The weather in southeast Wisconsin is – at long last – becoming milder and more tolerable. It seemed only fitting to make a winter comfort dish before the idea of sitting down to a steaming bowl of hearty stew would be unbearable. A nod to When Harry Met Sally, Dad chose beef pap-ri-kash [in the voice of Billy Crystal, of course] served over spätzle.

Regardless that they’re a minor part of this meal, I have a spätzle story. And it’s not often one has a spätzle story, so I think it should be told. For Christmas I hand made a batch of yam spätzle for my parents. Time consuming, disastrously messy and clumsy if you don’t have a ricer or spätzle maker – I mean really, who doesn’t have a spätzle maker?? Oy. Working over a stock pot full of boiling water [nevermind the steam burns], my antique colander in hand [ahem, the only implement I had with large enough holes besides a cheese grater], I scraped dough through the holes with a rubber spatula, watching the little sparrows* plop into the water. I snuck a few for myself and dare say the toil and trouble was well worth it. Crazy little blobs with a sweetness from the yam and nutmeg, served in a bath of browned butter. Not at all heavy; simply light and airy.

On to the main event. This was the first time I used Sandy’s 9-qt. Le Creuset dutch oven, and – surprise, surprise – instantly fell in love. It’s a treat. Especially nice for dishes like this that require browning meat at high temperatures, which means spitting hot oil. No match for the Le Creuset. The beef chunks browned beautifully and any splatters were caught by the tall sides of the dutch oven.

p1030401Out came the beef and in went the sliced onions and chopped portobello mushrooms to soften and caramelize.

p1030398To make it paprikash, paprika is added – half smoked and half Hungarian sweet in our case. Before putting the beef back in, a mixture of flour and water is poured over, allowing you to deglaze and pick up all the flavor bits stuck to the bottom. Lid on and into the preheated 350° F oven for 1 1/4 hours.

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Don’t you love “forget about it” meals like this? A few minutes of prep work then a long cooking time. Meanwhile I was able to iron a few things, do some homework and cook the spätzle. The aforementioned yam spätzle have long since been eaten, we took some help from plain dried spätzle.

p1030409A topping of fresh parsley and glasses of grenache were all we needed to start supper. Beef pap-ri-kash over spätzle was a delicious farewell to winter.

*German lore says that the shaping of spätzle by hand or with a spoon resulted in noodles resembling Spätzen, meaning little sparrows.

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