All regular readers of mmm-yoso know that both Kirk and Cathy can cook. ed (from Yuma)? Well, today will prove that (with some help) he is not completely lost in a kitchen.
I still remember getting to know Tina at a party last spring, and as often happens with me, we began discussing food. When she not only told me that she loves spaetzle, but that she also could prepare those tasty egg noodles, I realized we could make wonderful food together - in particular a flavorful Swiss dish that cried out for homemade spaetzle. Now we'd like to share (at least virtually) this traditional meal that is one of our favorites. Here's how it is done.
1 medium onion
4-5 slices (or 1/4-1/3 lb) bacon
2 bunches Swiss chard
1/3 lb Swiss cheese (preferably real Gruyere)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste.
Start by chopping the medium onion:
At the same time, you will need to prepare the dough for the noodles. After you mix together two eggs and half a cup of milk, add a cup and a half of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, a half a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of nutmeg, and beat with a wooden spoon or with the dough stirrer on an electric mixer until the ingredients are fully combined, thick, somewhat stiff, and stretchy. The dough should look like this:
At this point, you should have a large pot of lightly salted water being brought to a boil on the stove. On another burner, begin to fry the bacon at medium heat. Cook until much of the bacon fat has been rendered, but do not cook the bacon fully. Then add the chopped onion and mix together and continue frying:
When the bacon and onion mixture is ready, add the chard handful by handful and stir. If you wish the resulting dish to have some crunchy parts, add leaves and rib pieces at the same time. For a more uniform texture, separate the ribs and cook them for a minute or two before adding the leafy parts. Reduce heat, if necessary, to prevent overcooking.
The other half of the dish, the noodles, take less time. Back in the day, my grandmother would have spread the dough out on a small hand-held cutting board and sliced strips of the dough into the boiling water. Lacking my grandmother's talent, patience, and wrists, most people today will use a spaetzle press to extrude the noodles. One can also extrude the noodles through a colander, but notice that the perforations at the bottom of the well of this press are not round and are irregular in shape; this flatness and lack of uniformity is key to top quality spaetzle:
Unlike Italian pasta, these egg noodles do not easily overcook, so that one can refill the well and drop more noodles into the boiling water. Using a wooden spoon, stir the noodles and let the water come back to a full boil. At this point the spaetzles are done.
After draining in a colander, the noodles should be added to the frying pan with the other cooked ingredients and quickly stirred together. Place the contents of the frying pan into a bowl and add the shredded cheese to taste. At this point, you may also add fresh grated black pepper (unless, like me, you forget). You will notice that the spaetzle noodles are not smooth and uniform, but rather pitted, bumpy, and irregular. This texture gives these homemade noodles plenty of surface areas so that they interface wonderfully with gravies or sauces. After the ingredients are all stirred together and the cheese has become wonderfully melty and gooey, the dish should look like this:
For our meal, Tina and I had previously chopped up a couple of heirloom tomatoes and added a few leaves of fresh basil:
After we tossed the tomatoes with the basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, we plated this salad next to our main course:
This was more food than two hearty eaters could devour, and probably could serve up to 4 normal people. The heirloom tomato salad was good, but the noodles were supreme. The combination of textures and the creamy smoky flavors made this dish (even though I was at the stove) a success. I have no idea what this dish is called, but with the spaetzle, the Swiss cheese, and the Swiss chard, I guess calling it Swiss Noodles will have to do. Before I got to know Tina, I made the dish with regular packaged egg noodles. It was okay back then, but she just makes things better. Yum!