Spaetzle

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

Hailing from Alsace, spaetzle is a cross between a dumpling and pasta; it’s made from a pancakelike batter that’s dropped into boiling water and cooked. From this point it can be seasoned and served, sauted, tossed with sauce, or added to a broth or soup. I love it mixed with Mornay Sauce, put in a gratin dish, topped with grated cheese or bread crumbs, and baked until bubbling an Alsatian mac and cheese.

The technique for dropping the spaetzle batter into the simmering water is just as varied as the serving possibilities. You can use a spaetzle maker (it looks like a grater without sharp edges, with an attachment that slides across the top), a colander, a squeeze bottle, or simply a spoon. The spoon and squeeze bottle are the most uncomplicated techniques: just load the spoon with about a tablespoon of the batter and let the batter drop into the water. To use a squeeze bottle, just squirt small portions of the batter into the water.

You can also make whole wheat spaetzle by substituting whole wheat flour for about half the all-purpose flour.

Salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon or more freshly ground black pepper

3 eggs

1 cup milk, more or less

2 to 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

Chopped parsley leaves or chives for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Combine the flour with the pepper and a large pinch of salt in a bowl. Lightly beat together the eggs and milk in a separate bowl and then stir the egg mixture into the flour. If necessary, add a little more milk to make a batter about the consistency of pancake batter.

Scoop up a tablespoon or so of the batter and drop it into the water; small pieces may break off, but the batter should remain largely intact and form an uneven disk. Spoon in about one-third to one-fourth of the batter, depending on the size of your pot. When the spaetzle rise to the top, a couple of minutes later (you may have to loosen them from the bottom, but they’ll float right up), cook for another minute or so, then transfer with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water. Repeat until all the batter is used up.

Drain the spaetzle (at this point you can toss them with a bit of oil and refrigerate, covered, for up to a day). Put the butter or oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the spaetzle, working in batches, and brown quickly on both sides. Serve hot, garnished with the parsley or chives.

Variation

Herb Spaetzle. A mix of parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon is lovely: Stir about 1 cup chopped fresh herbs into the batter.