Spätzle with Pork Neck Lentil Stew!
Good hearty German food has a way of making guests smile on a chilly day. A slow cooked braised entrée wastes no nutrients, because the ingredients are contained in one pot. Stewing food makes nutrients easy to digest. This is important in cold weather. The easier the food is digest, the quicker the body recovers from being out in the cold for an extended time.
Old fashioned braised or stewed entrées are not difficult to make. Tough cuts of meat require a long simmering time, so they will become tender. The bones add plenty of cartilaginous nutrients that keep tendons and muscles strong.
The caramelized neck bone meat in today's recipe gives the thin braising sauce a rich flavor. Lentils add even more flavor to the braising sauce. All in all, this is rich satisfying plate of hearty winter food!
Board Cut Spätzle Dough:
This recipe yields enough spätzle dough for about 4 large portions!
Step 1: Place 3 1/4 cups of bread flour in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Step 2: Form a well in the center of the flour.
Place 4 whisked large eggs in the well.
Stir the egg till it starts to combine with the flour.
Start kneading till a very stiff dough forms.
Step 3: Add 1 tablespoon of milk or water at a time, while kneading, till a medium stiff semi sticky noodle dough is formed. (About 5 to 7 tablespoons)
Do not add too much liquid or you will end up with spoon spätzle batter! The dough should not be as stiff as an Italian pasta dough, but it should be firm. After pressing a finger on the dough to leave a dent, the dent should remain intact.
Step 4: Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.
Board Cut Spätzle Preparation:
Step 1: Allow the dough to reach room temperature.
Step 2: Roll out a portion of the dough out, so it forms a rectangle shape that is about 3 1/2" x 10" and 3/8" thick.
Step 3: Gently press the dough strip onto a spätzle board or a small cutting board, so it sticks in place. Be sure to leave 3" to 4" of bare board as a leading edge.
Step 4: Heat a pot of water over medium/medium high heat. The water should only be gently boiling.
Step 5: Hold the board with the spätzle stuck to it with one arm and point the bare end of the board toward the pot of hot water. (The board should be held close to the pot of gently boiling water, so each spätzle lands in the water after it is cut.)
Grasp a long straight cake spatula with the other hand.
Place the blade of the spatula flush against the board in front of the dough. Tilt the spatula blade to about a 15º to 25º angle.
Drag the spatula blade back over the leading edge of the dough. (Backstroke)
Move the blade forward and cut a long thin slice of dough and try to scrape the bare end of the board with the blade in one quick motion. The spätzle should fly off the blade into the water. (Like a little sparrow!)
Step 6: Continue this quick backstroke drag and forward stroke cutting motion, till all the spätzle dough is cut and in the pot.
*The knife should always be in contact with the board or dough, when cutting spätzle! Once the board cutting spätzle technique is mastered, the sound and feel of making spätzle will become second nature. A good German cook can cut spätzle as fast as lightening!
*Start learning by making medium size spätzle. Medium size is a forgiving size. Small 1/8" thick spätzle are not difficult to make, after getting the feel of working the board with a spätzle knife.
Step 7: After the spätzle float to the top of the gently boiling water and they are tender, use a pasta net to place the spätzle in a colander and drain off any excess water.
The boiled spätzle can be chilled in a refrigerator until they are reheated with butter later in the recipe.
Pork Neck Lentil Stew:
This recipe yields 1 large portion!
Step 1: Select about 14 ounces of meaty pork neck bones.
*There is a lot of bone in this cut of pork and the amount of meat is usually estimated. The pork meat on the neck bones should add up to be equal to a 7 or 8 ounce portion. Any large pieces of excess fat should be trimmed off.
Step 2: Heat a braising pan or a wide shallow pot over medium heat.
Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Add the pork neck bones.
Thoroughly brown the neck bones on all sides.
Step 3: Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
Add 1/2 of a minced green onion.
Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
Step 4: Add just enough flour to soak up any excess butter in the pan, while stirring. (About 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Step 5: Add 1 cup of pork broth.
Add enough water to cover the neck bones with 1" of extra liquid.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Step 6: Add 1 laurel leaf.
Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
Step 7: Cover the pot with a lid.
Gently braise the neck bones and sir occasionally, till the meat becomes tender. Only add water if the liquid drops below the level of the neck bones.
Step 8: Raise the temperature to medium heat.
Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
Add 1 1/4 cups of rinsed brown lentils.
Add 4 peeled thick celery sticks that are 4" long.
Add 4 peeled thick carrot sticks that are 4" long.
Add about 1/3 cup of large bite size onion pieces.
Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
Step 9: Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
Add black pepper.
Adjust the sea salt if necessary.
Step 10: Simmer uncovered, till the lentils become tender and the liquid reduces to a thin consistency.
Keep the pork neck lentil stew warm over very low heat.
Remove the laurel leaf before serving.
Pan Fried Spätzle:
Spätzle is usually finished by pan frying it in noisette butter, roasted lard or bacon grease!
Step 1: Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Allow the butter to become a golden brown color with a light hazelnut aroma.
Step 2: Add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked bacon grease.
Step 3: Add 1 portion of boiled spätzle, while shaking the pan.
Sauté and toss the spätzle, till the spätzle puffs up and golden highlights appear. (This only takes about 1 minute.)
Step 4: Remove the pan from the heat.
Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Keep the spätzle warm on a stove top.
Spätzle mit Schweinehals Linseneintopf:
Step 1: Place a bed of the pan fried spätzle on a plate.
Step 2: Remove the pork neck bones and aromatic vegetables from the pot and temporarily set them aside on a dish.
Step 3: Spoon the lentils and thin braising sauce on the center of the bed of spätzle.
Mound the pork neck bones on the lentils.
Place the carrot, celery and onions on the pork neck bones as a garnish.
Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.
Viola! A simple hearty plate of German style pork neck bones and lentil stew over spätzle. This is a satisfying plate of comfort food that tastes nice and rich!