last saturday, while i was feeling nostalgic for a few minutes, i daydreamed about germany. and since it was a good two hours past when i should have been eating lunch, i was mostly thinking about the food. it was a fleeting moment, as conversation quickly moved to dinner plans - what are we doing? where are we going? who's going with us? yes, i'll cook here, we haven't done that in a while. what to make? after considering a dozen or so options in about five minutes, we came up with what i soon figured out was a perfect dinner party menu: wienerschnitzel, spaetzle, and raspberry jam tart. and it didn't hurt that our good friend susie has been looking for a reason to make us her sauerkraut for months!
so what makes this menu so dinner party friendly? the tart whips itself together in all of 10 minutes and if you keep a well stocked pantry, you probably have everything on hand for it already. (although, i hate to break it to you mom, this is the first time i can ever remember in my whole life that i bought raspberry jam. the quarter cup left in my last homemade jar just wouldn't cut it.) the wienerschnitzel can be prepared ahead of time - i had it the cutlets all ready to go stacked in a glass baking dish when my guests arrived. it took all of 10 minutes to cook them when we decided it was time to eat. the wienerschnitzel went like hot cakes and there wasn't so much as a crumb left so i don't have any pictures of it. all i can say is that it's easy and tastes great. be mindful of how long you cook it. overcooked veal is no good for anyone.
and spaetzle - more on the recipe below - can be made ahead too - either the day before or earlier the day you're serving it. toss cooked spaetzle with a bit of olive oil so it doesn't stick together, pack into a storage container and refrigerate until ready to eat. when we were ready, i sauteed it in butter on the stove in batches (i made enough for 20 for the seven of us) which i transferred to a large roasting pan that i covered and kept in a warm oven until the rest was done and the wienerschnitzel was cooked.
i couldn't decide between two spaetzle recipes: deb's eggy version (7 eggs to 2 cups of flour) or tyler florence's less eggy counterpart (4 eggs to 2 cups of flour), recommended by stephanie when i first made spaetzle last year and didn't care for the results so much. so i made both and we had a spaetzle tasteoff during dinner. both were equally as time consuming to make - all that pushing dough through holes takes a lot of time - but the tastes were very different. deb's version was light, almost fluffy, with no real chew and lacking flavor. tyler's was a bit denser, chewier, with great flavor from the salt, pepper, and nutmeg in the dough. it was unanimous. sorry deb, all seven of us chose tyler's less eggy version.
spaezle gets its homemade shape from pushing smooth, thin dough, through small holes into boiling water. sounds messy because it is. and since i made a lot of this stuff last weekend, there was one very important thing i learned. you might think that the smaller holes (like in a colander or spoon), the better. which isn't true. too small holes = dough comes out in one big blob. not tasty. instead, what worked best for me, was a spoon with rather large holes in it - the size of cooked macaroni (something like this or this). and if you're really fancy, try a spätzle maker.
tyler florence's spaetzle
adapted from food network
1 1/2 hours, serves 4 to 6 adults
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
minced fresh chives, garlic, or another favorite herb
- in a small bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together and set aside.
- in a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the eggs. slowly stir to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. mix until smooth.
- let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes. while the dough rests, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. if you plan to cool the spätzle and eat it later, prep an ice bath and place near the pot of boiling water.
- once the dough has rested and the water is boiling, use a rubber spatula and spoon the dough in small batches into a colander with large holes or a spoon with large holes. use the spatula to force the dough through the holes and into the pot of boiling water. let the spätzle cook until it floats, about 2 minutes. remove with a slotted spoon. place in the ice bath if you want to cool the spätzle and eat it later. repeat with remaining dough.
- when ready to serve the spätzle, melt a few tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large saute pan over medium low heat. when the butter is melted, add the spätzle (you might have to do this in batches if you have more spätzle than your pan can handle) and cook until the spätzle is hot and starts to brown ever so slightly. stir in the chives right before serving.
- store leftovers in the refrigerator. warm them up in a saute pan as above, using less butter.