A Taste of Hungary

There’s something so soothing about a noodle. No wonder it gets a starring roll in chicken noodle soup. Flat noodles, thick noodles, stringy noodles – I love them all. And so do my kids!

But one in particular has my middle daughter tossing the fork and grabbing a spoon to scoop piles of noodles from her plate into her mouth, and that’s spaetzle. You may not have heard of this soft, eggy dumpling-like noodle that’s common in Austria, Germany and Hungary. I hadn’t until I traveled there as a college kid. Once I tried it, every restaurant I went to, I’d ask for it.

Now spaetzle noodles are pretty easy to make (no more time, really, than making a batch of muffins), but they do require some special equipment. The trick with spaetzle is that you make an egg-based, loose dough that you then drop through holes into boiling water. They sink to the bottom first then rise up as they cook. I’ve seen some recipes where you simply drop the dough in heaps into a soup or stew to cook it. That makes for some large dough balls that don’t resemble the more delicate, kid-friendly version we make at our house.

Spaetzle makers are surprisingly easy to find (if you know where to look) – and they’re not expensive. I found mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond for under $10. It looks like some sort of defunct cheese grater – there’s a long silver piece with holes the width of an upright pencil and on top of that is a square basket that glides back and forth. I’m not convinced the store person would know what it is if you asked, but you can click here for a few spaetzle maker images, so you can show them what you mean.

I pair my spaetzle with either a beef stroganoff, or the traditional paprika chicken. keep my chicken prep simple, since I know I’ll be spending some time on the pasta – I use my Crock-Pot start to finish. Unless, that is, I want to make the sauce a little fancier. Then I strain the juices from the Crock-Pot and replace it for the milk in my béchamel sauce recipe. Putting the plate together, I put a generous scoop of spaetzle and some pieces of melt-in-your-mouth chicken and top it with some of the Crock-Pot juice (or sauce) and a little heavy cream. Normally, I’d substitute sour cream thinned with a little milk for the heavy cream, but this recipe tastes so much better with a little cream (and hey, it’s more authentic that way).

So if your kiddos are itching to try something new and they’re already noodle fans, these spaetzle are sure to be a hit – and they’re good to the last crumb.


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