There's another kind of easy noodle that I often prepare to go with Hungarian goulash or other hearty meat dishes with a sauce: spaetzle (SHPET-sul). It's a small squiggle, a cross between a noodle and a dumpling, that's popular in Germany and Austria.
Over boiling water, the batter is pushed through small holes (from a potato ricer, colander, top of a pasta cooker, or spaetzle maker, which looks like a flat grater with a little box on top that holds the batter, available in kitchen specialty stores).
Or the batter can be thinned considerable and drizzled into the boiling water, which is how I learned to make the noodles from my Austrian grandmother-in-law.
Spaetzle are a great addition to soup. I also like to add some sautéed or caramelized onions to them before topping them with cheese and popping the mixture into the oven for a modified mac-and-cheese.
Makes 6 cups (6 to 8 servings).
Note: This version of spaetzle is lightly flavored with nutmeg, which gives it an unexpected flavor to savor. If you don't like -- or have available -- nutmeg, don't use it. The prepared noodles can be made 24 hours in advance and refrigerated, then reheated. From "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by Lee Svitak Dean.
• 3 c. flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
• 3 eggs
• 1 c. milk
• 1 tbsp. (or more) water
In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix flour, salt and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until foamy; mix in milk.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture a little at a time, beating by hand, until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Add 1 tablespoon water and mix the batter thoroughly. If the batter is too stiff to go through potato ricer or spaetzle maker, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The batter will be thicker than pancake batter, as well as stickier.
Bring salted water to a boil in a large, wide kettle (wider pots will cook more spaetzle at a time).
To make the spaetzle: Place the potato ricer, colander or spaetzle maker over the boiling water. Add the batter and press through the holes (with the colander, you will need to use the back of a spoon to push the batter through), dropping the spaetzle into the water. This may take a little practice at first. Prepare only as many noodles as will fit in the width of the kettle.
Cook the spaetzle, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes. Spaetzle will rise to the surface when done. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Repeat with remaining batter.
If using immediately, cover the bowl to keep spaetzle warm while you cook the remaining batter.
If preparing for later use, place spaetzle in a large bowl of ice water to cool; then drain thoroughly, cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat spaetzle in one of three ways: in a saucepan with a little butter, in a microwave if you want to avoid the use of butter, or in boiling water, briefly and then drain.
Serve under meat dishes or as a side tossed in butter or cheese. Or add to soup.
Note: The sauce will be very thin if served the European way, as described below. However, if your guests insists on thicker, gravy-like sauce, remove the meat and vegetables at the end of cooking, and thicken the sauce with a little flour. Then return the meat and vegetables to the sauce before serving.
• 3 lb. boneless beef chuck steak (or boneless stew meat or even sirloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-in. cubes)
• 4 tbsp. oil, divided
• 3 large onions, cut into slices
• 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 3 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
• 1 (101/2 oz.) can beef broth, divided
• 1 tbsp. tomato paste
• Salt and pepper
• Spaetzle (see recipe) or buttered egg noodles
• Sour cream, for garnish
• Finely chopped parsley and additional Hungarian paprika, for garnish
Brown cubes of meat in 2 tablespoons oil; remove from pan. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan and cook onion slices until limp. Return browned meat to pan with onions, along with vinegar, paprika and 1 cup beef broth.
Bring mixture to a simmer and braise for about 45 minutes, covered, or until meat is tender. Add additional beef broth as necessary. Add tomato paste during last 5 minutes; add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve goulash on top or at side with spaetzle or egg noodles. To garnish, add dollop of sour cream to goulash, with finely chopped parsley and a sprinkle of paprika.