Dumpling (according to Merrian-Webster): “A small mass of leavened dough cooked by boiling or steaming; a dessert made by wrapping fruit in biscuit dough and baking; one that is shaped like a dumpling; a short fat person or animal.”
Matzo balls, Chinese steamed dumplings, perogi or pirohy as my Slovak American cookbook says, ravioli, liver dumplings, chicken and dumplings, baked apple dumplings, boiled Czech fruit dumplings. There are so many variations on the dumpling theme and most nationalities or regions have at least one dumpling recipe that they feature in their cuisine.
When I think of “comfort food” macaroni and cheese immediately comes to mind but a close second are homemade dumplings. My mother had three different dumpling recipes: the original spaetzle dumpling which could replace noodles in dishes such as chicken paprikash or beef goulash; the heavier and slightly chewier potato dumplings which she tossed with onion and cabbage that had been sauteed in butter and last but not least her cottage cheese dumplings.
Of the three of these, I think the cottage cheese dumplings are my favorite.
Cottage Cheese Dumplings
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb cottage cheese (plus more if desired – see below)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 pound butter
Beat salt with eggs. Add 1 pound of cottage cheese and mix well. Gradually add the 2 cups of flour. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, melt the butter over very low heat in a saute pan and add onion. You want to achieve browned onion and butter and not burnt onion and this takes low heat and time.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Transfer dough (which will be very thick) to a flat plate. Using a teaspoon cut the dough into the boiling water. The dumplings will rise to the surface when they are cooked and this will only take 5 minutes or so.
Drain the dumplings (don’t rinse!) and toss with the browned buttered onions. My mother also tossed in about a half pound of cottage cheese at this point too. I definitely like this addition of extra cottage cheese.
I feel guilty if I don’t have a vegetable with a main course (like my recipe in another post for cauliflower macaroni and cheese) so I added some sliced asparagus to the onion toward the end of the cooking process. I have to admit the asparagus was a nice addition and certainly worked well with these fluffy cottage cheese dumplings.
My mother’s recipe for egg dumplings called for the use of the “spaetzle maker”…a metal contraption that sits on top of the pot of boiling water. You fill the container on the top with your dough and slide it back and forth over the water and little uniform dumplings are cut off.
In searching through my recipes for one that could be paired with the egg spaetzle, I came across one for “Flounder al la Gypsy”. It has a paprika sour cream sauce, like a paprikash, that I thought work work well with the little egg dumplings. I had written this recipe card back in the 1970s and remembered that I thought this was delicious all those decades ago.
I substituted fresh cod loins for the frozen flounder and this recipe turned out great. Make sure that you take the mushroom mixture off the heat immediately when you see it just start to boil or it might separate. This definitely worked well with the spaetzle but you could certainly use egg noodles or rice.
Egg Dumplings (Spaetzle)
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 beaten eggs to which add 2/3 cups water (my mother had originally written in “milk” but crossed it out and wrote in “water”
Mix first 3 ingredients. Add egg and water. Sir well. Let stand for 20 minutes. Bring 1 gallon water to a boil (to which 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil have been added).
Pour all the batter into the spaetzle container. Move back and forth over boiling water.
Boil gently for about 7 minutes. Drain and serve.
I thought this dough looked a little too thick, and it was. It should have been a looser consistency that would have begun to drop through the little holes slowly by itself…but I had to use the back side of a tablespoon to push the dough through into the boiling water. If I use this spaetzle maker again, I would either add more water to the mix or another egg. The dumplings, however, were uniformly shaped and delicious. I think the next time I would just cut small pieces of dough off a plate with the tip of a teaspoon and skip the spaetzle maker.
This last recipe is for potato dumplings which we called “haluski”. Originally my mother grated the potatoes by hand. She updated the recipe to use the Cuisinart food processor:
Potato Dumplings (Haluski)
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and grated in Cuisinart.
Add 1 cup four, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 egg to grated potato and blend until combined…move to a bowl.
Gradually add 3 more cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir well. This mixture should be thick enough to cut off dish with a teaspoon into boiling salted water.
Let batter stand about 1/2 hour before cutting into boiling water. Let boil gently 15 minutes and drain.
These dumpling were served tossed with chopped onion and chopped cabbage sauted in 1/2 stick of butter.
And there you have it, my little dumpling.