Sausages And Sparrows

27 Mar

My aunt will be so proud. She will also be relieved… I taught myself how to make spätzle yesterday.Spatzle

My aunt, the daughter of German immigrants, has been making her brand of spätzle for family gatherings for longer than I can remember. In the weeks leading up to, say, Easter, I’ll call my mother, “Are we going to Syracuse? Is Aunt L going to be making spätzle??” over, and over and over, even now that I’m old enough that I really should know better.

Aunt L’s spätzle are different than any other I’ve tried at any German or Austrian restaurant anywhere in the world. Hers are much thicker, closer to a dumpling and less a little sparrow (and no, I don’t mean this kind of sparrow) and more like a gorgeous, fat goose. Also, as a bow to my family’s obsession with garlic, she browns them off in oil and garlic until they’re golden and crispy. To me, they are the picture of culinary perfection. I truly believe I could eat her spätzle every day for the rest of my life.

Sausages & Sauerkraut

For my first attempt, I think my spätzle turned out pretty well. Mine were smaller, but they had the same chewy, toothsome feeling as my aunts. When I make them again (and I will make them again!) I will use fewer eggs, maybe 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, plus more milk and even a little more flour. Then again, maybe I’ll hold off until Easter, when I’ll badger Aunt L into making hers for me again, you know, as research…

yum

I served my spätzle with kielbasa (we’re a melting pot of Eastern European culinary traditions my family is…) and sauerkraut all braised with caramelized onions and dry vermouth. The kielbasa was much different than what I’m used to. I was inspired to try some local sausage from the East Village institution, Kurowycky Meat Market, which was unfortunate, because well, to be frank (heh), I didn’t like their kovbasa at all. It was nicely spiced and full of large chunks of meat but had a strange, gamey smell/flavor that I just couldn’t get past. I’m a little sad really. I thought maybe, finally, I’d find a more convenient local source for my kielbasa fix, but alas, I’ll have to keep making that trip to Eagle Provisions in Brooklyn. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Recipes for both dishes below the break.

Sausages And Sparrows

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: 1 to 3 hours

This is not an easy meal to undertake, and the cooking time really depends on how big your kitchen is, how many helpers you have and if you do or do not have to cook in shifts!

Spätzle

  • 4 organic Eggs
  • 1/2 cup happy cow Milk
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tsps dried Dill
  • 1 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 lb Bacon
  • 1 head Garlic, minced

Whisk together the eggs and milk. Add two healthy pinches of salt, a few grinds of black pepper and the dill. Whisk to incorporate. Add the flour 3 tbsps at a time and whisk to incorporate. I didn’t use the full 1 1/2 cups flour, I ended up adding 3 tbsps six times, so, in total 18 tbsps flour. The most important thing is to add them slowly and whisk to completely incorporate every single time. Cover the bowl with saran wrap or something else and pop into the fridge to allow the flour to fully hydrate for one hour.

During this time…. Heat your oven to 350°F. In a casserole dish (that will eventually be used to crisp up the spätzle) place pieces of thick cut slab bacon. Slide the dish into the oven and bake for half an hour. Pull the dish out, flip the bacon and return to the oven to bake another 30 to 45 minutes.

Place a large pot of heavily salted water to boil on the stove and a large metal colander into the sink.

Pull the dish out of the oven, the bacon out of the dish, and place to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the bacon fat in the dish. Set aside. Turn the oven down to 300°F.

Pull the batter out of the fridge and place the bowl next to your pot of boiling water. With a silicone spoon spatula, scoop up some batter. With a slotted spoon, swirl the boiling water, and then drizzle the batter into the water in a thick ribbon. Keep swirling until the spätzle begin to float to the top. Pull them out with the slotted spoon and transfer to the colander in the sink. Repeat, repeat and repeat until done. Drain spätzle well, transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge.

now’s a good time to begin the sausage portion of our evening.

Spatzle

Sausages

  • 3 large yellow Onions, sliced into half moons
  • 8 oz. package Crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 head Garlic, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Vermouth + 1 1/2 cup Stock or, 3 cups tasty White Wine
  • 1 32 oz. package Sauerkraut, very well rinsed
  • 3/4 lb. Kielbasa
  • Bacon, crumbled (from the spatzle recipe above)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, begin to caramelize the onions in a healthy glug of olive oil. When the onions are just becoming translucent add the mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes and add the sliced garlic. When the onions have achieved a lovely golden color, add the vermouth and stock (or wine) and bring to a boil. Nestle the ring of Kielbasa amidst the kraut, lower the heat, partially cover the pot and allow to cook.

Back to the Spätzle

Pour off all but about 1/2 tbsp of the bacon fat from the baking dish and add a healthy glug of olive oil. Add the finely minced garlic and stir around. Pull the spätzle out of the fridge, scoot them into the dish and turn to coat with the garlic/oil mixture. Slide the dish into the oven at 300°F.

Allow both the sausages and the spätzle to cook about 30 minutes. Stir the kraut. Pull the spätzle out of the oven and give them a good stir.

Return spätzle to oven and turn the heat up (I sent my oven up to 400°F, it’s completely flukey, so the only way to get a good crust on anything is to really jack up the heat!)

Check the kraut, if it looks too liquidy, leave the lid off to allow the juices to cook down. After another 30 minutes, everything should be ready.

Slice the kielbasa, add the crumbled bacon to the kraut, check the spätzle, it should be crusty and gorgeous. Pull it out of the oven.

To serve: Scoop some spätzle into a bowl, add some kraut and a few pieces of kielbasa, drink with a fruity red wine (we went with a 2001 Bordeaux) and enjoy!

Prost!

3 Responses to “Sausages And Sparrows”

  1. Pamela March 27, 2006 at 6:49 pm #

    Well done! They look great! I love spätzli, I usually boil mine and then fry them in olive oil until they start to crispen up. A nice twist at this time of year is to finely chop some wild garlic and add this to the batter. Gives lovely green spätzli, yummy!!

  2. ann March 27, 2006 at 7:29 pm #

    mmmmmm… that sounds wonderful Pamela! it’s almost ramps season here, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!

  3. Ian April 5, 2006 at 4:23 pm #

    That looks fantastic! I’ve never actually eaten spätzle before, but after seeing this, I’m making it a priority. Besides, I’ll take any excuse to use large chunks of thick-cut bacon in a recipe. heh. Cheers!

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