Porcini + Pickles

19 Mar

Does anyone know if there’s an etymological root shared by porcini mushrooms and the word porcine?

If not, there should be, because they make a handy stand-in for bacon.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

On an impromptu trip into the City this weekend, I picked up the winter issue of Diner Journal, a Williamsburg food mag with writing from one of my favorite bloggers, the ever irreverent and potty mouthed Grocery Guy. It’s a really cool little slice of literary food writing, with winter recipes from two Billyburg institutions, Diner and Marlow & Sons.

I browsed through it on the train home, drooling over all the meaty goodness. Brisket cooked in Chimay. Pork braised in milk. Lamb shanks cooked in white wine. Sigh. Can Meat-Free March be over already?

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

The weird, ball bearing snow we got on Friday night makes it hard to believe winter’s almost over, but there are signs. Croci and daffodils are muscling their ways out of the frozen earth, the robins have returned.

The spring vegetables have not, so larder cooking remains the name of the game.

One of the few meat-free recipes in the Journal is for spätzle. There’s also one for Lentils cooked in red wine I have my eye on. I’m beginning to sense a theme here… These folk really like cooking with booze.

Their spätzle recipe differs a bit from the one I concocted from the memories of my aunt’s Easter-time dumplings in the ratio of egg to milk, so I decided to stick with the one I know. I made the dough a little thicker, like a stiff pancake batter, and used two spoons, as if I was making quenelles, to get the batter to drip into the boiling water. And then, in place of the bacon, I used some reconstituted porcini mushrooms that they sell for scandalously cheap at Polbridge.

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

But man and woman cannot live on spätzle alone (although you could try, it would probably be a pretty good life too, until the scurvy kicked in of course).

The boy suggested making a vegetarian version of chocroute. I blanched. I paled. I gasped. I scoffed. I felt a little dizzy. Chocroute is one of the meatiest of meaty meat dishes. I felt Frenchmen and women all over the globe turning over in their graves at the very idea of taking the sausages and smoked meats and bacon out of the dish.

But then we got home.

I headed for The Czechoslovak Cookbook first. I hoped to find a cabbage or sauerkraut recipe, but alas, nothing piqued my interest. I then turned to Polish Cookery, and boy oh boy, here we hit the jackpot (and I bet you were beginning to wonder where the pickles fit in).

Porcini Spatzle + Sauerkraut With Pickles

Like many good old ethnic cookbooks, this one offers up a “mother” recipe which is followed by “chick” recipes, or variations on a theme if you prefer. To wit; Vegetable recipe 30, Sauerkraut in Wine (Kapusta Kiszona na Winie) is followed by Sauerkraut with Dried Mushrooms (no. 31 Kapusta Kiszona z Grzybami) and Sauerkraut with Pickles (no. 32 Kapusta Kiszona z Ogorkami) which is where I stopped in wonder and glee. Sauerkraut? Pickles? Can we get a hells yeah? I thought so.

The original recipe (no. 30) obviously calls for cooking the kraut in wine, while the pickle variation calls for cooking in stock, but I’m a lot like the Diner Journal folks. I enjoy cooking my food in wine. So, I did, but to get that hearty savoriness one would get from stock, I threw in the porcini soaking liquid. Genius, right? I love it when everything ties up neatly in a pretty culinary package.

Porcini Spatzle

And how was it all? Delicious! The spätzle had much more body than my original batch and were so garlicky and tasty with the silky, earthy mushrooms mixed in. One would think the kraut would be very sour and sharp, what with pickles and wine along for the ride, but it just isn’t so. The browned onions and mushroomy goodness impart a depth to the liquid that seems almost meaty and gets soaked up by the spätzle doubling their deliciousness.

This is hearty woodsman fare.

But if you ever do actually feed this to a lumberjack I’d suggest throwing in some smoked pork loin (actually, I’d suggest this preparation for anyone not having a Meat-Free March)!

Head below the jump for recipes for Sauerkraut With Pickles & Porcini Spätzle.

Sauerkraut With Pickles

prep time: 10 minutes ~ cooking time: 1 hour

  • 1 Onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 head Garlic, roughly chopped
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 lbs Sauerkraut with Carrots (if you can find it), rinsed and well drained
  • 3/4 c cheap Moscato wine
  • 1/4 Dry Vermouth
  • 5-6 small Polish pickles (these are sweeter than normal Polish Dills)
  • about 2 cups dried Porcini Mushroom cooking liquid + 1 tbsp Mushroom Puree

In a dutch oven over medium heat add a glug of olive oil, the onions and the garlic. Cook until browned. Add the sauerkraut, wine and vermouth. Bring to a boil. Add the pickles, the mushroom puree and the porcini liquid. Turn the heat down until the liquid is at a bare simmer. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes stirring frequently. Uncover and cook at a boil until almost all the liquid is boiled away.

Serve with Porcini Spätzle or a hunk of good crusty bread. This would also be good with some slices of smoked pork loin tucked into the kraut at the time the liquids are added.


  • 4 organic Eggs
  • 1/2 cup or so of Milk (more may be needed if the dough gets too thick)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried Dill
  • AP Flour
  • 1 package dried Porcini Mushrooms soaked in hot water at least 1 hour and roughly chopped
  • 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 until a thick pancake-like batter is achieved. The most important thing is to add them slowly and whisk to completely incorporate every single time. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and pop into the fridge to allow the flour to fully hydrate for one hour.

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

Pull the batter out of the fridge and place the bowl next to your pot of boiling water. With a soup spoon scoop up some batter. With a slotted spoon, swirl the boiling water, using a smaller spoon encourage the batter to fall 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. Douse with cold water to stop cooking and allow to drain thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add a healthy glug of olive oil to an ovenproof baking dish. Add the finely minced garlic and chopped porcini and stir around. Scoot the spätzle into the dish and turn to coat with the garlic/oil mixture. Slide the dish into the oven at 350°F.

Allow to bake for about 15-20 minutes or until becoming golden. For the last 5 minutes feel free to jack the heat up to about 450°F to encourage crust-formation. Pull out of the oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes
Serve with Sauerkraut With Pickles, Chocroute, lamb, pork, steak… Whatever, just enjoy!


12 Responses to “Porcini + Pickles”

  1. jenblossom March 19, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    That sounds fantastic. My husband was going to attempt spatzle on Friday to go with the braised spareribs he made, but in the end we went with mustard mashed potatoes.

    We’ve got to try this, though. Seriously. YUM.

  2. izzy's mama March 19, 2007 at 10:12 pm #

    Although the combination of porcini and pickles doesn’t quite tickle my fancy, those are two of izzy’s favorites. He might very well enjoy that recipe if I could bring myself to go thru all of the trouble to make it.

  3. Kristen March 20, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    Sauerkraut AND pickles AND mushrooms? I think I just got a food boner.

  4. ann March 20, 2007 at 5:42 pm #

    jenblossom — he should! all that pushing them through collanders and stuff is, in my humble opinion, a load of malarkey. I prefer them kinda bug and meaty and dumplingy, they grab onto more garlic that way ;-)

    izzy’s ma — it’s a lot of trouble for a little tyke, but i bet he’d love you for it!

    Kristen — thank GOD someone else out there feels the same way I did about this combo. Freakin’ food of the gods, yo ;-)

  5. Cate O'Malley March 21, 2007 at 8:27 am #

    Love the first picture, and the food ain’t so bad either. ;)

  6. Popcorn March 21, 2007 at 2:25 pm #

    Yummy food!

    And I have to laugh because I have the Czech cookbook you mentioned. I know you are sans meat this month but have you looked at the meat recipes in that book? Larded this and larded that. :) But oh so tasty!

  7. Toni March 21, 2007 at 6:17 pm #

    I think you’ve done the impossible here 0 made spatzle without meat sound absolutely fabulous!

  8. sher March 21, 2007 at 7:20 pm #

    My goodness, you make fabulous spatzle. I think porcini mushrooms are perfect to give a nice meaty taste. Love them.

  9. ann March 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm #

    Cate — Oh thanks :-) That was from one of our walks this weekend in our ‘hood. Amazing, isn’t it? And thanks for the nice complement!

    Popcorn — I am DYING for meat right now. Dying. I can’t wait ’til this month is over so I can eat pork again!

    Toni — Thanks! I love spatzle with our without meat. I love it all.

    Sher — They’re amazing aren’t they? I can’t wait to play with them some more soon!

  10. zoejessica March 22, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    I can’t wait to make the spätzle! I think they’d be gorgeous with some roast loin of pork –talk about whetting the old appetite… Do they need tons of coordination with the whole spoon/swirling technique?

  11. ann March 22, 2007 at 11:09 am #

    ZJ — it requires almost no coordination at all. the water keeps burbling and swirling about. The spatzle may stick to the bottom at first, but don’t panic! They’ll release with the gentle nudge of the spoon, or when they’re ready to. I hope you love them! I think Nigel would approve of them ;-)


  1. Last Night’s Dinner » Canard au Cidre Duck Leg Confit with Spatzle - March 24, 2007

    […] duck breasts he had reserved. What he found was this, and it was amazing. He also made spatzle (hi Ann!) to accompany the dish, and I’m pretty certain I’m going to ask him to make it all the […]

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