Spätzle with Balsamic Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

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It’s almost safe to say that it’s officially spring here. The giant mountains of snow in nearby parking lots are gone. I’ve got little baby chives sprouting in my garden and I have been hit with the urge to grill meat like it’s going out of style. I keep telling myself to remain calm. I have the warm, dreamy months of summer ahead of me for grilling steaks, roasting chickens, soaking corn on the cob and then charring it to a golden, caramelized brown. I don’t have to run outside and light up the grill immediately.  
One way to keep myself from absolutely bursting with excitement and anticipation is to think about all of the things that I won’t want to cook this summer. Stews and soups come to mind. Boiling pots of anything pretty much go out the window in summer. Even with our window air conditioner cranked up, the kitchen is a long galley and that air conditioned air would have to take a 90º turn to reach me. Luckily the other day I saw a recipe that reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to make for a while now. Years, actually. Deliciously chewy and buttery, spätzle. Suddenly it seemed like the entire blogosphere was focusing on the little buttery noodles. Okay, maybe just two of the blogs that I happen to read. But it was fate dang it. And somehow I don’t see myself standing over a pot of boiling water two months from now. 


Spätzle is one of those things that I have a very distinct and weird memory of. I remember my Foods teacher (because we had a class called ‘Foods’ in high school) making up a ball of dough, holding it in her hand and shredding it with a box grater and calling it spätzle. I’m not sure why that memory stuck with me but something about the recipe and technique seemed off. Possibly it was just that our teacher was completely crazy. Or maybe my Austrian grandmother had set a seed in my brain about what spätzle was and how one made it but I made a mental note to try it on my own sometime. 13 years later, I finally got around to it. My grandmother is no longer alive to consult about the proper recipe and method of spätzle. Some other bloggers had posted recipes but they still didn’t feel right. Spätzle only has a few ingredients and some had devised a way to get something other than flour, eggs, salt and water into the dough. I wanted no part in that. Sometimes simple is exactly what you need. 


I wanted to make a dinner that was distinctly Germanic without it being straight up Jaeger Schnitzel. Which I adore, btw, but do not attempt to make myself. Instead I settled on serving the spätzle as the base for grilled chicken, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms tossed with a balsamic glaze. Instead of just boiling the sprouts in water, I added half a cup of the balsamic vinegar and a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce so they absorbed the delicious flavor. Sadly my tub of mushrooms was already starting to decay four days after I’d brought it home (thanks for the fresh produce Super Target!) so there were far fewer mushrooms than I’d planned on having. Luckily it didn’t really matter because we all know the doughy little strips of noodles were the stars of this show. 

 

Balsamic Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms over Spätzle
Recipe makes 4 servings

For the spätzle (recipe adapted from All Recipes)

2 cups flour
 3 eggs
 1 teaspoon salt
 1/3 cup water

Start a large pot of water boiling. Use the biggest pot you have. You’ll want to have a lot of water, but you’ll also want to have several inches of space between the boiling water and the top of the pot.

Mix together the flour, eggs and salt with a fork. Add the water and mix until you have a soft, sticky dough. The dough should be tacky. If it’s too dry, add water one teaspoon at a time until it’s nice and sticky. 


Grab a clump of the sticky dough and slap it onto a small cutting board. Be sure to use one that’s light weight and easy to hold.

Rest your cutting board on the edge of your pot of boiling water. You’ll need to hold on to it with one hand, keeping it at a 45º angle above the boiling water.

Grab your favorite knife and dunk the blade in the boiling water.

Smooth down the edge of the dough so you have a dough ‘smear’ to work with.


Dunk your knife again. Scrape a small portion of your dough smear with your knife. 
Move your knife quickly so the dough slides right off the wet cutting board and onto your knife.
Flick your knife above the pot of water, or dunk it to remove the noodle. 

Voila. You have made a spätzle.

Keep doing this until you have several in the pot. Fresh noodles only need about 60 seconds to finish cooking. Once they’re floating, scoop them out and set them in a strainer. You’ll probably want to scrape a small amount of dough at a time so you have small batches of cooked noodles every few minutes. This keeps your noodles from over cooking. 



 
Once your noodles are all cooked and strained, toss them in a bowl with a few pats of butter, then cover them and set them aside until you’re ready to serve. Or, serve them to your three-year old who loves butter noodles and not much else.

For the Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms and Balsamic Glaze

1 lb Brussels Sprouts, cleaned

2 chicken breasts, pounded to a uniform thickness

1 pint button mushrooms (or more!)

2 cups balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

Place the sprouts in a sauce pan  and cover with water. Add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 a cup of Worcestershire sauce. 

  
Set on a back burner on high. Boil the sprouts until they turn dark green, about 10 minutes. Once they’re tender, turn off the heat and let sit until ready to use. They will absorb more flavor and will stay nice and hot until you’re ready to use them. Do not discard the Brussels sprouts’ water!

 
While the sprouts are boiling, place two chicken breasts in your grill pan or in a large skillet. Spray lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until they’ve reached 180º internally.
 
 
Once cooked, remove to a cutting board and slice into strips. Keep covered until ready to serve.
 
On a third burner in a large skillet (or in the same skillet with your chicken), saute your mushrooms, whole or chopped in 1 TBSP of butter. Toss the mushrooms so all sides are nicely browned. Once browned, add another tablespoon of butter and add your spätzle. Toss the mushrooms and spätzle over medium heat so both have a slight brown crisp to them. 
 
Once warmed through, add the Brussels sprouts to the large skillet. Add one cup of the water from the Brussels sprouts. Heat on medium-high. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to prevent sticking.

On your fourth burner, place a small sauce pan with 2 cups of balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and let boil until reduced by half. About five minutes total. Yes. You might need to use all four burners. Although, you should really only need to have two on at a time. If my teensy tiny little stove can handle it, so can yours. Just for reference, I had my head up against the cupboards on the other side of the kitchen just to get this whole thing in view. And yes, that is the wall that my cast iron skillet is resting against. Tight quarters in Wee Kitchen.

 
Scoop your spätzle, sprouts and mushrooms into a pasta bowl. Top with sliced chicken breast and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
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2 Comments on “Spätzle with Balsamic Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms”

  1. Jessica says:

    >Wow. Homemade spatzle? I love you.


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