What is spaetzle? It sounds like some horrific German monstrosity somehow related to spaying Cocker Spaniels, but instead it is a pasta like dumpling hailing from Alsace.
I had never had spaetzle before let alone made it. At first I thought it was going to turn out horribly and I had no hope that it would taste good. I thought people would chew and pretend to like it saying oh well you know I’ll eat anything. This was not the case. It was universally liked; there were no ah’s and ooh’s of amazement, but no one pushed it around their plate pretending to eat it. I would definitely like to try making it again to see if I could do a better job and next time I would leave out of the tarragon because I have learned that I do not like tarragon (the smell reminds of something akin to toothpaste).
The spaetzle was not the main centerpiece of this meal though it was the perfect complement to these braised cider short ribs. I love braised meats. Well, frankly I like braising anything. Slow cooked to tenderness with deep, fully developed flavors and charred bits of yummy things stuck to your teeth, what could be better? Plus braising lends itself well to cheap meats and cooking with alcohol.
The alcohol of choice this time was Old Rosie’s Scrumpy Cider. Scrumpy refers to small batch or home-made ciders as opposed to mass produced ciders. This was a particularly tangy cider that I was unsure about during the cooking process. The broth took on a very sour flavor at one point that I thought was going to turn out fairly rancid tasting, but after messing around a bit with some vegetable stock and brown sugar I came out with a flavorful, intense sauce with only a bit of tang after nearly three hours of cooking.
The first step with any meat braise is to brown your meat. I started with four fairly large short ribs from Whole Foods and browned them in about three tablespoons of olive oil in my cast iron dutch oven.
The browning process takes about twenty minutes and you don’t want to rush it. You want every side of your meat to be evenly browned. This is not a quick cooking process and you will need to take some considerable time and attention out of your day to do it.
Next you want to remove the meat from the pan and then four chopped shallots (or onions if you’re one of those people). Cook until soft (about five to ten minutes) then add the meat back to the pan.
After putting the meat back in, add one cup of cider and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about an hour then add three tablespoons of brown sugar and two cups of vegetable stock and cook for another hour and a half.