Wednesday, October 10, 2012

German Mac & Cheese (Kaesespaetzle)

Several years ago my cousin Ro came to visit us all the way from Germany. Having never met before I was very interested in learning about other family members in Germany, their life and the foods that they ate. I told him all about family dinners at my grandmothers house and the foods that I love. I asked him what his favorite German meal was so that we could make it for him. "Kaespaetzle," he replied.Kaespaetzle is a German version of Mac and Cheese with some wonderful additions.
1-1/2 cups flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoon white pepper
teaspoon nutmeg, ground
as needed, breadcrumbs (semmelbrösel), for casserole dish
Spaetzle ingredients
To make Kaespaetzle, you're going to need to go shopping. The first thing that you will need is spaetzle. For many years we made store bought spaetzle (Maggi brand) from Germany, which is available at most grocery stores. Later in life we heard about and bought a spaetzle maker. Today I prefer homemade spaetzle over store bought, the first time that you make it start out with the store bought product. Normally I'm not a big fan of nutmeg, but it works well in spaetzle. 
DIRECTIONS (spaetzle)
In a large bowl or mixer, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Slowly mix the egg mixture into the flour mixture. The dough should be smooth and slightly thicker than pancake batter but not stiff. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. 
Bring a  large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add a couple of drops of olive oil to the water to keep the spaetzle from sticking together.   
Pouring spaetzle batter into spaetzle maker
Spaetzle floating in water
Press the spaetzle through a slotted spoon, potato ricer, or spaetzle maker. The spaetzel will sink to the bottom and then float, remove with a slotted sppon, drain and put into a bowl until needed. Add a little butter or oil to keep them from sticking together.    
Now that the spaetzle is covered you're going to need some cheese. Remember that we're talking about German food here, so you're not going to use cheese traditionally found in American Mac and  Cheese. Kaesespaetzle is traditionally made with Gruyère, Emmentaler, or Raclette cheese. As with any Mac and Cheese recipe the cheese choice requires a cheese that melts smoothly. 

Grated Gruyère and Emmentaler
The thing that really separates American from German Mac and Cheese is the cheese choices and the addition of soft and buttery caramelized onions. Yummy!
Saute onions in butter and olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. real butter

This will take some time, so let the onions caramelize slowly while you are making the spaetzle. 
Onions beginning to caramelize
DIRECTIONS (assemble)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a 8”x 8” oven safe casserole dish by greasing the bottom and sides with butter until needed. Sprinkle the buttered dish evenly on the bottom and sides with breadcrumbs. Set this prepared dish to the side. 
Drain the cooked späetzle and pour one layer into the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread a layer of grated cheese over the späetzle layer. Repeat this process to make a 2nd and third layer of the späetzle and the cheese.  
Finish off with a top layer of cheese, some chives if you like, and some pepper. Spread the sauteed onions on the top of the casserole. Bake approximately 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.
NOTE: For you non-vegetarians out there, try sprinking a layer of crumbled crispy bacon over the top before serving. Enjoy! My wife prefers that I leave off the onions. This is optional if you like.   
© TMelle 2012

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