a large skillet. Add the spaetzle and stir until coated with butter and excess water is absorbed.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve (preferably with some schnitzel).
Have you ever had spaetzle or schnitzel? Are you celebrating Oktoberfest?
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