Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Schland, O Schland!

As you probably know, I heart Deutschland, and my love for the Vaterland is never more apparent than in Weltmeisterschaft season. I proudly don my Podolski jersey, talk about the Fussballgott Müller to anyone who will listen, and of course partake in the food and beverage of choice. Here I am in '10 pressing my thumbs (the German version of crossing one's fingers).

German food is, in a word, soflippingdeliciousiwanttobeburiedinit. The staples of German cuisine are meat (most often pork, most often roasted), potatoes (most often fried), and beer. What's not to love? Unless you're vegetarian or on a low-carb diet, and in that case, you've got bigger problems.

To celebrate Germany's massive win over Portugal (4:0!!!), I decided to cook up a specialty of the Schwäbisch (southwestern) area of Germany: spätzle. (By the way, Thomas Müller, if you're reading this, I know you're married and all, but I am totally willing to be a sister wife, cook you spätzle, teach your children English, help you find proper socks, etc. SMS me.)

Back to the dish. Spätzle are raggedy egg noodles, boiled, fried, and often served with cheese and fried onions. Think German macaroni and cheese. I had never made them before, but after my success with homemade pasta, I was confident.

I followed this recipe, and it worked perfectly. The pancake-like batter came together perfectly. The hardest part about spätzle is getting the noodles into the boiling water. As much as you want homemade spaghetti noodles to be uniform and beautiful, you want spätzle to be un-uniform and un-beautiful. Both ends of the spectrum are surprisingly hard to do!

I first tried my metal steamer basket turned upside down. I pressed the batter through the holes, and it worked okay, but I found that the batter that stuck to the steamer was cooking faster than I could get it pressed through the holes, so I quickly went to Plan B.

My next attempt involved a plastic bag filled with the batter. I poked four large-ish holes in the bottom, held it above the boiling water, and then squeezed intermittently, so that the batter would come out. This was easy, involved little clean-up, and produced just scraggly enough looking spätzle.

I let them boil in batches for a few minutes. The recipe says 5-8. Mine needed more like 2-3. They'll rise to the top and expand when they are finished. I fished them out and transferred them to an ice bath.

To serve, I heated up some bacon grease (because bacon) and butter (because butter) in a pan and added the spätzle. I let the noodles heat back up and get just barely golden brown. At the end of cooking, I threw in a handful of cheese. (I had Colby jack on hand. Emmenthaler is more authentic.) Fried onions are also a traditional topper. 

Auf geht's, Jungs!! Wir wollen den Titel Nummer Vier!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

When Life Hands You Two Flattened Bread Disks

I was making some sourdough bread a few weeks ago. It was my first batch in awhile, so I was feeling pretty psyched about having freshly baked bread to go along with all the freshly canned jam in my house. Everything went smoothly until the final rise. I set it out on the counter and headed to dinner, expecting to return a couple hours later to bake it. Dinner went long and turned into trivia, and frankly, when trivia calls, Pattiwagon answers. So when I arrived home four hours later, I was met with two flattened discs of dough. I immediately put them in the oven, hoping for some immaculate levitation. Did not happen, and they came out of the oven as such:

I tried one slice, and it was a lot more like biscotti and a lot less like bread. That's when the cogs started turning. One of my favorite things about cooking and crafting is problem solving. It is here where I feel my most creative (and my most profane). I knew I wanted to do a pressed picnic sandwich with one loaf. I made a sandwich like this for my tubing trip a couple years ago. I didn't take any photographs then, so while it was blog-worthy, it never made the cut. Now the perfect opportunity presented itself. So, on to the recipe!

I first sliced the loaf open and scooped out excess breadiness on both the top and the bottom (instant breadcrumbs!). 
Then I mixed together mayonnaise and pesto and schmeared it (heavily), again on both the top and the bottom.

I layered on salami, capicola, provolone, marinated artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sounds like a good sandwich, right? If you're patient, it will get even better.

I put the top back on, wrapped the whole loaf in plastic wrap, and set it in my fridge with my iron skillet (and a brick) on top. I let it sit for 24 hours. Totally worth it.

This is a great picnic sandwich for several reasons. 1. It's delicious. 2. It gets better with age. 3. It's not going to suffer from getting squished at the bottom of your cooler. In fact, it will thrive here. You don't have to mess up sourdough bread to make it though. I recommend ciabatta or foccacia as excellent bread options. 

For the other loaf, I made a "calzone." I scooped out all the excess bread again, but this time, I filled the cavity with pizza toppings - tomato sauce, sausage, pepperoni, onions, green pepper, and a healthy amount of cheese. I put the lid on, wrapped it foil, and baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes. 
The crusts were a little bread-heavy. I would make them a little thinner or just pile pizza toppings up to the edge. 

It turned out quite nicely, but it was difficult to eat, so I don't recommend this one with as much gusto as the pressed sandwich. However, the cold leftovers the next day made a perfect pizza sandwich, which would be a great treat in your picnic basket this summer.