On the last Thursday of November 2009, my friend Kathrin invited me and 4 other of our officemates to her apartment for what she called Käsespätzle dinner. You might ask, what’s Käsespätzle?
Käsespätzle is like the German version of mac and cheese. The basic components are Eierspätzle, Emmental cheese, and caramelized or roasted onions.
Yes, ok Kookie good definition, but what the heck is Eierspätzle?
Eierspätzle is a type of German pasta that’s made with eggs, flour, salt, and water that sorta has an odd, irregular stringy shape.
Just like Italian pasta, Eierspätzle is available in its dried form in supermarkets in Germany. Cooking the dried variety takes about 12 – 15 minutes, a little longer than the typical Barilla penne rigate or spaghetti.
Some, like Kathrin, prefer to make fresh Eierspätzle by hand.
MATERIALS and METHODS
Käsespätzle (serves 4 – 6)
- 500 g flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp salt (divided)
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 200 g Emmental cheese, grated
- freshly ground pepper
- Röstzwiebeln (fried onions)
- 200 g Limburger or Rodamur cheese, cut into cubes (optional)
1 Boil 3 L of water with 1 Tbsp salt. Preheat oven at 200 deg C.
2 Mix together the eggs, flour, 1 Tbsp salt and lukewarm water in a bowl.
3 Press the dough onto the boiling water (see below for methods). Cooked Spätzle act similar to gnocchi in that they pop to the surface when they are ready.
4 Layer Spätzle on a heat resistant glass form. Add a layer of cheese (Emmental and whatever cheese you like) and pepper. Continue layering until the form is nearly full.
5 Pop in the oven and let it bake until the cheese have sufficiently melted.
6 Top with Röstzwiebeln and serve with a green salad.
*if you are using dried Spätzle, cook according to package instructions and then follow steps 4 – 6.
Pressing the spätzle. There are several methods of “pressing” the dough:
Those darn Germans and their tools! They have a kitchen equipment that’s specifically for dropping the Eierspätzle dough into the boiling hot water. The Eierspätzle comes out the way it should look like with each piece just having less than 5 cm of length.
The potato press, normally used for mashing potatoes, doubles up as a Spätzle maker. As you can probably imagine, you only have to put the dough inside, and let the squeezed out dough fall into the boiling water. It’s not really traditional (not my opinion, Kathrin told me this and she’s German so I’ll take her word for it) but it works.
Now this is the most inefficient way of preparing Käsespätzle but it still quite traditional. The dough is placed near the edge of a chopping board. Each noodle is then sliced off and dropped into the boiling water. It’s cramp-inducing but you’ll feel like you’re really involved in the process.
Slotted spoon and ladle
Talk about guerilla cooking. If you don’t have a Spätzlehoble nor a potato press but would like to prepare fresh Eierspätzle more efficiently than using the slicing method, a slotted spoon and ladle could help you. You just have to put the dough on the slotted spoon and let gravity do its thing. In a rush? You can force the dough through the slotted spoon using your ladle. Problem will arise when the steam coming out of the pot cooks the dough within the slots of your spoon. So be ready with a toothpick or a skewer to unclog your makeshift Spätzlehoble.
Fried onions. Kathrin prefers to use the crunchy Röstzwiebeln that can be bought from the supermarket.
You can prepare the onion topping yourself by frying onion rings (2 onions worth) in 3 Tbsp butter until they’re caramelized. Don’t brown them because they are going on top of the Käsespätzle before baking and they might burn instead of just brown in the oven, as seen here.
Good thing I had some Röstzwiebeln to cover it up.
You can have some fun trying out other cheese combinations for a Käsespätzle. Just make sure you still have Emmental cheese as the base cheese. It’s mild anyway so you’ll barely notice it’s there.
Spätzle is not limited to Käsespätzle. I’ve seen it so many times in the Mensa partnered with Gulasch as some sort of pasta. Any stew that is heavy on tomato sauce will partner well with Spätzle.
If you do not own a baking oven and still would like to try some form of Käsespätzle, use the store bought Eierspätzle and cook as directed. Drain in a sieve. Put a tiny amount of butter in the pot you used to cook the Spätzle. Return the Spätzle in the pot and add the Emmental cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Transfer into a bowl and top with Röstzwiebeln. Now wasn’t that quick?
I am categorizing Käsespätzle in SFTW, if you plan to make spätzle by hand, and Phast PhooD, if you plan to use the dried spätzle from the supermarket.