A great portion of my family is German, I have Bucholtz and Heinzelman surnames in my genealogy to prove it. Germans are known for many things: invading countries, fine engineering and high carb foods with potatoes or spaetzle (noodles). It makes sense really, the high carb thing, I mean if you going to tromp around Europe, its best to eat a hearty meal. Unless your invading France, then you can eat a light lunch and still get the job done.
Actually, the food in Germany is likely more heavily influenced by the abundant agricultural lands there. With ripe, open fields delivering wheat, barley and oats along with dark, cool forests providing cover for game, mushrooms and herbs the foods are destined to be hearty and rich. German food is traditionally very lightly seasoned. I often break a German cooking edict by adding garlic to the recipes. Traditional German cooking almost never uses garlic, having thought that garlic made people smell (well, they have a point) and that it was an appalling ingredient to use in food. You’ll soon seen that this type of aberrant, rebel cooking behavior is ingrained into my DNA.
Today’s food movements have made German food largely unpopular. But for me, these foods equate to comfort and history. Having grown up in the Midwest, many a dinners were warm and hearty-noodles often starred in the lineup. My grandmother “Pudge” (of the Heinzelman ilk) had a recipe for noodles which though inexact bears a plethora of soothing culinary and emotional impressions. A couple of years ago over Thanksgiving, my Mom and I made the recipe again. We sat with a bottle of wine between us (or did we each have one?) and gossiped and drank and kneaded. Rinsed and repeated. While we did this, a rich turkey stock sat simmering on the stove with a leftover turkey carcass disintegrating appropriately. It was cold outside and we were cozy in the comfort of one another and a warm, fulfilling meal ahead. Visions of turkey soup with fresh noodles danced in my head. The memory of that afternoon will surely be cherished by me as one of the most precious mother-daughter moments in my history.
There is a story behind the family noodle recipe which explains my inability to give exact recipes to friends and family who ask. Essentially, when my mother asked Pudge for the recipe, Pudge bristled and asked “Honey, why would you want to go through all that work?” But when pressed, Pudge agreed to give it up: “First we need flour,” ready to write down the exact ingredients, my mother asked “how much?” Pudge simply said: “I don’t know. Some.” Not to be deterred, my mother pressed on: “Well, how do you know its enough?” A frustrated Pudge replyed “My mother just told me to put some in my hand and put it in a bowl.” AH-HA! My mother measured how much a handful of flour would be: 2/3 cup. My mother’s hand also measured a 2/3rds cup, as did her mother’s and both her daughters. Someday I too, shall explain that a “handful” of flour is enough to my grandchildren.
Pudge made her noodles a little differently than other spaetzle recipes I have seen (for the women in my family, idiosyncratic behavior is as much a trademark as a handful equaling a 2/3rds cup); she dried her noodles slightly then cut them. I’ll share it with you anyway. Please don’t write me to tell me its wrong, or that I have “ruined” the history of spaetzle by spreading this sacriligeous formula around as a spaetzle poser. It’s a family my recipe, that’s all. On the otherhand, feel free to take it and make it your own.
2/3 cup of flour
1 stick of soft, not melted butter
Make a nest of flour in a bowl and crack the egg into it.
Mix the flour and egg together with a fork.
Knead. Add flour for consistency (you don’t want it too wet).
Dough should be firm enough to roll.
Divide the dough into 4 patties, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking to surface and rolling pin.
Dry the dough long enough so that they can be cut into noodles (apparently, Pudge didn’t have a spaetzle maker).
Toss the noodles in butter, let dry while continuing to toss them in butter.
When they are dry, they can be used is soup or as a stand alone dish.
Noodles can be dry-stored for up to a month.
*by the way: I’m still seeking YOUR family recipes. Share them with us either by commenting or sending them to me. I promise to post them. If there is a story behind the recipe, please share it. After all, sometimes the history makes the food taste all the better!