Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Recipe for Spaetzle With Asparagus and Morels
A glug of heavy cream adds just enough luxury to this simple spring recipe for homemade spaetzle sautéed with asparagus and savory morel mushrooms
By Kitty Greenwald in the Wall Street Journal
The Chef: Kurt Gutenbrunner
His Restaurants: Wallsé, Café Sabarsky, Blaue Gans and Upholstery Store: Food and Wine; all in New York City.
What he is known for: Bringing equal parts indulgence and Viennese refinement to New York City. Creating restaurant spaces that deliver fine art and fine food.
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, Kurt Gutenbrunner introduced his elegant Austrian cooking to New Yorkers at his West Village restaurant Wallsé. From there the chef launched two more Austrian places in the city, and he revamped and reopened his wine bar, Upholstery Store, this past January, adding “Food and Wine” to the name and a menu of small plates and seafood.
“I grew up with classic cuisine—it is the base for my creativity,” the chef said. “This is food you can understand.” Comfort and luxury often converge in his cooking, and this recipe, Mr. Gutenbrunner’s first Slow Food Fast contribution, is no exception: Tiny spaetzle dumplings, a rustic Austrian staple, get a quick sauté with asparagus and morel mushrooms—plus a good glug of cream.
After a lifetime of making spaetzle from scratch, Mr. Gutenbrunner has an intuitive feel for the dough. “It should look like a thick pancake batter,” he said. Pressed through the holes of a colander set over a pot of boiling water, that loose dough naturally forms into dumplings. “Don’t boil too much at a time, or the spaetzle will bring down the water temperature and cook unevenly,” Mr. Gutenbrunner warned.
The morels and asparagus cook just long enough to give up some sweetness, but not so long they lose their bite. The layering of textures as well as flavors is important in this dish and, again, it comes down largely to timing. “I am obsessive,” Mr. Gutenbrunner admitted. “It actually drives people near me crazy.” His customers aren’t complaining.
Spaetzle With Asparagus and Morels
Total Time: 35 Minutes Serves: 4
- ¼ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup quark or farmer’s cheese
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ pound fresh morels, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Leaves from 4 sprigs tarragon, finely chopped
1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, blanch asparagus until bright green and al dente, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer asparagus to a colander and run under cold water. Dry and set aside. Bring water back to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, ½ teaspoon salt and nutmeg. Make a well in center of dry ingredients, then pour in eggs, quark and milk. Fold everything together until mixture is smooth and resembles thick pancake batter.
3. Place a colander with large holes over pot of boiling water. Use a spatula to press about half of batter through holes of colander. Poach spaetzle until they float and are just firm, 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked spaetzle to another colander and run them under cold water. Toss spaetzle dry and set aside. Repeat with remaining batter.
4. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté morels until edges brown, about 3 minutes. Add blanched asparagus and sauté until tender and warmed through, 2-3 minutes. Add poached spaetzle and cream and cook, stirring, until cream coats spaetzle, 1-2 minutes. Add tarragon and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
5. To serve, season with salt and divide among plates.