Schnitzel and spaetzle
During the week, I do my best to eat light meals such as salads, chicken breast, even meat-free meals. But when the weekend arrives, I like the treat of a home-cooked, not-quite-as-healthy meal….like the spaetzle I have finally mastered, which is a perfect sidekick to Ron’s schnitzel.
Ron has a German background and when I met him, he introduced me to schnitzel. This is not as exotic as it sounds. In German-speaking countries, the term schnitzel means cutlets, which basically consists of meat pounded thin, then breaded and fried. Traditional wiener schnitzel is made with veal, but Ron makes it with pork or chicken and has even ventured into the southern US tradition by making chicken-fried steak. But Ron’s go-to schnitzel is pork.
His mother used to make spaetzle with it. This is a traditional German noodle or dumpling, which is made in boiling water and then can be fried in butter (I don’t fry them). Ron’s mom always served it with some “bread crumbs,” which consists of bread broken into chunks and fried in butter. I realize this all sounds unhealthy, but we cut back on the butter significantly, and the flavours were still amazing.
Ron stopped at the local butcher and picked up some beautiful chops, which he pounded thin and breaded. The cutlets can be baked in the oven on a cookie sheet for a healthier option, but once in a while (like with spaetzle), he fries them in oil in a cast iron pan. He also fried onions and prepared some gravy to go with the pork.
Schnitzel, bread and onions frying
While he was doing that, I got the spaetzle ready. My first few attempts at it were, to say it mildly, a disaster. We ordered a spaetzle maker from e-bay and I tried the recipes on the package. The little dumplings turned into a runny, messy disaster when I dropped it in the water. Like I have found with many cooking experiments, practice makes perfect.
Mom’s well used Joy of Cooking book
It also helps to have a good recipe, and lately I have discovered the perfect one, thanks to my mom’s old Joy Of Cooking cookbook. Previously I made my dough too watery. The Joy Of Cooking recipe results in the perfect consistency, which is almost gluey.
Dough, spaetzle maker and pot are ready
After making the dough (recipe below), it goes in batches through the spaetzle maker and into a pot with a boiling mixture of chicken broth and water. The broth adds a nice flavour to the spaetzle. If you don’t have a spaetzle maker, you can drop the dough from a spoon.
Like with perogies or other dumplings, you want them to float and then cook for a few minutes. Then take them out with a slotted spoon, and put them into a baking dish with a small amount of better melted in the bottom, and put in the oven while you make the rest.
Spaetzle are almost done
When we served them, we added the bread at the end – no earlier or it goes soggy! Mix up the spaetzle and bread, and serve them beside the schnitzel, with onions and gravy if you like.
Spaetzle and bread, ready to serve
Thanks to our two moms for inspiring this home-cooked delight! I keep hearing this was my best batch of spaetzle ever, and the key really is the recipe that results in the perfect consistency of dough. Serve it with a nice Riesling for the ideal German meal.
Spaetzle or German egg dumplings
From Joy of Cooking
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking powder
Beat the ingredients well with a fork. The dough should be almost gluey but not too heavy.
Drop small bits of the batter from a spoon into simmering water and chicken broth. You can also put the dough through a colander or use a spaetzle maker. You want the dough to be in small pieces so it is light and delicate when cooked.
Serve with bread pieces sautéed in butter.