Monday, May 15, 2017

Nettle Spätzle Gouda Nests

For most of you, this recipe is probably one of the most unusual you've seen in a while. Basically, it's homemade späztle and cheese folded into homemade bread dough, shaped into nests, brushed with sour cream, pan fried and then baked.

This recipe is something special and especially delicious, sort of a comfort food to ward off the spring chill that's in the air here on the east coast of the USA. 

You can use prepackaged unflavored spätzle and store bought bread dough to make these. However, I wanted to try out a new flavor for spätzle. It had to be nettle. I have been trying to work nettles into a dish for a while. If you want to switch out the cheese for another type, feel free. 

It was a bit of a scavenger hunt to get the nettles at my farmers market. I made several sprints around it on separate occasions and it seems the early bird local chefs beat me out. 

I finally found a vendor who was selling edible flowers and she had these purple dead nettle variety, which she explained a had no stingers. I also found out purple nettles are a member of the mint family and have no relation to nettles. Who knew? Purple is a reference to the pretty purple flowers that adorn them. 

So this is fake nettle spätzle.  Oops. I just couldn't bear to put the word" dead" in the title. Whatever. The plant gives a nice grassy flavor boost and pretty green flecks to the spätzle. That's was enough for me. 

These cheesy spätzle-dough nests are great served with a salad which I did twice and would have done a third time if there were any left. The nests are crunchy, cheesy and doughy all at once and make the perfect brunch food as well.

Nettle Spätzle Gouda Nests
Prep time: 15 minutes
Rise time: 1 hour
Cook/bake Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 dozen

For the Spätzle*:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup nettle leaves (I used "dead nettles" they have no stingers)
  • 1+1/1 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
* Note this recipe will yield more than you need for the nests. Throw some butter and grated cheese on the extra, toss and serve on the side.

For the Nests:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup clarified butter
  • 1 cup grated gouda cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Make the Dough:

  • In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  • Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk.
  • Add it to the flour mixture with the eggs and knead to combine. 
  • Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. 
Make the nettle spätzle:
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Blanch the nettle leaves (reserving some fresh for garnish. I reserved the flowers for this purpose) in the boiling water for 1 minute. Place a layer of paper towels beside the stove. 
  • Turn off the heat and remove the nettles with a strainer or a slotted spoon. Transfer them to the paper towels and pat off the excess water.
  •  Leave the water on the stove. You will cook the spätzle in it.
  • Puree the blanched nettles with the heavy cream. Let cool completely
  • Place the flour, eggs, egg yolk, salt and sour cream in a mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon to combine everything. Alternately, you can use your mixer fitted with the dough attachment.
  • Add the cooled nettle puree to the dough and combine thoroughly.
  • Add a cup of water and 1 teaspoon salt to the nettle water and bring it to a boil again. 
  • Use a spätzle press or colander with large holes to push the dough through into the water. 
  • When the späztle pops up to the top they are done, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and transfer to a strainer.  
  • When all of the spätzle has been cooked and transferred to the cold water, drain the cooked spätzle into a colander and shake off the excess water. Pat dry and set aside. 

Make the nests:
  • Mix 1 +1/3 cups of the spätzle and 2/3 of the grated cheese in with the dough until everything is evenly combined. 
  • Heat the clarified butter in a large skillet. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Form nests out of the dough and fry them on each side in the skillet until they are golden brown and place them on the baking sheet. 
  • Use a teaspoon to make an impression in the middle of each to keep the next shape.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Brush the sour cream over the tops of the nests and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops.
  • Bake the nests for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, garnish with the reserved chopped nettles and serve. 

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