Margaret Button: Kitchen Comfort | No Irish favorites for this German


Thursday is St. Patrick's Day. As a child, I wore kelly green (as did all my friends and classmates) and occasionally shouted, "erin go bragh." I'm still not certain of it's meaning, but I suspect it's something like "Ireland forever."

I've never had green beer, never sung "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," "Danny Boy" or even "The Unicorn Song." You see, it's just not in my genes ... most of my ancestors came from Germany with a few from Scotland and Wales thrown in for good measure.

I'm not really good at being German, either. When I traveled to Germany many years ago, I was mistaken for a native time and time again. Germans would launch into a flood of German, while I struggled to say, "Ich spreche nicht Deutsch." (I don't speak German.) In fact, the only other German phrase I knew was "Wo ist die toilette?" (Where is the bathroom?), which was a necessity since I was visiting during Oktoberfest season. It was a moot point asking though, since I never understood the directions and wound up in some interesting places.

So, while I adore corned beef and cabbage, there is no special family recipe handed down for generations. In it's place I offer a recipe for spaetzle, small dumplings that are boiled and then sauteed in butter and seasoned. Have patience — pushing the dough through a slotted spoon isn't as easy as it sounds. I've also put the dough in a food storage bag, snipped a tiny corner of the bag off and squeezed the dough out, in much the same manner as using a pastry bag.

German Spaetzle


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or fresh parsley


In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Gradually draw in the flour from the sides and combine well (as if you were making pasta). The dough should be smooth and thick. Let it rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot, then reduce to a simmer. To form the spaetzle, hold a large holed colander or slotted spoon over the simmering water and push the dough through the holes with a spatula or spoon. Do this in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the spaetzle floats to the surface, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Dump the spaetzle into a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the spaetzle; tossing to coat. Cook the spaetzle for 1 to 2 minutes to give the noodles some color, and then sprinkle with the chopped chives and season with salt and pepper before serving.


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