On Mother’s Day I showcased one of my mom’s recipes, so I thought my dad shouldn’t be left out on Father’s Day. Hence, I give you:
You probably tried to read that and gave up. Don’t worry; I would have too. In fact, until I did research for this post, I had no idea how it was spelled. I always spelled it the way I said it: Kniflea (k-ni-flea).
Yes, you say. But what in the heck is it?
Knoepfle is a type of egg noodle. Have you ever heard of Spaetzle? Spaetzle is the more popular form of this noodle. Spaetzle is a German egg noodle, but is (supposed to be) longer and thinner, somewhat like spaghetti. Knoepfle is the “button-shaped” equivalent to spaetzle. I equate it with Switzerland, because my dad is Swiss and we always explained it by calling knoepfle a “swiss noodle.” I think that Knoepfle originated in Germany and, from my research, I learned in Switzerland it is spelled Chnoepfli.
For me, knoepfle means two things: “holidays” and “daddy.”
Knoepfle is a special occasion food. It’s one of those things that is not entirely simple to make and it’s time consuming. We ate it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe one other time of year when the stretch between Christmas and the next Thanksgiving got to be too long. My dad’s whole family makes it. I remember my Nana and Uncle preparing it when I was a child. But, really, I equate it with my dad, because no one makes it like him.
As a child celebrating Thanksgiving, I never new people ate mashed potatoes with their meal. We would have stuffing and knoepfle. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple. I wasn’t even going to make them last year until it dawned on me that my husbands’ family was attending our meal and would probably miss one of their traditions.
Last week we went and visited my parents for a few days. My mom had asked if we’d enjoy turkey as one of the meals. When I got there I realized we were having Thanksgiving in June, and I was delighted. Once a year is not enough for that meal. Then I realized my dad was making knoepfle and I was beyond excited. I immediately got out my camera and began snapping photos.
You’re probably wondering how the noodles come out that shape, like little buttons. (Jordan said they looked like little teeth, which would have grossed me out if I hadn’t thought the exact same thing as a little kid.) Knoepfle dough is wet and sticky, not unlike the consistency of bread dough before all the kneading. My great-grandmother used to scrape the dough with a knife into boiling water to achieve the “little buttons.” I can’t imagine how long and laborious that process was. Luckily, nowadays we have this:
It looks like a flat grater, but it has a track and a place to put the knoepfle dough. Then you run the container back and forth on the track dropping little bits of goodness into boiling water.
Once they all float to the surface, you cook for an additional minute and then drain into a large bowl. Traditionally (at least in our family tradition), knoepfle are served with sauteed onions. And butter. Lots and lots of butter. I remember as a kid watching my parents go through (I think) a pound of butter for a batch. At least two sticks would go into sauteing the onions. I liked mine plain, so large
pats chunks of butter would be added after each batch was cooked to prevent sticking. Over the years we’ve managed to cut down on the butter. Little pats in between each cooked batch, and last week my mom actually cooked the onions in the microwave with barely any butter. *gasp*
Growing up, there were always two containers of knoepfle on the holiday table: with onions and plain. I liked mine with just (more) butter and parmesan cheese. My dad likes his with onions and gravy (or leftover with melted Swiss cheese). You can dress them up however you like.
I’ve always been too scared to make them myself. My dad does it so perfectly and effortlessly that I don’t even think mine would compare. But now I want to try making them on my own. I have spaetzle press, after all. It shouldn’t go to waste. Maybe we’ll have Thanksgiving in August.
So, Happy Father’s Day to my dad. Thanks for bringing me up with such a special tradition. No holiday is ever complete without your knoepfle. It’s something that I hope I will be brave enough to do with Jordan one day. Thanks for being a great dad! I love you.
Yes, I was a pizza for Halloween. The whole food thing seems clearer now, no?
- 8 eggs
- 6 cups flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4-8 tablespoons butter
- 2 medium onions and 8 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Beat eggs in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour, milk, and salt. Batter will be very thick and sticky. Mix on low speed until all the lumps are out.
- If you plan to serve your knoepfle with onions now is the time to cook them. Chop the onions and sauté in the butter until they are translucent. Set aside. You can mix them with the cooked knoepfle (see next step) or serve them in a separate bowl on the side.
- Meanwhile, begin boiling your water. It is best to use a large stock pot that has a colander (pasta) pot with it. Once water is boiling, add approximately a cup of batter to the spaetzle press and slowly slide the press back and forth to create your knoepfle. Watch for the knoepfle to float to the top of the water, then boil for an additional one minute (after they are all floating). Strain and place into a large bowl. Mix with a tablespoon (or two) of butter (to prevent sticking). You can mix with the sautéed onions instead of the butter in this step. You may want to taste your knoepfle at this point to see if the batter needs more salt. Repeat until batter is finished, about 4 times.
- Serve with the sautéed onions, extra butter, gravy, and Swiss or parmesan cheese.