Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kaese Spaetzle

Sausage and schnitzels and wieners, oh my! Oktoberfest isn't the most vegetarian friendly of foreign food feasts. As vegetarians, you already know that you've got to do your own version of pre-gaming before going to an Oktoberfest party, because what are the chances that you'll have anything more than pretzels and pickles to munch on?

But wait! A less commonly known Oktoberfest dish is the decadent German version of mac and cheese: kaese spaetzle. I was inspired by the fabulous version served at Zum Schneider on Avenue C, and in the throes of a kaese spaetzle fix, I bought a bag of dried spaetzle and a bag of shredded gruyere and swiss cheeses fondue mix at Grand Central Market- it was quick to prepare and equally delish, but if you like, you can also make your own spaetzle with a colander or a spaetzle plane. I've included a spaetzle recipe below. Bring this along to your next beer bash and watch how quickly everyone abandons that rubbery sausage and watery sauerkraut.


The Whats:

For the spaetzle:

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 3 large eggs
* 3/4 cup milk
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

* 3 tbsp. olive oil (you can also use butter or soy butter, if you prefer)
* 2 cups shredded Emmentaler cheese, or use your fave fondue mix.
* 1 medium onion, diced
* optional: 3 strips of veggie bacon, crumbled
* 1 tsp. nutmeg (if using packaged spaetzle)
* salt & pepper to taste
* several slices of day old baguette, crushed into breadcrumbs

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a small baking pan.

2) If making homemade spaetzle: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and nutmeg. Add flour and mix until a thick, sticky batter forms. Place a colander with large holes over the pot of water and using a spatula, press the dough, cup by cup, through the colander directly into the water. Cook spaetzle until the noodles rise to the surface and remove with a slotted spoon; transfer to a bowl. Mix in one cup of cheese. If using dried spaetzle, cook according to directions on package, then transfer to bowl and mix in one cup of cheese and nutmeg.

3) In a large skillet, heat olive oil or butter; add onions and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until browned; if using veggie bacon, add about halfway through cooking the onions so that that the crumbles do not burn.

4) Stir in spaetzle, remaining cheese, salt, and pepper into the skillet until well-blended; add the spaetzle and onion mix to the prepared baking dish and cover with fresh breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until breadcrumbs are crisp and cheese bubbles. Serve hot.

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