14 August 2010

Maultaschen...for the August Daring Cooks' Challenge

The August 2010 Daring Cooks' Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen.  They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Since I am a recent transplant to Germany, I decided to opt for the local specialty part of the challenge.  The region I'm currently living in is near Stuttgart, in the southwestern state of Baden-Württenberg.  There is are several dishes that are unique to southern Germany, one of which is maultashen, also known as Swabian meat pouches.

Legend has it that maultaschen were invented by the monks at the Maulbronn Monastary (about an hour from our house) to hide the fact they were eating meat during lent, which was forbidden.  They believed they were hiding the meat in little pasta packets, similar to ravioli, and God wasn't able to see them eating it.  Which I just find hilarious on many different levels.

Maultaschen can be served in several different ways.  I've had them served in a tomato sauce with cheese melted over top, again reminiscent of ravioli.  I've also had them sliced and scrambled into eggs (geröstet) or sauteed in butter and topped with caramelized onions (geschmälzt).  But, my favorite preparation is in der Brühe, or in broth, which is how I decided to approach this challenge.

Since this is a regional dish, there are about as many recipes for the filling as there are grandmothers who make it, so I ended up combining all sorts of recipes down into one.  But the basic ingredients are hand-made pasta dough with a filling of ground meat, spinach and onions.

Now for some recipe notes...
  • First and foremost, don't let the fact that I hand-made the pasta fool you...I'm NOT good at making pasta pouches of any sort.  In fact, this is the 2nd time I've ever made them.  The first time is now referred to as "The Ravioli Incident" and much of the pasta ended up on the walls (because I was so angry I threw them).  You can easily substitute wonton wrappers and save yourself some time.  How to make ravioli will be a future blog, once I get a better handle on making them.
  • If you do decide to make the pasta, lay all the finished maultaschen in one layer on floured waxed paper if you aren't going to cook them right away.  I didn't do that on my first ravioli attempt and it all ended up sticking together in a clump of pasta and filling and me getting mad, resulting in the aformentioned "Ravioli Incident".
  • The recipe I came up with didn't work entirely, so I changed up a few things to come up with the recipe I now have below. I had way too much bread and spinach and didn't cook the onions well enough before adding it all together, so I'm going to call that one a lesson learned, which is the whole point of me doing this blog and this challenge, so I guess I can put that in the win column.
  • Feel free to use whichever meats you want...I used equal amounts of ground veal, beef and pork, but I think it would work with ground turkey if you want to lighten things up, or all beef if that's just easier.
OK...now the recipe...

Click here for printable version


3 eggs
pinch of salt
1/3 c water
360-400g wheat flour

Mix eggs with salt and water. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into it and blend all the ingredients together. Take out of the bowl and then knead the dough on a board until air pockets can be seen when the dough is cut. You can knead by hand or with a mixer.
Depending on the flour, if the dough is too thick add a little water or an egg white, add more flour if too sticky. The dough shouldn't be too soft. Form a ball and place on a board. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest. Now you can prepare the filling.
 Meat filling
5 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 strips of bacon, diced
20g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 stale rolls (or the equivalent of stale bread), crusts removed
5-6 oz ham or cold meat, diced
8 oz ground meat (pork, beef, or veal or any combination)
2 eggs
a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg

Cook the bacon in butter for a couple of minutes (I know this just seems wrong and delicious at the same time, but that small amount of bacon does not provide enough fat to saute the onions).  Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent and soft. Soak the stale rolls in water until soft. Squeeze out the excess water and chop the rolls into pieces.
In a large bowl mix the above prepared ingredients with the spinach, ham and ground meat. Add the eggs and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Beef broth (about 64 oz or enough to cover the filled pasta when in the pan)
1 onion, diced
1 onion, sliced
butter or olive oil

On a floured surface, roll out the noodle dough into rectangular sheets (about twice as wide as you want your Maultaschen to be). Use a tablespoon of filling at equally spaced 3 inch intervals all down the middle of one side of the sheet of dough. Fold the plain half of the sheet of dough over to cover the filling and press firmly on the spaces around the pockets of filling. Use a pastry wheel or cookie cutter to cut into 3 inch squares.
Put beef broth and diced onion into a pot and bring to the boil.   Add as many maultaschen to the pot as you can without them sticking together, let simmer (not boil) for 10-15 minutes depending on the size.

Saute the onion slices in butter until brown.  Serve by placing 2-4 maultaschen in a bowl, pour both over and garnish with sauteed onions.  Serve with a nice green salad.
If there are any left over, they can be used the following day. Cut them into one inch slices, fry in oil or butter, add slightly beaten eggs and milk to the pan and cook through.

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