Burnt Flour Soup

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While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup, made by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.


In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).


Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.


Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.


Add the cream and mix well.


Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”


The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.

 

 

Pistachio Spazele

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When my family was in Park City, Utah, on vacation recently to visit my mother, we had a very special dinner. What made it special was because it was just my mother, my daughter, and myself. That rarely happens because we live in different states.

On our girls’ night out without the guys and the baby, we dined at The Farm, which we’ve been to a few times before, located at The Canyons just outside of Park City. And again it did not fail to please – from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food and wine.

What really got my attention on the menu was a roasted chicken served with a pistachio spazele, sometimes spelled spaetzle. And it was out of this world! (And I usually don’t order chicken at restaurants.)

I wish I had studied the spazele more, photographed it, something. I don’t even remember if there were pistachios in the pasta dough. I just remember that it was delicious, and that there was a crunch of added pistachios.
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We ate our meals ferociously, as if we had not eaten for days! Our appetites were fueled by the hike earlier in the day, and a few cocktails outside with a gorgeous view of the mountains. But I do regret not inspecting the spazele more.

So now I’m back home and I must try out my own creation for pistachio spazele. I googled, but came up only with pistachio pestos.

I decided it was also time to try out spazele using a spazele maker, instead of the larger, quenelle-shaped variety I typically make using a teaspoon.
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I say they’re quenelle shaped, but really they’re more like rustic blobs.

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So here’s what I did.
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Pistachio Spazele
Serves 4, generously

1/2 stick/2 ounces unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces ground pistachios
Pinch of salt
1 cup white flour
Chopped pistachios, approximately 1/3 cup, or to taste

To begin, make the garlic butter for the spazele by gently melting the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all of the spazele. Add the garlic, stir, and then remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

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To make the pistachio batter, combine the cream, eggs, pistachios and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well.

Before completing the batter, begin heating a large pot of water on the stove. I added a little salt to the water.

Add the flour to the batter until just combined. It should be drippy, but not thin.

Place the spazele gadget over the pot of boiling water, and have the batter next to the pot with a large spoon for scooping. Also have a spider sieve on hand, and a clean dish towel to help remove some of the water. Also have the skillet with the garlic butter nearby.

Begin by scooping a good amount of the batter into the top part of the spazele gadget that moves over the part that looks like a cheese grater. Then slowly move it back and forth. I did this two times and then stopped, so that all of the spazele could cook the same amount of time.


Fortunately the sliding part doesn’t get hot, but the cheese grater part does. It’s a little awkward to use because a hot pad is required. I recommend that you remove the spazele maker from on top of the pot because the boiling water cooks the batter on it.

Once the spazele have cooked about one minute, remove them from the water and place the sieve on the towel to drain a bit.

Then gently toss the spazele into the garlic butter and continue with the remaining batter. Stir the spazele gently and add the chopped pistachios.

Today I served the spazele with peppered pork tenderloin, and it was fabulous.
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I also added a little pistachio “dust” for some color.
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I honestly don’t think the pistachios in the batter did much for the flavor but overall these were probably the best spazele I’ve ever eaten!
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I also thought the spazele themselves would be greener, but that’s okay!


I will definitely make these again!!!
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Pumpkin Spazele

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My goal in the kitchen is not to be super creative and serve fancy food presentations. That’s just not me. I go to restaurants for that enjoyment. I’m just a self-trained home cook.

Spazele with pumpkin might seem like I’m trying to be creative, but my use of pumpkin began innocently enough, many years ago, for two different reasons. 1. I love pumpkin, and although a fall ingredient, can be used year round. 2. I always used canned pumpkin in my cooking as a way to enrich the food I prepared for my family. Sneaking in the pumpkin is perhaps a better term for what I did – sneaking it into stews, soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf – you name it.

So my posting of spazele made with pumpkin is not meant to be show-offy or gourmet. It was just a natural thing for me to do because I became adept at sneaking in ingredients. And pumpkin, is fortunately pretty. Kids tend to be a little more suspicious of green ingredients.

I grew up with spazele because although my mother is French, her father was Alsatian. Spazele are German. They’re also spelled spaetzle. And perhaps even more ways than I realize.

I don’t think my mother ever put pumpkin in them, or anything else, because she always made them the traditional way. But they’re seriously fun to play with. You can add fresh herbs, pesto, tomato paste, cheeses, paprika crème, and just about anything that won’t ruin their cooking integrity. Because they all work.

If you’re not familiar with spazele, they’re kind of like gnocchi’s ugly cousin. I could also call them lazy man’s gnocchi. Either way, they’re simply made by adding spoonfuls of batter to boiling water, very similar to American dumplings.

There are spazele makers that turn out grated-looking “worms” of spazele, but I really like the rustic dumpling look. But taste and texture wise? Spazele are just as fabulous as gnocchi. They’re little puffy pillows of goodness. And simply tossed in brown butter? Dynamite.

With the beautiful orange color and that hint of pumpkin, they should be loved by every one of all ages. So here’s my recipe. Enjoy!
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Pumpkin Spazele

2 eggs
1 cup goat’s milk, heavy cream, milk, dairy or non-dairy
1 cup pumpkin purée


1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Parmesan
see note below for seasoning options

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and goat’s milk together with the pumpkin purée and salt.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the batter, adding just a little at a time. Whisk to remove any flour lumps, then switch to a spatula. Don’t overstir.

The resulting batter can’t be too thin because it will disintegrate in the boiling water. But you also don’t want too stiff of a batter from too much flour and over whisking because the spazele will be hard and tough. You want a soft, tender spazele.

When the water is boiling, test one spazele if you want to time them. It’s worth doing if you don’t trust yourself, but honestly dumplings like these are very straight forward to cook.

Place a teaspoon of batter into the boiling water. Notice it will fall to the bottom of the pan. After it rises to the surface, scoop it up and place it on a plate.

Cut the spazele in half and study the middle. It should be soft, but not raw or tough.

When you are ready to begin, place uniformly-sized spoonfuls of batter in the water – only about ten or so at a time. Again, they will eventually rise to the surface of the water, at which point I let them cook another 30 seconds.

When the first batch is done, remove them from the water using a spider sieve, and place them in a colander or on a paper towel-lined platter to drain excess water. Then continue with the remaining batter. When cool enough to handle, I also turn over each spazele to drain any water on the top.

When you’re all done, place the spazeles in a serving bowl.

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Brown the butter on the stove.

While still hot, pour over the spazele.


Look at those lovely browned butter bits on the pumpkin spazele.
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If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

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note: Regarding seasoning, I’ve used a few different ones over the years – Chinese 5 spice, nutmeg, white pepper, and thyme. If you’re serving the spazele as a side dish, season in complement to the protein. Also, I chose goat’s milk for today’s spazele, but cream, or any dairy and non-dairy liquid would work. It’s your choice.

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