Monday, March 28, 2011

Pork with Marsala Wine Sauce

I realized with the last few posts that I am really needing nurturing - writing is very stressful! And I have been turning to things that to me convey comfort. As I am enforcing a stay-at-home lifestyle until this book gets done, I have started to cook things again that I normally order in restaurants. One of the things I love to eat in Italian restaurants is Chicken with Marsala Wine Sauce. And I always forget how easy it is to make at home. Many things that I order are easy to make and they are a lot less expensive when you do it yourself.

However, I didn't have any the chicken and didn't want to go to the store. I did have thin, boneless pork chops in the freezer so Pork with Marsala Wine Sauce was born. I loved it! I may love it even more than with chicken and I've never been very comfortable with veal. So, this recipe is a keeper and I am sharing it with you. Marsala is a sweet wine from Italy that is a lot like Port. It is a wine that I wouldn't drink by itself as I don't really like sweet wines, but in a sauce with shallots or onions and mushrooms, it is wonderful!

The basic technique is that you season and flour the pork (or chicken) and then cook it until browned in a mixture of butter and olive oil - the oil keeps the butter from burning. Since the pork chops (or pounded chicken breasts) are so thin, it doesn't take long if the heat is high enough. Then you remove them from the pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Then it's time for the wine and some chicken broth to add a savory note. You can thicken the sauce by adding cream or you can use cornstarch as I did as it is already so rich with butter. You can serve this dish with either noodles or rice and a green vegetable - I served it with rice and steamed haricot verts. It would be great for company as it is so fast to prepare and it has such a lovely flavor. I made a lot as my son is visiting and he was delighted with the dish - I hope you will be too.

Pork with Marsala Wine Sauce

1 1/2 pounds thin sliced pork chops (or chicken breasts sliced or pounded thin)
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper

For the Sauce

1 - 2 additional Tablespoons Butter, if necessary
2 shallots or 1 onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 pound of Button Mushrooms washed and sliced
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a slurry

Mix flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme in a large bowl. Put in pork chops and turn chops to coat.

In a large frying pan, heat butter and olive oil until bubbling. Add in pork chops and cook until lightly browned on each side. If necessary, cook in two batches. Remove to a plate - you can keep them warm in a low temperature oven if desired..

Add additional butter if necessary to the pan and put in garlic and onions (or shallots). Cook until onion softens. Add mushrooms and cook until the juice is released and mushrooms are soft. Add in wine and cook until bubbling. Then add in chicken broth. Let simmer for a few minutes before adding in cornstarch. Cook, stirring until sauce thickens. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Put pork chops back in pan to get covered in sauce or put them on a large serving platter and pour sauce on top.

Five Element Analysis

Pork is a Water Element food. It is joined by Marsala Wine, which is a Fire Element beverage with a touch of Earth as it is so sweet. The Earth element is further enhanced by the use of mushrooms. The Wood Element is represented by the chicken broth and flour, whereas the Metal Element is represented by the onions, garlic and thyme. Guess what? All the elements are represented and this dish has an intrinsic Five Element balance. Anything else you add - like rice, noodles and vegetables - is a bonus!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I was in was in the mood for lasagna today and I didn't have any lasagna noodles - my favorite are the Barilla No Boil kind. So I decided to make the next closest thing with a Greek twist - Pastitsio because I did have macaroni. True Lasagna in the Bolognese style is made with a Bechamel Sauce not Ricotta and so is Pastitsio. The biggest difference is in the seasonings used in the sauce - the thyme and bay leaf for Bolognese Sauce is still present, but there is the addition of some cinnamon and allspice for Pastitsio. Very often the meat is different too with the Italians using beef and the Greeks using lamb, but I had ground beef in the freezer. What's great about Pastitsio is that it has that same creamy goodness as lasagna and it is a lot less work. Some restaurants I have been to that serve this dish layer the cooked macaroni (or ziti) in the pan first, then put on the meat sauce and then the Bechamel sauce. I like to mix the sauce in and then top it with the Bechamel. And don't be scared of making a Bechamel Sauce - it is the same base as if you were making gravy or macaroni and cheese - it is simply butter, flour and milk with some salt and a hint of fresh grated nutmeg. I also like to add in some vegetables like carrots and zucchini to enhance the nutritional profile of the sauce. The only cheese is used on top and I used Parmesan although it is more authentic to use the Greek Kefalotryi cheese. In any case, this dish is really easy to make and yet looks very impressive. It can be made ahead and baked when you need to serve it or it can be baked ahead and reheated.


For Meat Sauce:

1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped fine
1 zucchini, cut in quarters, seeds removed and cut into a small dice
1 garlic clove minced
2 14 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 cup of white wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot and add in onions and garlic. Cook for a few moments until you smell the garic fragrance and add in carrots and zucchini. Then cook until the onions become translucent. Add in white wine and bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes and spices and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, make the Bechamel Sauce.

For Bechamel Sauce:

4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon (or more) salt
1 bay leaf
Sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg - about 1/8 teaspoon

In a large frying pan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and combine until it forms a thick paste. Cook until it becomes a bit golden and then add in the milk, salt and bay leaf. Stir with a whisk until thickened. Remove bay leaf and taste for salt adding more if necessary. Take off the heat and add nutmeg. Put aside while macaroni is being cooked.

To Make Pastitsio Casserole:

500 gram package of macaroni (or ziti)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook macaroni according to directions -usually for about 10-12 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain and pour back into empty pot. Add in pasta sauce and stir to combine. Pour into a buttered lasagna pan (or you can use a 7x11 inch baking pan with at least 2" sides) and pat down with a spoon. Pour Bechamel sauce carefully over the top and then use the back of a spoon to smooth it over the pasta covering it fully. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese. Put into a hot 350 degree oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is browned and bubbling. Cool for about 10 - 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Five Element Analysis

Casseroles by their very nature are very Earthy and also tend to be rather balanced as they combine proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates in one dish. Pastitsio is given more Earth Element from the beef, the carrots and the zucchini. The Fire Element is represented by the tomato sauce and wine. The Wood Element is supported by the wheat pasta and the Metal Element shows up with the milk and spices. Only the Water Element needs a presence and that can easily be added by serving it with a glass of water! Otherwise, this is already a fairly balanced one dish meal.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Knodel - German Dumplings

In my quest to master German food, I decided to try to make Knodel. They are German bread dumplings usually served with roasted meat. I have had them at restaurants and they reminded me of American stuffing served at Thanksgiving except they are served as little balls covered in gravy and never see the inside of a turkey. I like their chewy texture and actually the most accurate description of them is that they are probably the precursor for Matzo Balls, only they are made with leftover bread instead of Matzo meal and are therefore a little denser. I made them with leftover Semmel, which are German rolls that to me seem a lot like mini baguettes and these are usually more accurately called Semmel Knodel. I used marjoram as the spice since that is the usual German choice, but I think they would be great with sage or even poultry seasoning as then they would really taste like stuffing and adding celery might be good too. Usually the Germans soften the bread with milk, but I'm not that fond of milk and decided to use broth instead for more flavor, since they were going to be simmered in water.

Like many German recipes I get from my friends - the exact amount isn't always given - instead you get comments like, well it depends on the size of the egg, or you use teaspoons and soup spoons from the drawer to measure and they are not the same as measuring spoons to me. And then there are liters and 1/2 liters and 1/4 liters that on the measuring cups I have seen in Germany have to be estimated. I'm much more used to the exactness of cup measures, I guess. Anyway, the Knodel turned out great on my very first try so I thought I would share the recipe with you. I served them with oven broiled pork chops and made a gravy from the pan drippings (2 cups chicken broth to deglaze the roasting pan. Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a frying pan, add 4 Tablespoons flour and mix into a paste - add broth and whisk until thickened over medium heat) and a sweet and sour cabbage salad. I think the Germans serve sour things with their meat to help the gallbladder digest the fat. Anyway, these Knodel are not very pretty, but they were a big hit with my son who loves stuffing at Thanksgiving with lots of gravy. So, if you like stuffing and gravy, you may want to give this recipe a try.
Knodel - German Dumplings
1 Tablespoons butter, plus 2 Tablespoons more for sautéing
1 small chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons marjoram (can also use sage or poultry seasoning)
1 teaspoon or more salt
1/2 pound of stale Baguette bread or Italian bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup chicken broth
1 egg beaten
¼ - 1/3 cup bread crumbs
Pinch of pepper
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until they are translucent. Stir in marjoram, cook briefly and then set aside to let the mixture cool.
Place the cubed bread in a large bowl. Heat the broth to boiling and pour it over the cubed bread. Set aside for about 15 minutes. When the bread mixture is cool – mash it and then mix in the onion mixture and taste for seasoning – add more salt if necessary and add pepper. Then add in the egg. Add in ¼ cup breadcrumbs and mix well. If the mixture seems too soft to shape into a ball, add more breadcrumbs until it is a stiff dough. The mixture should be firm enough to form into 2 inch balls that hold their shape. Make all dumplings and put on a plate.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. Lower the dumplings gently into the simmering water and cook for about 9 – 10 minutes.
When they are boiled, remove them and put them into pan with 2 Tablespoons melted butter and cook until they are browned. Serve with roasted meat and gravy on top.
Five Element Analysis

Well, I would never expect someone to just eat Knodel for a meal so these are definitely not balanced by themselves. But the elements in this dish are Wood for the wheat in the bread and the chicken broth. Onions, garlic and marjoram add in the Metal Element. Knodel needs a meat from another element and the pork chops I served add the Water Element and the cabbage salad added the Earth Element. Only the Fire Element needed enhancing and I served tea as the beverage along with sparkling water to gain Five Element balance with this meal.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Pea Salad

Today is the first day of Spring and the sun is shining, birds are singing and flowers are blooming. In honor of the season, I decided to make a salad using spring vegetables - peas, radishes, chives and spring onion tops. I didn't have fresh peas, which would have made it even better as I haven't seen them in the market yet. So, I used frozen peas, which I happen to love. The dressing is a light homemade ranch that uses mayonnaise and a little milk to thin it, a bit of lemon juice since I didn't have any buttermilk to make it tangy, dried dill, a tiny bit of grated onion, some chives, garlic powder and pepper. It is a wonderful dressing that will make you wonder why you buy the prepackaged dressing or even the dried mix. The peas only have to be cooked for a few minutes, the tops of the spring onions (save the bottoms for a stir fry) add a subtle onion flavor and the radishes add a delightful crunch. It's easy and light and a delicious Ode to Spring!

Spring Pea Salad

1 package frozen peas
6 - 8 red radishes, washed with tops and bottoms cut off and cut into quarters
2 green tops of spring onions, cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon minced chives

For Ranch Dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 - Tablespoons or more milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
pinch of pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated onion (or 1/8 teaspoon onion powder)
1 teaspoon minced chives (scissors work best and you can also use dried)
a pinch of sugar

Mix ingredients for salad dressing and check for seasonings and consistency. If it needs to be thinner, add more milk. If it is too tangy, add a bit more sugar. Remove to the side while you make the salad.

Cook peas in a small amount of water for 3 minutes and drain. Add to bowl, add green onions and let cool slightly. Add radishes and stir in enough Ranch Dressing to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour to several hours for best flavor. Before serving, sprinkle with additional chives.

Five Element Analysis

Peas belong to the Wood Element as the pods, vines and leaves grow so quickly and the bit of lemon juice adds to the element. Radishes, spring onions and chives are part of the Metal Element and the mayonnaise, milk, garlic, onion and dill enhance that element even more. Pepper is only hinted at with Black Pepper and the fact that this is a salad, which is a Fire Food. Earth has only a pinch of sugar and the creaminess of the dressing to represent it. So, Fire and Earth and Water all need to be enhanced to balance the meal. You could serve this salad with some fish or pork or soup for the Water Element. Fire can easily be added with a Fire beverage like coffee, tea or wine or sparkling water and a fruity Earth dessert would round things out nicely.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Soup

In honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow I used some classic Irish ingredients - bacon, potatoes and cabbage to make a soup. Bacon is actually a more common food in Ireland than Corned Beef and I don't know where to find Corned Beef here in Germany and didn't want to spend the five days needed to cure it myself. Besides that, I've been stressed from writing and didn't feel like shopping and these ingredients were in the fridge. So I improvised. I used a base of chicken broth - I made a lot of broth the other day from a soup chicken (very popular) here in Germany. Then, I cooked up some bacon and green onions and cut up some potatoes and cabbage and let it simmer with a bay leaf. It cooked for only 1/2 hour and it was delicious. So simple - why do people think soup is so hard to make? It was soothing and savory and would be perfect with some soda bread. But, I served it with some baked pretzels as I had some in the freezer. That made it more a German soup, I suppose as these ingredients are common here too. If I had used Chinese ham (or Virginia Ham) and noodles instead of potatoes, I would have had a classic Chinese soup. You could use a chopped onion or leeks instead of the green onions too. Like most soups and stews, it may even be better the next day so I plan on eating the rest tomorrow. Soup is one of the most nurturing foods in the world and I think we should all eat more soup - your kidneys will thank you if you do! Try this if you need a fast, easy and delicious soup.

Irish Soup

6 - 8 cups chicken broth
1/2 head cabbage cored and chopped into pieces
6 green onions (or white and pale green parts of leeks, washed and sliced or chopped onion)
8 pieces of bacon cut into small pieces (easy with scissors)
1 Bay Leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put chicken broth in a large pot on stove and heat to boiling. In a frying pan, cook bacon until the fat is released and add in the green onions (or onions or leeks) and cook until they just wilt. Add it to the broth along with the cabbage and potatoes and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Five Element Analysis

Soup by its very nature is a Water Element food and this soup has even more Water as bacon is a salt cured meat. The cabbage and potatoes add the Earth Element and the green onions bring in the Metal Element as does the bay leaf. Fire and Wood are missing so to balance this meal, you might want to serve it with beer for some Fire and/or some berries with cream (for the Metal Element) for dessert. Doesn't that sound good?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

I have been writing madly this week trying to finish my second edition and have only allowed myself a few other activities besides sleeping, one of which is cooking. But, my intense writing schedule is taking a toll and I've been craving comfort foods and hot baths. So, last night I made Chicken and Dumplings - one of my favorite Pennsylvania Dutch classics and one of my father's and son's favorite foods too. What's most interesting about it is that the dumplings are really more like thick chewy noodles and when paired with soft chicken pieces and a creamy gravy, it is so incredibly satisfying. I usually cook the chicken the day before and remove it from the broth and refrigerate it all (seperately) overnight. Then the next day, I take the chicken off the bone, then I make the dumplings and cook them in the broth. After that, the only thing left to do is thicken the broth into gravy and add the chicken back in. But, you can also make it the same day - it takes about an 1 1/2 - 2 hours depending on how fast you can make the dumplings. It is worth it because you will end up with a bowl of creamy and chewy goodness. If you have never had these kind of dumplings, you will have to try them. It really is comfort in a bowl.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 broiler/fryer chicken about 3 pounds, cut into pieces and dusted with flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
About 10 cups of water - more if necessary
2 - 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon thyme
2 onions, chopped
3 - 4 Tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with enough water to make into a slurry

Put large pot onto stove and put in vegetable oil and onions. Cook onions until they are translucent and just beginning to brown. Add in chicken pieces and brown lightly on each side. Add in water to cover by about 2 inches. Add salt, pepper and thyme and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Remove chicken and cool down until you can remove meat from the bone. Cut into bite size pieces (but not too small). Keep broth warm or refrigerate both the chicken and broth overnight.

Then make dumplings:

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk

Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Put butter in and mix with your hands until the dough resembles coarse meal. Beat eggs and milk together and add to flour. Mix with your hands until rough ball just holds together. Put ball on lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth. Roll out with a rolling pin until dough is between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick and cut into small squares.

Reheat the chicken broth to boiling and add in dumplings. Bring to a boil and turn down heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes - no peeking! Then taste one to make sure they are done and if necessary, cook for another minute or two.

Then, remove dumplings to a bowl and add cornstarch to broth. Cook until thickened. If it isn't thick enough, mix another tablespoon of cornstarch with a bit of water and add it in and cook for a few more minutes. Be careful of adding too much cornstarch too soon as you don't want the sauce to get gummy. Taste for salt and pepper.

Add dumplings back in and also the chicken. Simmer just until chicken is heated and serve in bowls.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken is a Wood Element meat and combining that with dumplings made from wheat makes this a primarily Woody dish. The onions add the Earth Element as they cook for a long time and this is a long and slow cooking stew that is chewy and creamy so that adds even more Earth and there is enough water that turns into broth to bring in the Water Element and the eggs help too. The thyme adds just a bit of Metal and the cornstarch and milk add even more. But there isn't any Fire - so to balance this meal, a green salad with tomatoes would be a wonderful choice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Classic Meat Loaf

Most of you who are reading this blog probably already know how to make meatloaf, but for those who don't, here is the classic meatloaf recipe that I have been making since I was about 10. It was one of my father's favorite foods and only he and my sisters and I ate it since my Mom didn't like anything except Chinese food. So, I usually made it when she wasn't home. There is something so incredibly comforting about meatloaf. It is rustic and chunky with onions and so good with mashed potatoes. I like using just ground beef but many recipes call for a mixture of ground beef mixed with ground veal and pork. I used bread as the filler although you can certainly use oats. I also tend to make a smaller meatloaf than many people. I think it is because I usually only have 1 pound of ground beef at a time in the freezer and most recipes call for 1 1/2 pounds. I also like to form it into a loaf shape and then bake it in a larger baking pan so that all the sides get crusty. When you cook it in a loaf pan, it is more tender as it cooks in its own fat, but I like when the fat drains away. I also like a lot more ketchup baked on it so I like to cover it all so every piece has that wonderful baked ketchup flavor all around it. I once had a great meatloaf at a famous Tennessee restaurant that had a topping that was tomato paste doctored with brown sugar and green pepper and Worcestershire Sauce and that was good too. I've made it with all kinds of chopped up vegetables - even beets as my father loved to have me experiment with the ingredients. He loved it when I put in hard boiled eggs so that every slice had a piece of egg in it. But I am a purist about meatloaf and I like it best when it is really simple.

Meatloaf is also wonderful cold as a sandwich the next day. I usually add a little ketchup to the mayonnaise and also add some lettuce. Served with potato chips, it is just wonderful and many restaurants serve it these days for a lot more than it costs to make at home. This recipe is for my son Stephen since meatloaf is one of his favorite foods too and he needs to learn how to make it. It's so easy and so good!

Classic Meatloaf

1 pound of ground beef
2 slices of stale bread (can also use about 1/2 cup oats)
1/3 - 1/2 cup warm milk (depending on size of bread pieces or you can use beef broth)
1 small onion minced fine
1 egg
1/4 cup ketchup + 1/2 cup for topping
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt or plain salt if preferred
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a small bowl, soak bread (or oats) in milk and push with a fork until bread pieces are mashed. Add egg and Worcestershire Sauce. In a large bowl, put in ground beef, onion 1/4 cup ketchup, seasoned salt and pepper. Add in soaked bread mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands (nothing else works as well). When it is thoroughly combined, place in a baking pan at least 9 x 9 inches. Mound meat in the center and shape into a loaf. Cover with remaining ketchup on top and down the sides. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 55 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into 1 1/2" pieces.

Five Element Analysis

Beef is an Earth Food so meatloaf is inherently Earthy. The bread adds in the Wood Element. The Worcestershire Sauce brings in the Water Element and so does the egg. Onions are from the Metal Element although they ending up cooking for a long time so they really contribute more Earth. So the milk brings in the Metal Element instead. Ketchup adds some much needed Fire and guess what - meatloaf by itself is more balanced than even I realized!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mushroom and Sunflower Seed Pate

One of the things I love is spreading things on crackers and toast and I have to admit that pate is one of my favorite foods, but I can't eat it all the time as it is so rich. So, I am always looking for other spreads that are healthier. I remembered that I once had a great vegetarian pate at a friend's party - years ago - that I just couldn't stop eating, but she wouldn't give me the recipe. It was made with mushrooms I know, but there were also nuts and if memory serves me right - they were walnuts. I didn't have any walnuts on hand yesterday, but I did have sunflower seeds and I am very fond of a sunflower seed spread made in Germany with chives in it. So, I decided to work on a recipe I came up with last year combining mushrooms and sunflower seeds. And, it turned out wonderfully this time with just a few tweaks - it needed a bit more butter so it now spreads better. It tastes great and would be ideal for a party - especially if you have vegetarian friends. And, if you want to make it vegan, just change the butter to a light vegetable oil - sunflower oil would be really good. I would spread it on little toasts and sprinkle a little extra fresh thyme or parsley on top before serving. I'm always happy when I create something new so if you try this recipe - please let me know if you like it as much as I do!

Mushroom and Sunflower Seed Pate

1 cup raw sunflower seeds
¾ lb mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed, cut into quarters
6 Tablespoons of butter (or oil if you want to make this vegan)
1 small onion, cut up coarsely
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme (preferably fresh)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toast sunflower seeds in frying pan on stove, stirring constantly until seeds are lightly toasted. Remove to bowl to cool off. In Cuisinart, place onion and garlic and cut up until very finely minced. Melt butter in frying pan and put in garlic and onion to cook until translucent. While they are cooking, place mushrooms in Cuisinart and chop until fine, being careful not to puree them. Add to frying pan with thyme and salt and cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. Place sunflower seed in the Cuisinart and chop into very small pieces and add to the mushroom mixture. Taste and check salt adding more if necessary. Place in small crocks and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. Return to room temperature and serve with crackers.

Five Element Analysis

Mushrooms are clearly from the Earth Element by the way they grow and also because of their color. Sunflower seeds belong to the Water Element. The thyme brings in some Metal and so do the onions and garlic so that element is covered too. Serving it with wheat bread or crackers adds the Wood Element. All this needs to balance it is some Fire and that is present somewhat as it is an appetizer but to increase the fire a little more - wine would be really good with it!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Schupfnudeln or Swabian Gnocchi

Did you ever notice how so many cultures make very similar foods but call them different names? The more I travel, the more I see this. Of course, when countries are close together, it would make sense that they would make similar foods as they grow the same kinds of crops. But even acrross the world, there are similarities in food preparation. For example, aren't Ravioli the same thing as Wontons, Momos or Maultaschen? Yes the fillings are slightly different, but all have a noodle dough. If you don't know what any of these foods are, I'll be making them all one of these days as I have an obsession with wrapped and stuffed foods and also with noodles. 

 So, in the interest of learning more about German food, I was given recipes from some German friends for a few traditional Swabian foods. The one I got most intrigued by at first glance was Schupfnudeln or these cute, fat little potato noodles that to me are just like Italian Gnocchi only shaped differently and served with other kinds of sauces. Apparently, they are also called by a name that refers to little boys' private parts but I won't be giving you that one! This name comes from the back and forth rolling motion that you use to shape the noodles. This recipe was one of those that you have to use your own judgment about in terms of how much flour to use. That's because different kinds of potatoes have differing levels of moisture. The only do ahead part was cooking the potatoes the day before, but I already had made extra potatoes when I baked some actually a few days before. And you do have to be a little careful not to the dough too wet or it will fall apart when you cook it so test one first and add more flour if necessary. Or, if you make it too dry - you can add another egg and some more flour.

But other than that, Schupfnudeln were actually very easy to make and if you like chewy noodles, you will love these. I browned them in butter and served them along side some pork chops with a little bit of pan sauce and a green salad. But they would be just as good with pasta sauce and another German way to serve them is to mix a few eggs and some cream and pour it on top of the noodles and bake it until it is browned - Hmm - that sounds rather like a cross between a Carbonara and Alfredo sauce if you just added some Parmesan cheese. I haven't tried that version yet and I'm sure it is good - I'll let you know how it turns out when I do. What I did was brown the Schupfnudeln only a little bit as I was in a hurry, but next time I will brown them a lot more. - the crispy bits were the best and really contrasted with the chewy texture.


About 2 pounds of potatoes cooked the day before in their skins - either baked or boiled
2 eggs
About 1/2 cup - 2/3 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
pinch of nutmeg

Large pot of boiling salted water
2 - 3 Tablespoons butter

Peel the potatoes and mash in a bowl. Add salt, nutmeg and 1/4 cup of flour at a time. Knead together until it just holds together.

On a floured board, Take about a palmful of the dough at a time, roll into a snake and cut into 1 inch pieces. Then take each piece and roll into small noodles about 1 1/2 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide with the ends slightly pointed - or about the size of a small little finger. Boil the noodles into the water until they rise to the surface. Drain them and put into a frying pan with melted butter and cook until crisp.

Five Element Analysis

This is not going to be balanced as it is a side dish but it represents the Earth Element best as potatoes belong to that element. The wheat flour adds in just a bit of Wood and the eggs bring in some of the Water Element. Browning them makes them a little Fiery and the nutmeg adds a teeny bit of Metal. If you cooked these with the cream, you would bring even more Metal in. But serving Schupfnudeln with a meat dish and some vegetables would definitely be a good idea to make a balanced meal.