Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Knödel


Whenever I tell people I'm from South Tyrol - a German and Italian speaking region in the very north of Italy - more often than not, they are eager to know more. Is it even more north than Venice? Why do people speak German there? And do you have TV and internet "in the mountains"? And while I don't mind talking about geographical coordinates, historical political reasons for the German language use and de-mything the lack of technology in the Alps, I'd much rather talk about what's really fascinating about my region: the food.

In short: it's uniquely delicious. More elaborately: it comprises both traditional Alpine dishes (influenced by the adjacent Austria) - making use, of local, farm-fresh ingredients - as well as wonderful, typically Italian dishes, such as delicate pastas and risottos.

When I finally veer the topic of conversation to food - since people are normally familiar with pastas and risottos - the only question they then pose is "well, what are traditional Alpine dishes?". And, while there are so many, every time I start explaining South Tyrolean cuisine, I end up starting with The Knödel.

Sadly, when I try to explain the essence of a Knödel, people are not too impressed. The English term "dumpling" doesn't seem to cut it, and neither does my description of them being "simmered 'balls' consisting of white bread cubes, flour, eggs, onions and the typical addition of either Speck, spinach or cheese.


Admittedly, I should work on my wording. And adding that they are doused in melted butter and parmesan cheese right before serving might also help.

But descriptions aside, believe me, Knödel are delicious and I urge you to try them yourselves. They are very quick and easy to make. The following recipe never fails me and always, always makes me feel like I'm at home.


Speckknödel
adapted from Herbert Hintner
There are countless recipes for Knödel, all slightly different. On my hunt to find the best one, I turned to Herbert Hintner, a South Tyrolean chef with countless awards including a Michelin Star. I had the honor to be invited to a tasting menu at his restaurant, Zur Rose, and just loved how he managed to take staples of South Tyrolean cuisine and make them that much better. As with these Knödel.

Serves 4 as an appetizer; double for main course.

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100g (South Tyrolean) Speck, cut into little pieces
200g white bread cut into small, 1 cm cubes 
40g flour
50g onions, cooked in olive oil until caramelized
1 tablespoon chives (or parsley), finely chopped
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

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Combine all the ingredients minus the eggs in a large bowl. Then add the eggs and mix until the mixture is smooth. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
After 10 minutes, with the help of a spoon or wet hands, form balls around 5 cm in diameter and gently place them in the slightly boiling water. Let them simmer for 8-10 minutes. (Pay close attention to the pot - if the water boils too heavily your beautiful Knödel with dissolve into little bits!).
When they are done, drain water and place the Knödel back into a hot pot with a generous knob of butter to coat them well.*
Place on plates and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy immediately.**

*A more traditional way of eating these is by placing them in a beef broth after they are done and having Speckknödelsuppe. While people love the soup version, I personally, given the choice between soup or butter and parmesan cheese to go along with them, choose the latter.

** That's a lie. They are also incredibly good the next day - torn to bits and cooked in a pan with butter and served with a fried egg.


3 comments:

Schengen said...

This is the Knödel-Test!

santiago said...

I love them!!! I have the fortune to live in Bozen Bolzano for almost 1 year. I miss it a lot. food is awesome, the view is even better.

and nothing like a beer at hopfen to finish a hard working day :)

Anonymous said...

This is spot on. The thing I miss most about my days of living in South Tyrol is the food, and now I can make it myself! Thank you!

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