Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Here's to You, Mammom

This New Year’s Day was a bit different in the Jersey Girl household. For one thing, we had our Baby Evan – a holiday first. And, The Husband and I found ourselves both off from work. It truly was a day to celebrate!

For our many years together, usually one or both of us were hard/hungover at work on Jan. 1. That’s because we are news peoples (The Husband still is; I am fortunately retired.)

Back in the day, when we both toiled all in the name of news at a daily (a newspaper that comes out each and every morn), we usually got stuck working all but two holidays. And, or course, we always vied for Christmas off. Working Christmas is made of evil. Hell, working any holiday is made of evil. Holidays are meant to be with family, not in a newsroom with no windows. And being the lovas of the Shore that we are, we usually tried for Fourth of July.

Since retiring from the world of news, I always have New Year’s Day off, but The Husband usually had to go into the office. So, my New Year’s time was spent de-Christmasfying the homefront and recovering from the previous night’s festivities.

But, this year some clear-headed cookery ensued. And The Husband made a special request: “Do you think you can make spaetzle like my grandmother?”

Sure thing, Dear Husband.

I had previously read the recipe in my tattered Betty Crocker cookbook. (I read cookbooks like novels, you see.)

And the recipe was easy enough.

The catch was I wasn’t quite sure if they would turn out like Mammom’s. That’s The Husband’s grandmother. During her day, she would make spaetzle – a German dumpling of sorts – each and every New Year’s to accompany a pork roast.

The Husband had shared his stories of making the dish as Mammom’s trusty assistant, dropping the batter into boiling hot water while breaking it into strands with a fork.

The tragedy is that The Husband does not have a recipe written down. Like most grandmothers, Mammom cooked from her head and heart rather than paper.

I had the opportunity to enjoy Mammom’s spaetzle many years ago when The Husband and I were dating. But that was only once or twice. Mammom was starting to take it easy when I met her. The reality was dementia was beginning to wreak its ugly havoc on Mammom’s beautiful soul. So, I guess you can say, I never really got to know the Real Mammom. But, I love learning about her from the stories I hear from The Husband and his Mom, Nancy.

Mammom was the sweetest lady you ever met. And, she did anything and everything for her family. These traits were passed on to her daughter, Nancy, who is my rockin’ mother-in-law.

In 2010, Mammom passed away. So, it was only fitting to kick off 2011 in her honor. As my mother-in-law always says, “Mammom is looking down on us and smiling. And she is Baby Evan’s guardian angel.”

I was a bit nervy making the spaetzle, wondering if I was going to need to bust into a bag of potatoes to get some mash on as backup. But The Husband’s family proclaimed the spaetzle were on the money.

“They’re just like Mammom’s,” my mother-in-law declared.

“Outstanding,” said my father-in-law, when I asked if they tasted right. He explained that the purpose of spaetzle is to soak up the flavor of the gravy.

I’m providing for all y’all the recipe from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.” But the colander method described in the book did not work for the Jersey Girl. Methinks the holes in my colander are too small, because the batter wanted no parts of fitting through the holes. I simply took a teaspoon and a fork and dripped and drabbed the batter into a pot of boiling water. That’s how Mammom did it, according to The Husband. But, it sounds like her batter was thinner than this batter. Nonetheless, the fork method worked for me.

I then fished the dumplings out of the bowling water with my trusty spider ladle:

The final product: Roast pork served with Spaetzle and Roasted Butternut Squash and Parsnips.
(I will share the squash recipe later this week. Possibly today, if my bambino takes a nap.)

If you have spaetzle tips, please share in the comments!
From “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”
6 servings

2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk or water
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 Tbsp. butter or stick margarine

Mix eggs, milk, flour, salt and pepper (Batter will be thick.)

Fill 4-quart Dutch oven half full with water; heat to boiling.

Press a few tablespoons of the batter at a time through colander (preferably one with large holes) into boiling water. Stir once or twice to prevent sticking.

Cook about 5 minutes or until spaetzle rise to surface and are tender; drain. Toss with butter.

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