Each year I approach New Year’s with a bit of trepidation. Resolutions have never been my strong suit and the pressure of making good on them day 1, ie Jan 1, is daunting. Thankfully our friends Brett and Miles have remedied that problem by hosting an annual New Year’s Day party, Southern style. This means you can stuff your face with honey glazed ham, black eyed peas (for good luck), grits and collard greens (for good sex, the spicier the better!) and put off any looming resolutions until later in the month. So with our bellies full and our hang-overs cured (did I mention Bloody Mary’s were involved) we flew the red eye home to London from New York.
Upon arrival we decided to do the only normal thing, rush to the grocery store and start cooking. If there was any doubt, this enthusiasm stemmed from me reading cooking magazines the entire flight home and Pascal watching Julie & Julia. The promise of food was basically the only thing that was going to keep us from going straight to sleep for the rest of the day, an attempt (later proven unsuccessful) to stave off jet lag. On the menu: two soups for the week, fresh whole wheat egg noodles and Zürcher Gschnätzlets, perhaps the most famous of Swiss dishes after fondue, raclette and rösti. It’s taken me the better part of three years to even remotely pronounce it but nevertheless the dish is delicious, consisting of thinly sliced veal (the actual meaning of Gschnätzlets) with mushrooms in a cream sauce. It happens to make a wonderful ‘last supper’ given its richness. While the usual side is rösti, a large potato pancake which originated from the canton of Bern as a common farmers’ breakfast, we opted for egg noodles or 'nuedeli' since the secret to a good rösti is that you must boil and grate the potatoes the day before thus not even worth the effort for a ‘day of’ dish.
Almost exactly three years ago, I made my first trip to Zurich with my now future husband. We had about 12 hours in the city during which time; I got a small tour, met his mother, and ate a very memorable meal of Zürcher Gschnätzletsmit Rösti at the Goethe-Stübli. To this day I remember it as one of the best meals of my life. We recently revisited this restaurant to celebrate our engagement and I was extremely nervous that my first impression of the dish may have been skewed by my massive in-loveness. Thankfully the in-loveness and goodness of the dish are still intact.
Zürcher Gschnätzlets(serves four)
600g veal (ask for scallops and slice into thin strips by hand)
3 tbsp butter
Flour for coating
200g button mushrooms (sliced)
Half an onion, (finely chopped)
100ml dry white wine (a Swiss fondant works well, or a sauvignon blanc)
100ml veal stock
200ml double cream (or heavy cream in the US)
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
Step 1: Season the veal with salt and pepper and toss in the flour to coat before browning in 2 tbsp of clarified butter for about 2 minutes (to clarify butter, melt the butter in a sauce pan until the milk solids separate, then remove them. They are the white bits). You may have to do this in batches, don't despair if 2 minutes is not enough time to cook through, they will finish later. Then set aside and keep warm. Drain the pan of any liquid.
Step 2: Using the remaining 1 tbsp of butter slowly sweat the onions and mushrooms together. Once tender add the white wine and reduce by half.
Step 3: Follow with the stock, cream and corn flour. Stir in and add the meat, heating through for about 3 minutes.
Step 4: Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with the parsley
Note: The cream might fool you, but this is only 520 calories per serving. You can use a mild Greek yoghurt to reduce that number significantly.
Whole wheat Tagliatelle
2 cups whole wheat flour (sift to remove the big bits)
1 tsp kosher salt
Step 1: Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and then combine with the flour and salt. Combine to make a dough and knead for about 10 minutes on a flour dusted flat surface (Tip: If you wear latex gloves the process is a lot less messy,it looks weird but helps), wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to set. Note: You will need extra flour to keep the dough from sticking.
Step 2: Cut the dough in quarters and roll them out into strips that will fit nicely into the pasta machine. Begin running the pasta through the machine adjusting the thinness as you go. We went very thin as whole wheat pasta can be gummy. Then cut into noodle length and run through the cutting side, flouring as you go to prevent sticking. This is best done with two people, one to turn the crank, one to catch.
Step 3: Hang to dry until needed. Cook in boiling salted water for three minutes
Note: Whole wheat pasta has its drawbacks, it’s much more robust and can often have a gritty mouth feel, in the case of making it yourself, while I wouldn’t recommend it alone with a butter sauce, due to the thinness and the texture it did do very well in picking up this heavier sauce as an accompaniment.