Off the Deep End with Spaetzle

This past weekend I had a little extra time which morphed into another excellent culinary episode.  It all began with a few fresh chicken thighs. To make the most of these tasty thighs, I decided a hearty chicken vegetable soup with a Caribbean edge would be just right. If that wasn’t enough, I also pictured a noodle or a dumpling… something interesting afloat in the soup.

When it comes to stock, I have previously mentioned that I like making my stock from baked, grilled, or roasted bones. I often freeze the bones from chicken pieces that I have eaten and when I have a nice collection I make a batch of stock. This may sound marginally peculiar, but I prefer to consider it a form of re-cycling.

I am not suggesting that you follow all of the steps presented here, but I do recommend the final outcome. We begin the soup with sautéed mushrooms and garlic, then flour is added to create a light roux base. The chicken stock is stirred in to create a slightly thickened soup, then onion and root vegetables are added and simmered until al dente. Any greens such as collards or chard would be lovely, too. The meat from the thighs is added to the soup and pointed up with a bit of lemon or lime zest and juice. This perky curry-spiced soup can be served now or reheated later.

For me, The X factor – the noodle or dumpling dilemma – took a bit longer to resolve; mystifyingly, it arrived later that night in the form of Spaetzle, Austrian or German irregularly shaped noodles.  They are formed by dough pressed through the holes of a colander into boiling water. I recall enjoying these delights years ago, but not enough to rush home and make my own.

This weekend, however, I was so impressed with my first attempt at Spaetzle making that I quickly whipped up a second batch; they are that easy – and addictive! No special ingredients or tools are required, and unlike pasta, the little dumpling-like noodles do not stick together when drained and they reheat beautifully. I tossed mine with a tiny bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a dash of scallions for good luck. I’ll be making these again!

Curried Chicken Vegetable Soup with Spaetzle

Chicken Stock:
6 chicken thighs, roasted and skinned, reserve bones
1 onion, the trimmings: tops, bottom and outer peel
2 stalks celery, leaves and stems
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup baby portobellos, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 cups reserved chicken stock, approx.
1 can chicken stock, or water as needed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 turnips, peeled and chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, peeled, seeded, minced
1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lemon or lime

Roast the thighs at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes – until firm when pressed and skin begins to brown. Allow to cool, discard the skin, reserve the bones and cut the chicken into pieces and set aside.

For the stock: combine the bones, vegetable trimmings and bay leaf, cover with 6-8 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Allow stock to cool, strain and reserve.

For the soup:  in soup pot over medium heat, sauté mushrooms in oil with garlic until mushrooms release moisture, stir in flour, turmeric, curry, allspice and thyme and allow it to cook until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved onion in large chop and the celery chopped well. Continue to toss until onion softens slightly, approximately 5 minutes.

Slowly stir in the reserved chicken stock and allow it to thicken slightly. Add the remaining vegetables through red pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes; use the canned chicken stock as needed.

Stir in the reserved chicken and simmer additional 15-20 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and juice from 1/2 lemon (or lime). Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve with ginger Spaetzle rimming the bowl and sprinkle with fresh green onion. Serves 4~~

Ginger Spaetzle
Inspired by Tyler Florence, Food Network

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tsp. fresh
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chives or parsley, minced

In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients. In mixing cup, measure milk and whisk in 2 eggs.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Stir flour from edges into center liquid until well combined, smooth and thick. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bring pot of salted water to a boil and reduce to simmer. In batches, press portions of the dough through a large holed colander or a slotted spoon into the simmering water. Cook 3-4 minutes or until the Spaetzle float to surface – stirring gently to prevent sticking. With slotted spoon, remove Spaetzle to a colander; rinse quickly with cool water and drain. Repeat until all dough is used.

Toss Spaetzle with melted butter, chives or parsley, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serves 4~~

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