Friday, March 20, 2009

comfort food and comfort days

One of my favorite meals growing up was pork chops and spätzen (or spätzle). I would eat huge quantities of them, and I doused them in salt despite my mother's admonitions to taste them first. Later, when I started cooking, spätzle were one of the first dishes I perfected.

Over the years, I have served them with Chicken Paprikas and various other delicious, fat-filled family dishes. What I never tried was a method I've read about — sauteing them in butter and oil after the initial boil. After last night's dinner, I realize what I've been missing all this time: comfort food perfection.

Spätzle are relatively easy to make — really just a blend of flour, baking powder, salt, a touch of nutmeg, two eggs, and either milk or water. The trick is forming the drops of batter and dropping them into the boiling water. I've tried ricers and I've tried colanders. Neither gets the same results as simply using a two-spoon technique learned from my mother. You take a bit of batter on one spoon and knock part of it off into the water. There's a rhythm to it. It's not a speedy process, but you end up with nicely formed spätzle.

Knowing how complicated my schedule can be and knowing that I wanted to make these anyway, I went ahead and prepped them the night before. The plan was to reheat them, but rather than just reheating them, I pulled out the old cast iron skillet and melted three tablespoons of butter and a touch of vegetable oil. I added the spätzle and turned over medium heat. The developed a perfect crust, a bit brown and a bit crunchy. Served with a caraway-coated tenderloin braised in beer and a spinach salad on the side, they were amazing. The only downside: some were a little too crispy for Banana's taste. Her loss!