February 19, 2018
This is about...
Grandma’s SPAETZLE---YUM!!
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First, here’s a little story:
       While a live orchestra played, a muscular Barney would swing on 2 rings suspended from the ceiling, while a petite Minnie would hang off of him striking pose after pose –in a kind of air ballet.   AT THE END OF EVERY PERFORMANCE HE WOULD LET GO OF HER LEGS AND IT WOULD LOOK LIKE MINNIE WAS DOOMED TO FLY HEAD FIRST INTO THE FILLED SEATS!   A drumroll kicked in, THE MUSIC WOULD SWELL, and at the very last moment, HE WOULD GRAB HER ANKLES to an audible gasp of relief from the audience. SWINGING BACK OVER THE STAGE,  They would jump off of the rings, arms out-stretched, AND LAND ON THEIR FEET!    Amidst rousing applause, they would take their bow to a loud musical TA-DA!
        Barney and Minnie were my grandparents, and THEY TOURED ALL OVER THE U.S. AND CANADA ON VAUDEVILLE’S PANTAGES CIRCUIT. as a gymnastics act opening for Jack Benny. THEY WERE FIRST GENERATION GERMAN-AMERICANS. But my sister and I never heard much about our German heritage growing up-- other than when they used the language to speak in a secret code that neither my sister nor I could crack. WE DID EAT A LOT OF GERMAN FOOD THOUGH. There was always stolen at Christmas, and sauerbraten that marinated for days in vinegar. Lovingly riced potato dumplings, were as big as my fist, filled with browned bread crumbs. AND THEN THERE WAS THE--- SPAETZLE.
        My grandmother learned this recipe from her mother, and it’s my favorite. She called them “spetch-lee,” although I’ve never heard anyone else pronounce them that way. They‘re SMALL EGGY BOILED DUMPLINGS made with a simple mix of flour, salt, eggs and water. Inexpensive, easy and delicious, we ate a lot of them. Her version is different from any others I’ve seen, using water instead of milk.
        She made the mix by “eye,”beating a couple of eggs, some water and a big pinch of salt in a bowl. Then, SHE’D STIR IN JUST ENOUGH FLOUR TO MAKE THE SPOON STAND UP STRAIGHT.span> Some recipes recommend a colander or a fancy spaetzle maker. But, my grandma stood on her tippy toes to get over the top of the boiling pot, and scraped small lumps of dough into it with a knife. After a tumble in the boiling water, THEY GOT TOSSED IN A LOT OF BUTTER AND SALT—they were the best.
        Now, you can crisp them up by sautéing them in the butter instead, but she never did. So, I don’t either. Serve them next to any saucy stew--beef or goulash would be yummy. BUT FRANKLY, I LIKE THEM ALL BY THEMSELVES---which is how I would eat them before they ever got to the table when I was kid. YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Scrape off small pieces of dough-- no larger, about ½ teaspoon’s worth. They’re gonna swell up when they cook.
2. If you dip the knife in the boiling water every time you scrape off a piece of the sticky dough, they will easily fall off into the pot.
3. They will come out looking very shaggy and uneven, which is a good thing, all the better to coat them with the butter and salt.
4. Don’t forget to toss them in the butter right out of the pot, so they don’t stick together. I melt some butter in a saute pan as they cook, so it’s ready and waiting to coat them.
5. Not having inherited their gymnastic’s genes, maybe it‘s best for me to stay rooted to my kitchen floor and get my applause from serving these to everyone I know.

Grandma’s “Spetch-lee”—Eggy German Dumplings

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold water
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
extra salt to taste

Make the dumplings:
        Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt to the water. Melt the butter in a saute pan and keep on very low heat nearby, so it doesn’t brown.
        While the water is coming to a boil, in a medium size bowl, combine the eggs. water and salt. Stir in the flour until all ingredients are completely combined. It will be a very sticky batter.
        Do this in two batches. Hold the bowl over the side of the pot, and using a butter knife, scrape off very small amounts of dough into the pot of boiling water, about ½ teaspoon each. Dip the knife into the hot water after each scrape to release the dumplings into the pot.
        When the they have risen to the top, let them boil for another minute, and then using a slotted spoon remove to the saute pan with the melted butter. Repeat with the second half of the batter. Sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

Makes 4 servings (easily doubled).     YUM!
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