Spätzle are tiny dumplings, bits of dough that are never rolled out but are simply dropped into boiling water, and keep whatever shape they happen into when the water hits them. I’ve tried two kinds of spätzle makers. One looks rather like a food mill: a circular metal bowl with a flat perforated base and a blade that goes around and around over the base. The other is a rectangular sieve, something like a grater, with a bowl that slides back and forth over it. In both cases, the dough is spooned into the bowl and falls through the large holes on the bottom, being cut off either by the turn of the blade or by the movement over the grater.
But the fact is that you don’t need either of these contraptions to make spätzle. I suspect that the original spätzle makers just dropped bits of dough off the tip of a spoon into boiling water or chopped bits off a damp board with a wet knife.
The most elegant spätzle I’ve ever had was at the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York, where it came with a rabbit paprikash. Use them with beef stew or veal goulash. Or go mad and have them with chili. They’d be wonderful, just the right combination of blandness, starchiness, and chew.
- 2/3 cup hard-wheat flour or semolina
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup warm water or milk
Measure the flour into a bowl. Add the egg and beat it with a wooden spoon, incorporating the flour. Add the liquid and continue to stir briskly until you have a stiff batter. Put it aside to rest for 15 minutes. It will become even stiffer.
Get your cooking liquid to a rapid boil. If you have a spätzle maker, place it over the boiling liquid, spoon in the batter, and turn the crank or slide the carriage back and forth. Pear-shaped drops of batter will fall into the liquid, rising to the surface as they cook. Skim them off with a slotted spoon, and put them in a warm bowl with a lump of unsalted butter. If you don’t have a spätzle maker, pick up bits of batter on the tip of a teaspoon and flick them off into the boiling water with a second spoon.