a year in food and life

Green spaetzle with pear-onion sauce October 31, 2007

Filed under: food,Pasta — superspark @ 6:22 am


I won’t bore everyone again with how much I love spaetzle, lest I start to sound like a broken record. But truly, I suspect I must have a heretofore unknown Austrian ancestry that gives me an innate love for these delightful little dumplings. Nevertheless, this recipe almost cured me of that love and with spaetzle dough all over my shirt and in my hair, not to mention coating a slew of dishes and the kitchen stove, I found myself cursing those tender little pillows. Which is not to say that this dish wasn’t delicious, because it was, but I always expect spaetzle to be incredibly easy and quick to make, a gourmet dinner in 10 minutes flat. Not so much this time.

It was rough right from the get go. I got home from the gym, sweaty and tired, and Dylan immediately professed that he was starving. With the parsley I’d bought especially for this meal growing limper and limper by the day, I said I’d just whip up a batch of spaetzle and we’d be eating in a few minutes. No problem. Had I read the recipe in greater detail, I might have realized. I found the recipe, from Hungrig in San Francisco at a St. Patrick’s Day blogging event back in March. The blog seems to be written in both German and English and perhaps there was something lost in translation?

For starters, when a German refers to a blender, does that mean that appliance that sits on my counter waiting to make milkshakes? Because that’s what I assumed, only to realize while still in the act of putting the ingredients into the blender, that something was very wrong. Imagine trying to puree a thick muffin batter. Not only did the blender fail to mix up the batter, but the motor wheezed and practically gave out from the effort. Dumping the dough into a bowl and scraping out the blender, the sink started to fill with the detritus from my efforts. And here’s another thing I learned. It’s not the worst idea to try to convert grams to ounces before you start cooking. A revelation, no? Turns out there were massive amounts of butter and cheese in this dish, which, while delightful additions, are not what I need on the average Sunday night. Who knew that 200 grams of Gruyere was the equivalent of an entire brick from Trader Joe’s. Beyond the health concerns, my arms were too damn tired to grate that much cheese at that point.

Scowling and turning responsibility for the pear-onion sauce over to Dylan, who pulled it together in a snap, I steeled myself for the task of actually making the spaetzle, turning that lump of green dough into a pile of fluffy little dumplings. As I’ve written in the past, this can be done with a simple colander, one’s fingertips, or a dedicated spaetzle maker, which is what I tried to use in this instance. People, a word of advice: if you’re unsure about consistency, keep your spaetzle dough on the runnier side. Thicker dough is a huge pain to try to push through the tiny holes of a spaetzle maker or colander and will only drive you to curse the thought of ever making the dish again.

And that would be a shame, because this was actually quite delicious. Granted from this photo, it sort of looks like a pile of green scrambled eggs with some worms (those would be onions) on top, but the green spaetzle were a good addition to my growing spaetzle repertoire and the pear-onion sauce would be terrific as a topping for many things. I could imagine putting it on chicken, for instance. As I sat down at the end of the long process, batter splattered across my tank top and caked in my hair, the first bite of fluffy, tender spaetzle was so good it almost made me forget the aggravation of the last 45 minutes. Almost.

Green spaetzle with pear-onion topping (serves 4)
(you can cut the butter and cheese down by half or more from the quantities listed below to make it a bit healthier)

1/2 bunch parsley
4 eggs
400 g flour
1 tbsp thyme, chopped fine
1 tbsp sage, chopped fine
2 tbsp oil
200 g gruyere, coarsely grated
30 g almonds with skin, coarsely chopped
200 g onions, sliced
2 pears (not too soft)
50 g butter
salt and pepper

1. Finely chop parsley and puree with the eggs in a food processor (do not use a blender!). Add flour, 1 tsp salt, 100 – 150 ml water and mix. Add chopped herbs. The dough should be not too runny, but keep in mind that the thicker it gets, the harder it will be to make the spaetzle.

2. Bring plenty heavenly salted water to a boil. Use a ‘Spaetzlehobel’, a food mill, a colander, or your fingertips to let little droplets of dough drop into the water. As soon as they rise, they are done. Layer in a oven proof bowl with the cheese, keep warm in a 280 F oven.

3. To make the topping, finely cut the onions in rounds, quarter and de-seed the pears, do not peel. Cut the pears in small cubes. Heat the butter in a skillet, until it foams, add onions and fry slowly to a light brown, 10 min. Turn them often, they tend to burn. Add almonds and pears, fry for another 4 minutes. Adjust taste.

4. To serve, top the Spaetzle with the onion pear mixture, serve immediately. Can be reheated as leftovers.


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