Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spaetzle with Kielbasa and Caramelized Onions

This is a recipe that appeared in the New York Times last week and I made it for dinner last night. It was absolutely delicious. This is one hearty dish, a sort of Bavarian, tomato-less lasagna for those cold winter nights. While the dish certainly matches up well with wine, I feel your taste buds would be better served to match it up with a Belgian Chimay ale.

This is a really easy dish to make. There are just 4 main ingredients in this recipe. The first is Kielbasa, that wonderful smoked Polish sausage that is seasoned with garlic and marjoram. It's already cooked, so all you will need to do is brown it. Next comes spaetzle, the German equivalent of pasta. Made with eggs, flour and salt, the Germans eschew the pasta word and refer to it as a dumpling. While the New York Times recipe called for making spaetzle from scratch, I have no patience for that so this recipe will be using spaetzle from a box (see photo at bottom of this post). You'll find it in the grocery store in the same aisle as pasta (Nicht pasta, Dummkopf. Dumplings, meine Damen und Herren!)

The third ingredient is onion. But you are going to turn the onion into little velvety pieces of heaven by caramelizing the thinly sliced pieces. They add incredible depth and sweetness to the dish. The crowning touch, the grand finale, is the Emmentaler cheese. I had never heard of it before this recipe and I was certain I would never find it in the cheese section at Cub I immediately searched the web for a substitute. I am here to tell you there is no substitute for this wonderfully nutty Swiss cheese. You must use Emmentaler. Low and behold, I found it on my first pass at Cub Foods!

This recipe serves six. Count on an hour to make it, from prep to finish. There's about 30 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of cooking in the oven, which gives you ample time to get those bottles of ale opened...perhaps even to down one to make sure the ale will taste OK for your dinner guests.

1 pound smoked Kielbasa, cut into 3/4 inch lengths
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
10.5 ounces spaetzle (one box of Maggi spaetzle)
1/2 pound Emmentaler cheese, grated
1/4 cup salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ.
  2. Fill a large pot (4 quarts or larger)with water and 1/4 cup salt. Bring to a boil. Add spaetzle when boiling and cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then lightly brown the kielbasa until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Melt the butter in the skillet. Stir in the onion and thyme, and stir briefly to coat the onion with butter. Cook onion, without stirring, until dark brown, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and cook on low heat until very soft and caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer onion to the same large bowl as the Kielbasa. 
  4. When spaetzle is done cooking, drain water. Toss the spaetzle and kielbasa in the bowl with the onions, and add 1/2 cup cheese and the pepper. Spread into a 2-quart gratin dish. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining cheese. Bake until golden and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.  

Pairing: Belgian Chimay Ale 


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