This story from Melissa Clark at The New York Times had me contemplating my own history with the delicious mini-dumplings known as spaetzle. Growing up, my mom would sometimes make chicken paprikash with homemade spaetzle. (In our house, we ignored the German origin of the word and pronounced it with a short e in the first syllable, a long e in the second syllable, and with an added s for the plural, i.e., “SPETZ-lees.”) Mom used to make them from scratch, wielding two teaspoons to drop tiny bits of dough into boiling water. She eventually got a spaetzle maker as a gift (a rotary-style one), but it never seemed to make them they way she liked. These days, though, if Mom wants spaetzle, she either places an order for amazing chicken paprikash at the neighborhood sports bar (!) or buys them in the cold case at the grocery store. Yes, living in suburban Cleveland with its rich ethnic communities has its perks.
Last year J and I decided to try our hands at chicken paprikash. I couldn’t bear the thought of making spaetzle from scratch while also trying to prepare several other meals for the week ahead, so I had resigned myself to substituting something like egg noodles. Fortunately, I stumbled upon the pictured specialty product at our local Whole Foods. I wasn’t sure what to make of spaetzle in dry form, but I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the dried noodles I was planning to buy. Shockingly, the dried spaetzle product was remarkably similar to the made-from-scratch versions, or at least my memory of them. If you’re feeling inspired, definitely do make your own; perhaps I’ll give it a try myself someday. Otherwise, a little hunting at a higher-end grocery or specialty food store may yield the dried variety that is a heck of a time/labor saver.