Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spätzle with Caramelized Onions, Basil and Mozzarella

We spent some time in Germany a couple weeks back visiting some friends and had some amazing German meals.  One of my favorite dishes from Germany is spätzle, which is a type of egg pasta.  What is special about spätzle is that it doesn't really have a strictly defined shape, but rather its own shaping style.  This is hard to see if you buy the dried, mass-produced spätzle from the store, but if you watch a professional (e.g. a German grandmother - unfortunately I did not get to witness this, but Becky did), it will all make sense.  Spätzle isn't a "dry" dough pasta like that of many Italian styles, but rather more of a thick batter style.  If you have a spätzle making utility, you can use that to shape the noodles.  Otherwise I would suggest the German grandmother way of using a potato ricer.

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten well
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • Butter
  • 1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, chopped
  1. Start by caramelizing the onions in a small pan.  These will take a while so you can proceed with the spätzle-making in the meantime.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, eggs and milk together.  This should form a thick batter.
  3. Heat a large pot of water to boiling.
  4. Place a portion of the dough/batter into the potato ricer squeeze it into the pot of boiling water.  The spätzle will probably stick together, but you can break it apart in the pot after it has cooked for a couple minutes or so.
  5. The spätzle will rise to the top of the pot when it is fully cooked.  Transfer the cooked spätzle to a colander to drain the excess water, then to a large bowl with a bit of butter to prevent the pasta from sticking together.  Do this until all of the dough/batter has been spätzle-ized.
  6. When the onions are nice and caramelized, toss the spätzle into a pot on medium-low heat with the basil and mozzarella.
  7. Mix gently until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated.
  8. To serve, layer the onions on top of a generous helping of cheesy spätzle.  Sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top with a few small basil leaves.
  9. Guten Appetit!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Porcini and Seasonal Vegetables

Porcini mushrooms are in season!  I've never personally cooked anything with them, but figured I'd give it a shot by starting simple.  Porcini have a lot of flavor when left alone, so I simply sautéed them in local extra virgin olive oil and enjoyed the fungus in its natural savoriness.  I cooked the chicken and veggies in the same pan for this dish - partly because we only have two pans (one huge, one tiny) and partly because it helps the flavors meld together.  If you like to separate the meats from the veggies, by all means use separate pans.

  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 - 3 chicken breast fillets, pounded flat
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Small handful asparagus, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 small round zucchini, cut in large pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in large pieces
  • 1 fresh porcini mushroom, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/2 t. butter
  1. Mix together the Parmesan, flour, red pepper flakes and some freshly ground black pepper on a large plate.
  2. Dredge the chicken through the cheese mix, then through the egg, then through the cheese mix again.
  3. Carefully place the dredged chicken into a large sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil on medium high heat.
  4. If your chicken is thin, it will cook very quickly so keep an eye on it.  When the first side browns, flip it right away.
  5. Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a paper towel lined plate to drain the excess oil.
  6. Toss the veggies into the still-hot pan and sauté to the desired crunchiness.
  7. While the veggies are cooking, heat a small sauté pan with some extra virgin olive oil and toss in the sliced porcini.
  8. A couple minutes before you remove the veggies from the pan, squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto them and give them a good toss or two.
  9. Once the veggies have been transferred out of the pan, add the wine and butter and lower the heat to medium-low.
  10. Scrape the good stuff from the bottom of the pan and add the chicken.
  11. The porcini shouldn't take too long to cook so they may be ready for transfer at this point.  What I did was transferred them to the chicken pan so they could soak up a bit of the wine sauce before transferring them to the serving plate.
  12. Once the chicken, porcini and veggies are plated, give the plate a quick zesting with the lemon.